Saturday, June 26, 2010

EVEN FOR 1st GRADERS ???????

Condoms for kids in Provincetown: Three newspapers, three angles

Posted by Mark Leccese June 24, 2010 11:35 AM

Just a glance at the headlines in the two Boston dailies this morning telegraphs each paper’s emphasis in a story about the Provincetown School Committee voting two weeks ago to make condoms available to students in its elementary school and high school.

Herald, top of page 7: P’Town puts condoms in kids’ hands

Globe, below the fold on page 1: Condoms, secrecy for Provincetown pupils: Parents, officials criticize policy

The first two paragraphs of each story expand on the headlines.

Here’s the top of the Herald story.

A new policy in Provincetown to make condoms available to even first-graders is being called “absurd” and a frantic overreaction to sex education.

“What’s next? Birth control pills?” asked Kris Mineau, head of the conservative group Massachusetts Family Institute.

Here’s the top of the Globe story.

Students in Provincetown — from elementary school to high school — will be able to get free condoms at school under a recently approved policy that takes effect this fall. The rule also requires school officials to keep student requests secret, and ignore parents’ objections.

“The intent is to protect kids,’’ said School Superintendent Beth Singer, who wrote the policy that the Cape Cod town’s School Committee unanimously passed two weeks ago. “We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?’’

For comparison’s sake, here’s the top of the June 11 story on the website of the Provincetown Banner, headlined “School leaders OK condom policy in Provincetown.”

A condom distribution policy at the elementary and high school here was approved by the school committee on Tuesday.

Some committee members were concerned that the policy requires students to speak with a school nurse or other trained counselor before receiving a condom. However, Dr. Beth Singer, school superintendent, argued that since there is no age limit on the distribution policy, she wanted to ensure that younger students requesting condoms receive information on their use.

The Banner begins its story by doing no more than stating the Provincetown School Committee took the action. It reports that some School Committee members were “concerned,” but immediately follows that up with reassurances from the superintendent of schools. The Banner story, which is only seven paragraphs long, quotes only the superintendent and three school committee members, all of whom were in favor of the policy. No controversy there.

The start of the Globe story only hints that this may be a controversial decision, emphasizing that the Provincetown policy requires school official to “ignore parents’ objections.” It doesn’t say the new policy is controversial, but “ignore” is a loaded verb (as opposed to, say, “not consider”) guaranteed to plant a thought in the reader’s mind that would go something like this: “Ignore the parents? Well, that’s going to tick off some people.”

The first paragraph of the Herald story — with its “even first-graders” and “‘absurd’” and “frantic overreaction” — makes it clear that giving condoms to school children is at least controversial and perhaps, as the British say, barmy.

Despite its beginning, the full 12-paragraph Herald story devotes six of its paragraphs to sources in favor of the policy (the superintendent and the School Committee chair) three paragraphs to reporting neutral information (including a neutral statement from a state Department of Education official). Only three of the paragraphs in the story are devoted to a vocal opponent (the head of the “conservative group” the Massachusetts Family Institute).

But those are the first three paragraphs of the story, and that makes the emphasis of the story clearly hostile to the Provincetown policy.

Counting sources and paragraphs in the Globe story reveals a textbook journalistic balance. There are three sources in favor of the policy (the superintendent, the School Committee chair, and the chair of the Board of Selectmen) and three against (a parent, the town manager, and the head of the Massachusetts Family Institute). Each side gets nine paragraphs. Eight paragraphs are devoted to reporting neutral facts.

Like the Herald story, though, what the reporters and editors chose to put at the top of the story — in the first five paragraphs — reveals an emphasis that appears to support the Provincetown policy.

A news story may be balanced in its distribution of sources and its quotes from the two sides, but it is the top of the story, the first few paragraphs, that signal what is most important in the story, which side gets the most prominent play, and what most readers will come away with.

Yet another reason to be glad we live in a city with two daily newspapers.


Today's Mangled Metaphor Of The Day comes from Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, quoted in Yvonne Abraham's column in this morning's Globe on the mounting problems with state's finances and what Baker agues is Beacon Hill's inadequate response.

“I feel like we’re just kicking the can,’’ he says. “And eventually, it’s going to blow up.’’

What the heck is in that can?

Follow Mark Leccese on Twitter at @mleccese.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

About the author

Mark Leccese, a journalism professor at Emerson College, covered Massachusetts politics, business and the arts for more than 25 years as a newspaper reporter, editor and magazine writer. He has More »


Stew said...

As if not giving them condoms would stop them from having sex.

JustinO'Shea said...




AS A NATION WE'VE DONE PRETTY WELL F#@k(^UP OUR ECOLOGY. . .so now let's mess up the kids even more than they already are!


justin o'shea

Coop said...

I was wondering what you thought of all this, Justin. Now I know.

I was appalled!
First grade is Way too early for children to worry about that.

The kids will probably think the condoms are balloons. LOL

P.S. Check yer mail. I cleared up a discrepancy.

Gary Kelly said...

At what age do you start teaching kids about sex, and more importantly, acting responsibly?

Do you wait until it's too late? Do you wait until a gun is loaded before you teach a kid how to use it?

Half the world's population doesn't use condoms because they don't have a willie. But they do get pregnant.

JustinO'Shea said...

"Sex education" is one part of home upbringing. . .it begins in the earliest years. . .babies learn attitudes from their parents. Sex education is far more than the plumbing and fixtures plus appliances: it must be age appropriate.

AND parents have every right to be involved and know what is being or not being taught in elementary / grade school. ALSO in high school.
Schools have no right or place in casually handing out condoms to prepubescent kids.

