Minnesota sex ed bill betrayed

Why is the reality-based community ignored? Because the other side, the Jesus-loving wingnut loons, is committed to defending idiocy, while the Democrats have a complete lack of any guiding principle, other than to get elected. Nick Coleman has another perfect example, not that there’s any shortage of them, in the defeat of a sensible bill here in Minnesota.

In a last-minute piece of strong-arming that went almost unnoticed, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty forced DFL leaders of the Legislature to drop a comprehensive and moderate sex-education proposal from the $14 billion education bill that passed on the last day of the 2007 session. The sex-ed proposal — backed by educators and the public — was blocked by the extremist conservative forces that Pawlenty has pandered to in his quest for the national limelight. At their insistence, Pawlenty threatened to veto the entire education bill if the sex-ed provision wasn’t dropped. The DFL majority caved, removing the measure and clearing the way for the education bill to pass.

The DFL collapse was a mini-version of the larger Democratic collapses in Washington on the war in Iraq and in the culture wars at home. Just last week, a House subcommittee approved $141 million — an increase of $28 million — for abstinence-only sex education, despite a congressionally funded report clearly showing abstinence programs do not work.

The DFL has a majority here, and they collapsed. This is a bill that had majority support; go ahead, make Pawlenty veto it, and then slam his whole party for promoting ignorance. This isn’t hard, unless you’ve got the spine and the brains of a jellyfish.

Coleman has more information on the failure of abstinence-only programs, and also on the organizations working behind the scenes. Pawlenty is in the pocket of the Minnesota Family Council … uh-oh. “Family” Council? Have you notice that including the word “family” in a group’s name is a dead give-away that they’re a bunch of fruit loops? True to form, the MFC is one of those creepy and pious organizations that thinks kids should be kept in the dark, and the homosexuals are out to destroy America.

On the flip side, though, Coleman mentions the Minnesota Organization on
Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting
, a group I hadn’t known about before…but they look rational. They seem to think knowledge actually helps people make better decisions, and that we ought to base education on statistics and evidence. Maybe you ought to join, fellow Minnesotans.

Another useful item at the MOAPP site that I have to share: there’s a link to the Sex Ed Library, a collection of about 100 lesson plans for teaching students about sex.


  1. Ex Patriot says

    Shame on Minnesota, To think I used to live there. I always thought of Minn as a progressive state but it appears it is following some other bastions of intellegence back into the dark ages.

  2. says

    Yeah, I couldn’t believe when the Democrats approved abstinence only funds. I definitely would hate to see similar things going up in the state next door (let alone the ones in place in Wisconsin).

  3. MAJeff says

    Did my MA thesis on the MFC and their framing of sex education from the mid-80s, when they were the Berean League, to the mid-90s. There’s nothing worthwhile about those folks. The organization was actually started to keep the sodomy law on the books.

  4. Nance Confer says

    This isn’t hard, unless you’ve got the spine and the brains of a jellyfish.
    Why the cheap shot at jellyfish? :)

    Nance — thinking I am probably pretty typical in not returning the “please volunteer to help in the 2008 elections” call I received from our local Dem office . . . unlike last year when I thought they might actually do something. . .

  5. CalGeorge says

    On this topic, I highly recommend the documentary: The Education of Shelby Knox (2005).

    Sex education – teaching kids about their bodies! – should be mandatory in every public school. Instead we get enforced ignorance, courtesy of hordes of squeamish, controlling ignoramuses.

    Remind me again, why did I vote Democratic?

  6. micheyd says

    Second the recommendation on The Education of Shelby Knox – something everyone interested in sex ed in our country should see. And Shelby often tours with the film and has discussions afterwards and meets people – she’s so awesome!

  7. tony says

    If we don’t teach kids about their bodies, they’ll learn through experimentation and rumor….

    Rumor alone wouldn’t be so bad, if the consequences weren’t so dire: many thousands of unwanted teen pregancies every year.

    (I was raised catholic, and many friends in high school got pregnant due to lack of sex education and non-availability of contraception — this depsite growing up in Scotland, where every town had a family planning clining which provided free contraception, free advice, free education — just not free of observation from folks who know you, your priest, and your parents)

    Lack of education in any form harms people – but mostly can be rememdied later in life.

    Lack of sex education harms people forever — you can’t take back a teenage pregancy!

    These IDiots refuse to allow education, contraception, or abortion. Their answer to any challenge is ‘faith in god’.

    I’d rather put my faith in human nature & demand contraception!

  8. jeffk says

    This is such a pet issue for me. It’s one of those issues where there’s no trade offs, no counter-arguments… the sheer amount of problems that could be simultaneously solved by fixing this immediately boggles the mind. Unwanted pregnancies would plummet, poverty would follow that, and to boot we’d all be much happier knowing how sex works and embracing it and having safe fun with it, rather than living in guilt and crapping out unwanted babies. It just makes me so freaking angry.

