F for February, F- for Sex Ed 

A yawner on Capitol Hill: No booze, no gays, no Gayle-just sex, sex, sex.

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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.

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