Periodically, you’ll hear stories about concerned parents and legislators who lobby to have certain “racy” topics banned from the classroom so that their kids won’t have to learn about them. That’s precisely what’s happening now in Oklahoma, where state representatives are scuttling science standards so that students won’t have to learn about a subject that they find far too controversial to permit.
That topic? Climate change. You’ve undoubtedly heard about it before – but if Oklahoma politicians have their way, local kids won’t have to hear about it… at least not until they’re older.
That’s the thing about something like climate change. Leaders can deny it, conceal it and refuse to talk about it, but none of that will actually do anything to stop it. Climate change will exist and wreak havoc regardless. If they don’t want climate change to be a frightening reality, perhaps they should create legislation that tackles carbon emissions and promotes good environmental policies rather than removing mention of it from the curriculum.
Besides, who really benefits from not informing kids about the dangers of climate change? The main benefactors seem to be oil companies that are able to profit off a prolonged ignorance on the part of the general population. On the other hand, kids have a right to know the problems that lie ahead for the planet they’ll be inheriting. Given the stakes, we have not only a responsibility to educate them, but an obligation.
Sadly, it’s a problem that’s not limited to climate change. The same can be said for homosexuality. Not long ago, Tennessee pushed an agenda that forbids so much as acknowledging the existence of homosexuality, while other conservatives worked to prevent references to LGBT historical figures from becoming part of the California curriculum. Even for those who are intolerant of homosexuals, it’s hard to argue that gay people don’t exist, but that’s the kind of fantasy world some are trying to present by preventing discussions of same-sex relationships in school.
The continuation of abstinence-only education is similarly perplexing. Study after study has demonstrated that not teaching kids about sex doesn’t prevent them from doing it. A new report found that 83% of teen girls lost their virginities before receiving “formal sexual education.” By not teaching sex ed, we’re putting students at risk for disease and unwanted pregnancy. Yet again, simply wishing that young people were not engaging in sexual activity is not enough of a reason to keep appropriate education on it out of schools.
It doesn’t stop there: evolution has been vilified in schools, along with other scientific ideas that contradict with widely held religious beliefs. Perhaps even more ridiculously, schools have taken drastic measures to stop students from speaking to each other in Spanish. Again, some may wish that immigrant communities were either not around or that they learned to speak English, but forbidding students to speak to one another in their first language in the hallways or on the bus doesn’t change anything.
An education that intentionally turns a blind eye to certain relevant topics is not an education at all. Those who fight to keep things they try to pretend don’t exist are doing a disservice to students, not protecting them. Even if adults successfully delay when kids learn about these pertinent issues, the day will come when students will have sex, meet gay people and see the effects of a warming planet and rising sea levels… and all of these former students will have every right to ask why they were kept in the dark on issues they needed to know about.