  9. says

    I wonder if the DFL’ers weren’t motivated by their desire to avoid a special session.

    Believe it or not, I really think it is time to consider changing the part-time nature of the legislature. They aren’t acting in the state’s best interests if they just want to get out of there by the deadline, and too many compromises are forced at the last minute.

    Kelliher and Pogemiller wanted the funds for education, and they gave up too much to get them. They may face retribution in their caucus.

    The judicial and executive branches are full time, but with our short sessions, the legislature can’t act on what the other branches do post-session until the following January. It gives too much power to the governor no matter what the balance between legislatures may be. Too often expedience rules over reason.

    Remember, Coleman is no longer a reporter. He is a columnist and not obligated to investigate or the full story (of course, there is reason to suspect many of his fellow journalists at the Strib are guilty of the same fault.)

    And it’s not just Minnesota. For some reason people have this idealized view of the state because we have accomplished some few progressive achievements in the last 70 years, but it is always one step up and two steps back. Pass MinnesotaCare and then when it is shown to be working, take it away. Fund the schools in a way that approaches equity between the large rich districts and the small, and then take “No New Taxes Pledges” so you can blame to local governments for not being able to meet their mandated obligations without raising local taxes. Minnesota isnt’ a mythical land. Only about 20 miles from PZ is a sign along the hiway that says “Hey, Dean Johnson! It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!”

    Minnesota is no less susceptible to conservative power. What happened in this case, in my opinion, can be blamed on the Unions for pushing Hatch on the rest of the party for the nomination before they even took a look at Kelley. Kelley could have been elected governor over Pawlenty, but one poll 2 months before the caucuses gave Hatch a slight lead, and that was all the unions needed in order to decide to push their weight behind him.

    And here we are…

  10. Pygmy Loris says

    we’d all be much happier knowing how sex works and embracing it and having safe fun with it,


    That’s the thing, our precious little virgins would learn to enjoy sex w/o getting pregnant and that would defeat the big sky daddy’s punishment of Eve (and all women) because women wouldn’t have to pay for having sex by getting pregnant.

    It’s all about preventing young people, but women in particular, from having enjoyable sex without pregnancies. They want you to be punished, and I think it’s because their sex lives are just that boring.

    And dog forbid the children learn about condoms so they can have sex without getting HIV!

  11. chris rattis says

    I feel like an apologist for the democrats, but think they still fear the republican machine. If they didn’t remove it, Pawlenty’s media group would spin it to look like the Dems are trying to keep people ignorant. As sad as it is to say, everyone knows the governor, while most don’t know who their reps are. So what he says must be right, because who is this other person.

    This does make me sad though, and glad I don’t live in Mn.

  12. Bill Dauphin says

    Remind me again, why did I vote Democratic?

    Because they’re generally on the right side of things, no matter how spineless they sometimes seem, and because their opponents support policies that are actively evil.

    I think it’s a travesty that the Minn legislature blinked on sex ed, and I’m deeply disappointed in the congressional Dems for not taking a stronger stand on Iraq (though as an practical matter, there was never any chance they could end the war while Bush remains in office)… but withdrawing support from the Dems would make it harder rather than easier to correct those mistakes in the future.

    Liberals who voted for Nader in 2000 because Gore was too moderate/corporate to suit them did not give us a tougher-minded, more liberal Gore; they gave us George W. Bush, who espouses the polar opposite of their ideals, and who will be remembered by history as the worst U.S. president ever, one whose “stewardship” has damaged not only America but the world in ways that will take decades to repair.

    Yes, we need to keep up the pressure on “our side,” but abandoning them would only give aid and comfort to the other side.

    BTW, I think the “the bad guys are so tough and the good guys are such wussies” problem is structural: They seem “tough” and “steadfast” and so on because what they really are is authoritarian and narrowminded and faith-based. Wishing we could match their “toughness” is a mistake: Anti-authoritarianism, broadmindedness, and being reality-based are the things we like about the “good guys”… and those very characteristics make them more likely to consider multiple positions, compromise, and temporize.

    Of course, sometimes it’s just electoral cowardice; I don’t mean to be a complete apologist here… but no matter how much we may sometimes be frustrated that Dems can’t be more like Repugs, I don’t think that’s really the right thing to hope for.

  13. dogmeatib says

    PZ, question. Do the Democrats in Minnesota have enough of a majority to override the governor’s veto?

    Remind me again, why did I vote Democratic?

    Because as weak and spineless as they can be, they’re still better than the Republicans?

  14. vairitas says

    I….I can’t believe you just insulted jelly fish, is spinelessness so wrong PZ?

  15. chris rattis says

    @ Bill Dauphin in #13

    Liberals who voted for Nader in 2000 because Gore was too moderate/corporate to suit them did not give us a tougher-minded, more liberal Gore; they gave us George W. Bush

    Actually No we didn’t. The Supreme Court gave us Bush, against previous president of not being involved in an election.

