Opinion: Adults should leave children and teens out of the promotion of their own agendas

Opinion: The difference between opinion-based content and news
ClarkCountyToday.com Editor Ken Vance offers his thoughts on the difference between opinion-based content and news.

Drag Queen Story Hours and FLASH Sexual Education Curriculum aren’t born out of the desire to support our struggling youth 

We’ve had some very informative stories lately about adults who say they are looking out for the best interests of children. 

On Monday, members of the Battle Ground School District’s Board of Directors voted 4-1 to move the district’s new Comprehensive Sex Education Curriculum forward to a second reading, indicating approval is likely despite ample testimony from area residents in opposition.

Last week, a hand-picked panel of supporters of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library Drag Queen Story Hours held an event, in which it was obvious library staff has no desire to succumb to public pressure to cancel future events, including one scheduled for Oct. 27 at the Vancouver Community Library.

I have read our coverage, from reporter Chris Brown, with great interest. If you haven’t, I highly recommend that you do. I’ve also participated in several private conversations about both issues, which for me, meld into one issue.

At the heart of each effort,  proponents say they have the health of children at the forefront of their efforts. Brown’s report on the Battle Ground School District’s FLASH Curriculum stated the King County’s website “says FLASH uses the theory of Planned Behavior, which includes lessons in ‘a variety of strategies designed to create positive attitudes, beliefs and norms and to build skills in order to reduce rates of pregnancy, STDs and sexual violence.’’’

In representing the opposing viewpoint, Brown’s report also states: “Critics say the lessons include graphic depictions of sexual activity, and encourages youth to question their own sexuality. Supporters point out that helping high school students to better understand their sexuality has been shown to reduce rates of suicide for LGBTQ students, and decreased rates of teenage pregnancy.’’

In his story about the panel discussion of the Drag Queen Story Hour events, Brown represented the views of a licensed therapist, Mackenzie Dunham, a licensed therapist who specializes in working with gay, lesbian, and transgender people. Dunham responded to one question regarding whether children seeing a drag queen perform could potentially be confused sexually.

“Children who are gender explorative or gender expansive come about that in all different ways,” she said, “and sometimes it holds true and sometimes it does not. But what is important is that we give them the freedom to do that. When we don’t give them the freedom to do that, it’s actually a very shaming experience for them. It tells them that curiosity is unsafe … and it makes learning things that are different scary.”

Here’s my problem with the proponents of each issue. By the way, I’m a parent and I was a child once and I converse with other parents all the time. In my mind, that gives me life experience that allows me to comment. It is my opinion that I don’t believe the efforts of these proponents are designed to help children, or even teens in the case of the Battle Ground sex education curriculum, who have confusion or questions about issues of gender identification or sexuality. Instead, they are concerted efforts to promote an agenda. 

In the case of the elementary-aged children targeted to participate in Drag Queen Story Hours, I find it incredibly hard to believe that children of that age are anywhere close to dealing with those adult-sized issues. So, why should we be introducing them to such issues, which they aren’t even close to being equipped to deal with mentally, emotionally or physically?

Some may disagree with what I’m about to say. But, my life experiences tell me that we don’t all come into this world exactly the same. We are prone to be different, both physically and from a behavioral standpoint. For example, I love the members of the maternal side of my family. We used to have a reunion each year on Mother’s Day Weekend. (Unfortunately, they eventually stopped after my maternal grandmother and all but one of my mother’s siblings passed away.) At each reunion, we would take a group photo of the 50 or so who were in attendance. I couldn’t help but notice at least 80 percent of us were overweight. There is obviously a genetic predisposition among us that makes it more likely that we are going to be overweight. That said, I believe each one of us is responsible for not addressing the issue individually, so we shouldn’t attribute our personal health to the genes that were passed on to us.

So, under the premise that I believe we’re not all born the same, I appreciate those with different mental, emotional and physical attributes or tendencies that are not my own. And, if issues arise with a child or teen organically regarding gender identification or sexuality, by all means, they should be addressed and the child should receive support to help decipher what is going on in their mind and body. I don’t want any child to feel they don’t belong, that they don’t have as much value as the next child. And, I want them to feel it’s OK to be different. They don’t have to conform to how I choose to live my life. Their life is theirs to live.

But, there is no question in my mind that organic confusion or curiosity among children and teens is not central in either of these efforts. In a story we published in February, Fort Vancouver Regional Library Executive Director Amelia Shelley admitted the concept of the Drag Queen Story Hour wasn’t founded locally, or organically, if you will. I will go as far as to label it a national agenda.

“A number of us attended a national conference about a year ago, and one of our employees attended a program there having drag queen story hours. Basically a how-to program,” Shelley said. “And so that person brought the idea back to the district and asked if it could be something they did at their library.”

Drag Queen Story Hours in Clark County wasn’t born out of a group of 3- to 8-year-olds struggling with the gender identity or sexuality. It was born in some far off land by a group of adults introducing their own agenda. Do a quick Google search. It’s happening all over the country.

You also don’t have to swim too far upstream to find information of the origination of the FLASH curriculum, which is the basis for the proposed Battle Ground Sexual Education Curriculum. It was developed by Public Health in King County and “is available for elementary, middle school, high school and special education classrooms.’’

So, for me, that’s my litmus test. If you want to put a program in place to support children and teens with their struggles, I’m fine with that. If you want to promote your own agenda, which includes introducing issues and concepts they’re not even considering or are aware of, you’ve lost my support.

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About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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