It’s the age-old question of whether or not schools should be in the position of teaching children – in one case, 8th graders – subject matters such as abortion, gay rights, guns, illegal immigration, etc.

One district is dealing with this thorny issue – much to the consternation of one parent who feels it’s inappropriate for 8th graders.

Dr. Todd Westervelt wasn’t happy when the Montgomery School District gave 8th graders a political issues questionnaire on the above state topics in his son’s social studies class.
Besides having to answer the questions on paper, the students then had to give their answers in front of the class.

Westervelt has been a teacher for much of his career – having taught from elementary through college.
His feeling is that the issues brought up should not be made by the district, but that he should decide when his son is exposed to them.

"I think that the content (in the questionnaire) is inappropriate for 12- and 13-year-olds," said Westervelt. "It's not just abortion. It asks about murder, execution, illegal immigration, gay marriage. It doesn't matter where I fall on the spectrum, it's just the content.

"One question is about getting pregnant by mistake. I asked the teacher, 'Do you want to explain to my child how someone gets pregnant by mistake?' I asked my son. He had no idea. How many 12- and 13-year-olds would know something like that? I told the teacher I feel it's inappropriate for her to be teaching something like that. That's my job. It (the questionnaire) has forced my hand to talk to my son about these things now."

In addressing the situation, Montgomery school superintendent Nancy H. Gartenberg said she understood how Westervelt felt, but said that perhaps some of the questions were worded inappropriately.

Here’s just one example of a question that appears on the questionnaire:

Mr. and Mrs. Lane have two children, Jill and Pete. The family gets money from a government program to help them because they are poor. This program is 
very good• good• not good• very bad

While I’ve never been a fan of a school, any school, becoming a “de facto” parent to a student – what purpose does a social studies class – or a health class have if not to teach about issues that 12 and 13 year olds are exposed to on a daily basis? Gay marriage comes up practically all the time on the news - as does gun violence, illegal immigration.

In other words, things they'll hear about on a daily basis - but if Dr. Westervelt were to have his way, not be able to learn more about in a school setting.

It’s wrong for schools to impart their values on students - but if the study of pre-marital sex, homosexuality, abortion, guns, illegal immigration and the like stirs discussion among the students – how could this possibly be a bad thing?