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Education Reporter

'Michigan Model' of Sex Education Lives
Program still used despite years of parent protests
Many educators, parents and legislators have battled school reform in Michigan since the controversial "Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health Education" was introduced in 1984. The curriculum included sexually-explicit, comprehensive sex education and was touted as a model for the nation.

In late summer 1992, the Michigan Senate issued a report entitled "It's Not Kid Friendly," which condemned the health ed program. Governor John Engler vetoed funding for a $2 million training program that would have forced school districts to use the money to train teachers to teach the controversial curriculum. By 1995, the Michigan Department of Education was embroiled in a scandal involving the illegal diversion of drug education money into the health ed program, while drug use among students skyrocketed.

In 1989, the newly-developed MEAP reading test, which was given to all 4th, 7th and 10th graders in the state's public schools, also received the "Michigan Model" designation because it was expected to "go national" following its statewide debut. Many similar testing programs did materialize, including the failed Kentucky Instructional Results Information System (KIRIS) and the controversial California Learning Assessment System (CLAS).

As extensively reported in Education Reporter, outraged parents and educators have repeatedly charged that the Michigan Model testing programs fail to measure academic skills, and instead require children to answer questions about behavior and personal attitudes that invade the private thoughts of the child and have no place in statewide testing.

Despite years of public outcry, the MEAP is alive and well in 1999. The sex education curriculum does require parental consent for student participation, but the content remains explicit and titillating. Reading, math and social studies courses focus on beliefs and attitudes, and teachers continue to practice psychology in the classroom. Group grading, block scheduling, values clarification, and school-to-work are all part of the program.

Parent researcher Carolyn Swoveland of Traverse City offered Education Reporter this exclusive glimpse of student life under MEAP at the end of the decade:

  • A "Global Studies" (high school) curriculum survey probes student attitudes about provocative topics including "the problems of world poverty," "compulsory health programs," the use of "any" weapons by countries, whether or not "large automobiles should be built" or "fishing limits" set, when birth control is "justifiable," and whether "people who immigrate should adopt the culture of their new country." 
  • High school coed "Human Sexuality" courses include discussions of oral, anal, and vaginal sex, videos on date rape, and an explicit "Guide to Contraception." 
  • Kindergartners are "prepared for what they might face" regarding sexual abuse and given "specific definitions and examples of sexual assault."  
  • 8th graders write about mandatory community service and the banning of tobacco advertising. 
  • 10th graders must decide what their life's work will be.  
  • 11th graders read stories that focus on racism, war, and hopelessness. 
  • An 11th-grade social studies test asks students for their opinions about women serving in combat, affirmative action, privatization, and political action committees.  

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