This is an extremely delicate area and must be handled carefully. How many people do you know personally who in adulthood are still undergoing needed re-education in matters of one's sexual orientation, responsible usage, etc.
"Fools walk in where angels fear to tred.". . .even in Provincetown!

J said...

You an justify explaining the condom to sixth graders; below that is questionable.

JustinO'Shea said...


There's my lawyer! ;-)


Gary Kelly said...

J said 'questionable', Justin. That's lawyer speak for maybe.

As to adults undergoing much needed re-education in sexual matters, something must have gone wrong with their sex education at home, and for that matter at school. Or maybe it was missing altogether. Or maybe some parents make lousy teachers.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

My pregnant aunt visited my mom when I was a kid. When she left, I asked my mom why my aunt's tummy was so large and her boobs so big. My mother told me to hush my mouth and never to talk about those things again.

So much for sex education in the home. It was non-existent at school as well.

So my early sex education was left to a skinny, acne-infested kid up the road who delighted in telling me untruths, such as my uncircumcized penis was a dud and would never produce children.

Go figure.

JustinO'Shea said...

#1. I never said anywhere that condoms were not 'necessary'. But not for babies/little kids. . .and not indiscrimately.

#2. I DID say that sex education. . .accurate, factual, etc, should be an integral part of home education, supported with appropriate 'professional' education in the schools. . education., just as all other levels of curiculum must be age-approrpiate. . Our sexuality is part of who we are: thus the whole person needs to be educated.

#3. The ignorance and neglects of the past ought not be set up as criteria for today.

#4. Today's sex ed zealots realy ought not to answer questions the kids aren't asking. . . .follow me here?

Good night bambin1!


Gary Kelly said...

Maybe I got a few things wrong here:

Are condoms being handed out indiscriminately to kids who don't ask for them?

Are you saying that all parents are capable of giving accurate, factual sex education in the home?

True: the ignorance of the past belongs to the past. Problem is, we ain't all dead yet.

Questions not being asked shouldn't be answered? No, I don't follow you.

Keep an eye on that cage, Justino... it's rattling. The screws need tighening.

Anonymous said...

I checked on the internet and found that the number of young kids with STDs is growing at an alarming rate. In sex ed classes and in the media, kids are taught to practice safe sex by using condoms, but if a young boy decides to sexually experiment with another and wants to practice safe sex, where does he get a condom? Asking mom or dad isn’t realistic, neither is buying one at the store so what does he do? Steal one from dad? Steal one from the store? We have put these lads in the situation where to practice safe sex as we preach he should, he has to break the law. The number of kids who will start having sex at a younger age or more often because of the availability of condoms will be insignificant but the potential to reduce STDs among children is significant. Prison systems have a similar dilemma in that it is against prison rules for inmates to have sex with one another, but just like with the kids, it happens and STD’s, mostly AIDS, spreads at a very high rate. Towards countering this, many prisons are considering selling condoms in the prison canteens to reduce the spread of the diseases. Like with the kids, on the surface it appears to be a contradiction, but in the real and imperfect world, it leads us in a positive direction.

JustinO'Shea said...

thatAnonymous just posted. Let me begin by saying I AGREE WITH WHAT YOU JUST POSTED. . .as you posted it.

Also, I want to say I have the feeling some are replying not to WHAT I said but to what THEY THINK I said.

I said that I think sex education in home and the school needs to be age appropriate.

I agree with lawyer J's statement that younger than 6th grade is questionable.

The issue here in Provincetown schools is GIVING condoms to kids..ALL kids in elementary and middle schools and high schools. . and without parental approval or even their knowing about it!

Now my question: is there evidence that kids younger than 6th graders are engaging in sexual activity. . genital sexual activity? I do not mean in occasional cases, but as a general rule. Are kids in 1st and 2md grades having/doing sex? 3rd and 4th graders?

I do not think giving condoms to prepubescebent children is "age appropriate". Most prepubescent boys wouldn't be able to secure them on!. . .to keep condoms in place! LOL

And I shall leave it there. . .I think I have said enough on this issue. Maybe. . . . . haha


Coop said...

So many people who SUPPORT giving condoms to elementary school students ignore the obvious; which is ...
Children THAT YOUNG have not gone through puberty. They ARE NOT thinking about sexual intercourse.
At that age, boys who will later grow up to be heterosexual men think that girls are yucky.

I saw a letter supporting the idea in the Herald today. I didn't even read through it.
Condoms in High School, yes. Elementary school, Hell No.

Stew said...

Boys can hit puberty as young as ten. Which if my math is right would be about 5th grade. And I believe the article said that the kid would have to ask for them. Not that everyone got one for lunch break. I really doubt that a 1st grader would ask for one. But, one never knows.

JustinO'Shea said...

OK, a lot of things can happen when you are ten. Is ten years old the average age for puberty?

I have no idea. I think I was about 11yo. I saw some older guys in our class 'rubbing it' under their desk.

It was later on when "that white stuff" happened. . . . I wonder what the average AGE IS . . . YEAH YEAH,I know every one is different.

Any ideas?

Coop said...

I used a lot of CAPITALS on that last post, didn't I?
I didn't mean to be that emphatic. TeeHee. Personally, The white stuff showed up in 5th grade.

I still think elementary school is too young. I've heard of girls getting pregnant at 13 or so. That's what, 7th grade??

Coop said...

Btw, Justino, have there been sharks on your veranda lately? The Boston media have been all over the shark catch in Stellwagen Bank like a bunch of noisy hyenas. That story is a couple days old by now. Secretly, I was hoping that the DaSilvas caught it.
It's good to know there's fins in the water. TeeHee. I think the media exaggerates. People forget Jaws was a movie... and the shark was a prop.

Off to (try) and sleep. Too hot!