    I voted Nader, because I wanted to see how close the Green Party could come to 5% which is the magic number to get equal funding for elections. If there wasn’t a Nader choice, I as well as my room mate, probably wouldn’t have bothered voting.

  16. chris rattis says

    stupid typo time…
    it should have said “against previous precedent”
    not against previous president.

  17. Robert Jones says

    The Montgomery County, Maryland, School Board just passed a “progressive” new sex ed curriculum that’s at the “forefront” of sex education. If a student asks about homosexuality, the teacher is now allowed to say that homosexuality isn’t a mental disorder. This is only 33 years after the APA decided the same thing.

    Oh, how wildly progressive. The wingnuts are up in arms, of course, that we’re not requiring teachers to immediately condemn the abomination of homosexuality. They’ll have to limit their hate peddling to just home and church. What will they do??

    Stupid wankers.

  18. tony says

    If they they all were stupid wankers — then at least they’d limit their fucking insane behavior to themselves and in private.

    Instead what we have is fucking a-hole exhibitionists, proud to demonstrate how their tiny minds can fuck an entire nation

  19. Steve Cuthbertson says

    #19 – you use the word fuck and wanker, and hyphenate a-hole?
    But I agree with your sentiment :)

  20. tony says

    re_19, 20

    Yes — because an asshole has a function…but an a-hole is simply an a-hole!


  21. stogoe says

    I hate having to choose between a patry of active authoritarian evil and a party that’s terrified of doing what they were elected to do.

    The majority of America agrees with Democratic policies. There’s just no one in office who’ll work to enact them.

  22. says

    “PZ, question. Do the Democrats in Minnesota have enough of a majority to override the governor’s veto?”

    The governor gets to veto bills after the session is closed so the override count is irrelevant. There could be a 75% majority DFL and they would still not be able do override if the governor doesn’t call a special session.

    Is taht a dumbass setup or what?

  23. Caledonian says

    Oh, the poor Democrats, unable to stand up against the Republicans actively pushing their policies of evil.

    I’ll let you in on a little secret: if we eliminated all of the Republicans, the Democrats would simply fill the niche they left behind.

  24. says

    We know what the Contrarian Libertarian Grumpus Caledonian thinks. I’m interested in solutions, rather than yelling at the ‘damn kids’ to get off my lawn.

  25. Caledonian says

    You’re not interested in solutions. Solutions require looking at and understanding reality. You’re more interested in ideology.

  26. Caledonian says

    An additional note:

    I realize the term is your favorite bugbear, but I’m not a Libertarian. You’ll have to attempt to demonize me with some other strawman.

  27. dogmeatib says


    That is quite possibly the dumbest set up I’ve heard about regarding state politics, a governor with the ability to veto legislation with no override capability? Insane. I can actually see why the Democrats would back down, if they didn’t they would create a situation where, depending on how it was funded, cripple education until they either met again, or held a special session.

  28. says

    Yep, I would have thought they would have had some provision where the governor would have to sign or veto prior to the end of session, but they don’t.

    So, to all the Dem bashers on this one, welcome to the wall in which idealism meets reality. However, I still stand by my statement that the DFL gave the governorship to Pawlenty by pushing Hatch.

    Here’s hoping for 2010 they will actually choose a progressive to run.

  29. Bill Dauphin says

    Chris (@#16):


    Liberals who voted for Nader in 2000 because Gore was too moderate/corporate to suit them did not give us a tougher-minded, more liberal Gore; they gave us George W. Bush

    Actually No we didn’t. The Supreme Court gave us Bush, against previous precedent of not being involved in an election.

    …I wrote a witty and well-reasoned reply yesterday, but it appears to have disappeared into the TypeKey aether, so here’s the Reader’s Digest version:

    1. The SCOTUS only got its grubby mitts on the election in the first place because it was a photo finish, which was due in part to Nader’s presence in the race.

    2. You and your roommate may not have voted for Gore even if Nader weren’t in, but many Nader voters clearly would have.

    3. In any case, whenever people refuse to vote for the “good guys” because they’re not pure enough, they are in practical effect voting for the “bad guys.” If the bad guys really aren’t all that bad, this might be an OK strategy for putting pressure on the good guys to be better guys, but when the bad guys are as horribly awful as present-day Repugs, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.”

    Nader told his voters to vote for him because there really wasn’t any difference between Gore and Bush, or between Democrats and Republicans generally… but he turned out to have been RUINOUSLY wrong. I just hope liberals “won’t get fooled again.”

  30. Bill Dauphin says

    Ooops! This…

    …I wrote a witty and well-reasoned reply yesterday,

    …was intended as ironic self-deprecation, not straightfaced arrogance… but TypeKey interepreted my “grin” notation as a null HTML tag and didn’t display it. Sorry if I seemed like an a-hole. [grin]

  31. Nance Confer says

    Because they’re generally on the right side of things, . . .


    This is no longer good enough. If it ever was.