To The Editor:
Recently, in an article about the Princeton Half-Marathon, from which HiTOPS, an adolescent health organization, will benefit, Princeton Borough Mayor, Yina Moore, was quoted as saying, “If any of you have kids, you know how valuable HiTOPS is.” We are mothers of children who attend public schools in Princeton and we think it is wrong to assume or imply that all parents agree with HiTOPS’s approach to adolescent health. First, it is important to recognize that Princeton is a diverse community. Second, it is important to understand that there is no sex education program that is morally neutral.
In their 900-page teaching manual, HiTOPS promotes teen condom use as well as “alternative” sexual practices sometimes referred to as “outercourse” (sexually intimate activity short of intercourse). HiTOPS also teaches teens that consensual, “protected” teenage sexual activity is commonplace, healthy, and unproblematic. Furthermore, HiTOPS puts emphasis on normalizing alternative sexual lifestyles and practices while reducing sexuality to questions of individual, private satisfaction, and self-protection. Whatever your particular views about these teachings, one cannot honestly claim that they are morally neutral.
Our own views regarding sexual ethics and the meaning of human sexuality are diametrically opposed to those advanced by HiTOPS. We believe that it is important to teach teens that sexual longings are an essential part of living a virtuous life and have a place in the service of something higher — for example, to love another faithfully, rear and provide for children and participate knowledgeably and loyally in the political order which protects the family.
People who share the views of HiTOPS have as much right to their views as we have to ours, but they have no right to a monopoly in the public schools. The unjust monopoly status HiTOPS currently enjoys, and comments like Mayor Yina Moore’s, tend toward an assumption of homogeneity and conformism, which may lead to the suppression of individuality and diversity. Recognition of a true or fundamental diversity is not merely recognition and toleration of those good-willed persons who have different views than we do, but a respect for them even when we strongly disagree with them. We would not ask for or expect our view to be given a monopoly in the schools, but we do object to a view contrary to our own being given a monopoly. Students should be given a serious opportunity to engage the main competing views about sexuality and sexual morality.
Teaching the conflicts is one of the bedrocks of a good public school education system. Once we assume that something is intellectually settled or even sacrosanct, we often marginalize, malign, or render mute the voices of others. We should remind ourselves and teach our teens that sometimes it is necessary to consider other voices and to rethink our own assumptions if we wish to get closer to the truth and make an adequate defense before our own intellectual and moral consciences.
Wai Far Bazar,