For a better experience, read this first.
It all began as things on the web do. I clicked on a shiny thing.
I'd stumbled across a piece she'd written a year ago for The Pacific Standard innocently entitled "One mother makes up for the gaps in sex education." I'd found it linked here on Snapzu.
After reading it, I flung the link into reddit so I could see if it had been linked there - and what was being said about it. It had hit /r/truereddit hard and the discussion was fun.
It has all the usual features - the clueless, the overenlightened, the sex positive, the adorably confused Europeans...
I was in the throes of a near-crippling snickerfit as I logged into Twitter so that I could follow Alice Dreger. At that moment, I still had no idea about this!
I had logged in just so I could find out what other heyoka tricks she might have gotten up to.
I'm going to quote a big chunk because - [cue dramatic music] - foreshadowing!
A couple of months ago, the sex education notice came home in my nine-year-old son's backpack. I didn't realize that, in our district, sex ed starts in the fourth grade. Another sign of the state having more access to my baby than I sometimes wish.
When I handed the note to my mate at the dinner table, our son said with something of a proud smile, "I told Mrs. Reverby we've already talked about it at home."
The mate and I looked at each other and obviously had the same thought. Two weeks before, the class had been learning about electricity. The teacher had gotten stuck on some questions about batteries, so she had turned to our son, who was able to explain to the class exactly how batteries charge, recharge, and discharge. He's learned a lot about electricity at home.
And quite a lot about sex.
"You know," my mate said to our son, "this is one of those times when you have to not help the teacher even if you know how something works."
I busted out laughing at the admonition. "Your dad is right," I said, composing myself. "It's entirely possibly you know more about sex than they do, but there's some stuff some parents might not want their kids to know, so you have to keep a lid on it."
After an essay of mine on talking to kids about sex went viral last week, someone tweeted me an unexpected question: “Just read an article in which you refer to your partner as Mate. Are you furry?”
Redditors. We can be awkwardly endearing, can we not?
The answer is a solid answer, it's funny and avoids being precious on a topic where that's really hard. That's why I ran on over to twitter.
And that's where I found out how Alice Rushes In Where Angels Fear To Tread.
You know, as I had hoped. Go read the link.
Ok, so what happened?
I'll let Laura Putnam (link below) round it up:
With 45 sharply worded tweets, she eviscerated the abstinence-focused sex education class. She made local school officials look like rubes on a national stage. And she did a bit of swearing, which she says led to her banishment from the high school campus.
I'd subversively refer to it as a mature response. If it's so fucked up that the hilariously overqualified parent is moved to say fuck that many times, perhaps there's some kind of effing problem! I'm certain that 9th graders are familiar with the word.
By the end of the day, her tweets had been picked up by the national websites Salon and Vox.
You didn't link and I haven't found those stories yet. Bad form.
No links is bad form, Laura. Even if they do have a liberal tilt.
Dreger, an outspoken author, a professor of medical humanities and bioethics at Northwestern University and founder of the local news cooperative East Lansing Info, was able to attend her son's sex education class because district policy allows parents to monitor the class.
Clearly, that was wise.
I have to say that the trail of tweets makes it look like she had a mission to criticize from the outset.
I'd have to say that her CV suggests that she has a professional responsibility to criticize from the outset.
Some of her tweets included profanities.
Be still, my beating heart!
Dreger's position on eliminating shame from sex education is clear. She penned an article last year for Pacific Standard Magazine: "What if We Admitted to Children That Sex is Primarily About Pleasure?"
It is, you know. If it isn't, you should stop doing whatever you are doing and consult an expert!
But after sneering at the whole idea, Laura again errs in favor of the tender sensibilities of her audience and fails to link to the essay. (Pacific Standard seems to have retitled it as "One mother makes up for the gaps in sex education," linked elsewhere.)
My Son Responded by Standing Up to the Teacher’s Arguments with Science
If you are even slightly interested in bioethics and human sexuality, you can get lost here for days.
Where the drama happened and will no doubt continue to unfold
I think you will find it interesting and rewarding to page through here, scan her blogs, read her articles about ethics and human sexuality... and wonder why she wasn't invited to present the course herself.
This is what "The Kid" found and printed out. this is what he handed to the presenter, and this is what he apparently handed out to the entire class. And yes, there is a PDF link on the site, in case that seems like a good idea to you.