February is pretty much the forgotten month.
Save for Valentine’s Day (has it come yet?)
there’s not much going on in February. Even
stacking Valentine’s Day with Presidents
Day (which falls sometime during February,
I think) and Groundhog Day (named after
a very funny movie starring Bill Murray),
this month remains a month best known
for damned near nothing. Except by me. I
celebrate this time of year because each day
that passes in February means we are one
day closer to the end of the annual session
of the Utah Legislature.
This year has been a yawner on Capitol
Hill. Sure, there have been lots of headlines
generated thanks to a bevy of predictably
dumb statements by our elected officials,
but as yet, there hasn’t been a single piece
of legislation that has the broad attention of
Utah’s citizens. There’s no cable-television
bill. There are no liquor bills. The gay agenda
has been tabled for at least a year. Gayle
Ruzicka has been eerily (and effectively)
silent. There’s nothing new on the polygamy
front except what you see on Big Love. (Man!
I haven’t seen a body part sliced off like
that since Dan Aykroyd did his Julia Child
impression! Wayda go, Mama Henrickson!)
There has been some discussion about
radioactive waste coming to Utah, but like
the rest of the world, Utahns don’t even care
about the radiation entering their heads
via cell phones, let alone radiation arriving
by the railroad carful. However, Utahns do
care about radiation entering the heads of
their children in public schools. Each year,
they tinker with public education by withholding
a few dollars here, cynically patting
the back of a few hardworking teachers
there, and otherwise letting our school
systems suffer everywhere.
Another indication that this is a mediocre
legislative session is that there have
been only two notable discussions about
public education. One is the ongoing effort
of legislators to scare their constituents
into believing that sex education is actually
sex training. It’s no irony that those constituents
were born when the sex-education
debate began. Now, as parents in their
early 30s with children of high school age,
they might find it wise to teach them how to
avoid teen pregnancies. Alas, they don’t.
At my 15-year high school reunion, I won a prize for being the most recently married. There was nearly a tie, but the other person was on his second marriage so he was disqualified. A prize went out to the couple with the most kids. Another prize went to a classmate who was already a grandmother. I know a great-grandmother under 50. The apples aren’t falling far from the trees, senators.
A major voice against sex education has been Draper Republican Sen. Howard Stephenson. He helped kill a bill that would have modified what teachers could discuss in a sex-education class. It appears that allowing the word “contraception” in sex-education classes helped doom that bill. Am I missing something?
Stephenson told The Salt Lake Tribune that, “Human sexuality is a very private, personal and intimate thing, and discussions of it in groups is not always positive or beneficial.” His solution? To put sex education online. But kids all over Utah—even good kids like Stephenson’s five—can already find that personal sex message with easily accessible online porn. Nor is that online porn hidden from the 15 children of three other prominent members of the Senate Education Committee: Curtis Bramble, Margaret Dayton and Karen Morgan. Parents with bucketloads of kids passing judgment on contraception, but nondrinkers passing laws about drinking—yep, this is Utah, all right.
I don’t disparage the senators for having
more kids than the average taxpaying
American family. With three of my own,
I’m guilty, too. I’m also pretty sure the senators’
initial sex education was indeed as
private, personal and intimate as mine—given I drove a roomy Pontiac at the time.
Since they’re constrained by Senate decorum,
I’ll go ahead and claim for all of us
that our locker-room and pig-farm sex
educations were adequate labs to “learn
about sex,” but they weren’t so hot when
it came to teaching us when to stop, when
to seek advice or how to avoid a sexually
transmitted diseases or pregnancy. Damn!
If only we had the Internet back then.
The other education discussion came from Sen. Chris Buttars, who proposed that Utah eliminate the 12th grade in order to save millions of dollars of state budget. There must be a couple million Utahns who are either products of the Utah school system or still in it. Yet, Buttars claimed that his stance was valid, since if you asked 100 parents or students about their senior high school year experience, many would say it was a waste of time. I could find 100 people who would claim that diets are a waste of time, too, but it wouldn’t warrant a Senate bill that bans eating.
In another signal that these are the
End Times, Buttars not only acquiesced to
common sense and modified his position
to that of making the 12th grade optional,
but he removed his bill from consideration
for this year, as well. He wants to revive the
bill next year. Claiming he was “misunderstood,”
his new, clear thinking allows for
discounts to first-year college students
who leave high school early and it increases
the current Centennial Scholarship
payment of $1,000 for students who leave
school early. Well, OK. I kind of like that
plan. When I was in school, kids who quit
the 12th grade weren’t called Centennial
Scholars. They were called dropouts, and
they didn’t get a nickel. I think I’ll become
a Republican after all.