Monday, September 08, 2008

Could Sarah and Bristol Palin Be A Turning Point on Sex Education?

After a week that included a day in New York taping ABC News and a less than 24-hour trip to St. Paul, I was glad for a quiet Saturday and homecoming at church yesterday.

I've been a little taken aback by some of the criticism I've received about my blogs last week, including ones from the United Kingdom and Australia that called me mean-spirited and nasty. The comments on my blog took on an unusually heated tone as well.

For those who think Sarah Palin's family should be off limits, I wonder what you thought of her doing exclusive cover stories with People and US Weekly, including extensive family pictures. I'll repeat, I don't think you can have it both ways.

I'm more troubled, though, that these seem to be the ONLY interviews she's given this past week. Shouldn't we all be concerned that she's being sold as a personality, indeed a celebrity, rather than a serious policy maker? I look forward to hearing interviews from Sarah Palin, policy maker, not home maker.

The New York Times ran this excellent op ed piece this weekend on the need for sexuality education in light of Bristol Palin joining the more than 400,000 other young women who will give birth as teenagers this year. I wonder if, in some odd way, this whole situation will move the country's debate on sexuality education forward. Just as Rock Hudson personalized AIDS and Ellen DeGeneres personalized gay people when she came out, perhaps Bristol Palin, in a way that Jamie Lynn Spears did not, will help people understand that all young people need complete and accurate information about their sexuality.

In recent months, an additional 10 states have decided to stop accepting federal abstinence-only-until-marriage education funding, bringing the total number of states rejecting it to 25. Maybe we are at a turning point after all.


Joel Monka said...

As to US Weekly, I doubt the cover story "Babies, Lies, and Scandal" was her idea. I don't believe that she's trying to have it both ways. On the day of her announcement, she made no more of her family than any other candidate- perhaps less than Obama, considering the US Weekly cover "Michelle Obama- why Barack loves her". But after the Daily Kos sex scandal stories were spread so far and wide (including by UU bloggers) that even European newspapers were carrying it, she had to either put the family out there to refute them or quit. Aren't the real hypocrits the ones who claimed she was really Trig's grandmother and had lied about her own pregnancy to cover it, and demanded that she prove otherwise- and then condemned her for doing so?

Chalicechick said...

Word, Joel.

Besides, even if she is trying to have it both ways*, I don't think two wrongs make a right.

Particularly in the case of religion blogs. If "I think she mistreated her daughter to make political points, so it's ok if I do it, too" is acceptable logic for a regular pundit, fine. But I think the moral standards used by folks who are blogging about religion need to be a little more complex.

That said, your sudden desire to look into her policy suggestions, rather than her personal beliefs, is commendable. You can start here.


*And I find the logic of that one highly questionable.

Debra W. Haffner said...

Nothing sudden about it, chalicechick. I have to admit I am puzzled by how it is as a religious blogger, you leave comments that appear so hostile in tone. I don't plan to approve any more that attack me.

Joel, I didn't read any of the blogs that suggested that Palin was really living the Bree Desperate Housewives plot. Shame on them. Nevertheless, it's hard to believe that she had told the vetters about Bristol's pregnancy and they went ahead waiting for it to be "uncovered."

I do hope that you both agree that young people all across the country need the type of comprehensive sexuality education we offer in our UU and UCC churches.

Anonymous said...

I am not as optimistic as you that Bristol Palin being a teen mom will be a turning point for sex education. Perhaps it is because I serve congregations in Mississippi and Alabama, where the states have abstinence only education. In Mississippi, discussing other forms of coupling in addition to marriage between a man and a woman in public schools is against the law. There is only one abortion clinic in the entire state. And they are constantly under attack to be closed down. They almost were a few years ago.

The ultra-conservative religious, like Sarah Palin, are committed to abstinence based only education because they have a world view that is different than most peoples. They truly believe that there is a war going on in the heavens between good and evil and some of those battles are manifested here on earth through 'illicit' sexual behaviors. Sarah Palin reiterated this belief system in some comments she made to her home pentecostal church earlier this year regarding the war in Iraq. She believes a holy spiritual war is being waged between good and evil. How does one fight such a belief system without being lumped with the army of darkness and therefore discounted? This is the ultra-conservative religious mindset.

So comprehensive sexual education in the schools in Mississippi? Let's back up, a discussion about comprehensive sexual education in MIssissippi? It's very difficult to even begin the conversation. Blessings,

Robin Edgar said...

"But I think the moral standards used by folks who are blogging about religion need to be a little more complex."

So do I CC. . .

"perhaps Bristol Palin, in a way that Jamie Lynn Spears did not, will help people understand that all young people need complete and accurate information about their sexuality."

Who is to say that Bristol Palin did not have complete and accurate information about her sexuality Rev. Haffner? From some of what Sarah Palin has said about sex education it appears that Bristol might well have reasonably well informed. Are U*Us going to tell me that no U*U girls who have gone through U*Uism's OWL pprogram have ever gotten pregnant at 17 years of age or younger for that matter? I know of one U*U minister's daughter who got pregnant "out of wedlock" a few years before she reached twenty. I won't even mention U*U clergy sexual misconduct committed by U*U ministers who ought to know better. . .

Chalicechick said...

I didn't intend to attack you personally, though I certainly have disagreed with some of the conclusions you've come to about the acceptable way to treat a politician's family and what the proper focus of our attention on this candidate should be.

I feel very strongly about this partially because I grew up in Northern VA and knew a great many political families and I have some idea what the kids go through and my impression is that to a large majority of liberals feel Bristol is an acceptable casualty in a larger war.

For example, I went to elementary school with a politician who was a national laughingstock and found the daughter crying in the bathroom several times over what other kids, and indeed the whole country, were saying about her dad. I can't stop people from making fun of a politician who can't spell potato. (Though that specific incident was technically after she had changed schools.) But I can and will do my damnedest to try to get people to leave the actual kids out of it.

I get harsh criticism on my blog, too, it's no fun to get. But at the same time, I think getting it is a part of writing about issues that people feel strongly about. Anything else would be having it both ways.


Robin Edgar said...

One could be forgiven for thinking that having it both ways was what U*Uism is all about CC. . . ;-)

Sorry Rev. Haffner but that one was just to good to pass up! :-)

Anonymous said...

It IS an issue because Sarah Palin does not believe in sex ed in schools, which would teach children about STD’s contraception, and about the issues young high school women face if they were to have a child at 17. Her daughter now being pregnant goes against the very argument she is trying to make, that sex ed is not necessary. This is very different than talking about the stupid choices a married Ex Senator makes about cheating on his wife.

Barak Obama made a great point when he says we need to REDUCE the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. Without proper sex education, this will never happen. So this very topic is the exact thing we should be talking about. Whether we should be talking specifically about Sarah Palin’s daughter, we live in a country with free speech, and Sarah Palin decided to put herself and her entire life in the world spotlight, so its all fair game.