Alex Blaze

Focus on the Family goes to China

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 07, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: abstinence education, America, Chinese gays and lesbians, comprehensive sex education, education policy, Egypt, Focus on the Family

America's still exporting something. The fact that it's not even a quality product, unable to perform its ostensible function, makes it all the more surprising that the Chinese are buying it from us:

virginity-pledge-card.pngIn Yunnan schools this year, teachers are being trained with a sex education curriculum created by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The agreement with the Yunnan ministry of education is a milestone for Focus on the Family, which has struggled for four years to make inroads on abstinence in China.

It is also the result of a narrow confluence of interests: Evangelical Christian groups want an entree into China. And Chinese authorities, despite the country's official atheism, want help with controlling population growth and managing the society's rapidly shifting values.

The article mentions that Focus on the Family has also made inroads into Egypt, showing that governments with poor records on human rights are particularly receptive to abstinence-only education.

The article continues:

Before the Yunnan deal, the program was mostly taught at occasional seminars by associated nonprofit groups in four major cities. The piecemeal approach reached only 9,000 students, according to program coordinators.

The Yunnan agreement promises wider exposure. In the past week alone, 512 teachers from about half the school districts in the province were trained to teach the curriculum in seminars sponsored by the government.[...]

The exchange led to two inaugural seminars this week in which Yunnan teachers learned how to steer teens away from sex. The curriculum warns of consequences including STDs, teenage pregnancy and abortion. It also offers women myriad ways to turn boys down, in Chinese:

"Do you want to bet my future on that condom?"

"I'm not like everyone else."

"If you want to celebrate our love, bring me roses at 7 p.m. and let's go to dinner."

While population control is mentioned several times in the article as the reasoning behind accepting abstinence-only (I thought the Religious Right recoiled in horror at the thought of population control by the government?), that's obviously not the motivation. Abstinence-only doesn't work to reduce premarital sex, as study after study has shown. Instead, they teach kids not to use condoms, a lesson that they'll take with them whether they have sex or not. Instead, these programs are being implemented as a way to control people's behavior:

In 2006, Yunnan officials, who had heard some of the long-running 90-second radio commentaries by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, inquired about airing them on their own station. That led provincial leaders to stop by Colorado during a 2007 tour of the United States.

Provincial leaders told Dobson during their visit that they admired his strong stances on everything - marriage, parenting, gender issues, the sanctity of life. The only thing they disagreed with was evangelism, according to Go, the Focus on the Family official, who served as translator.

It's about imposing values on people, not anything like "population control" or "preventing STD's" or "making sure children are born in wedlock." In fact, in the US these programs have been used to get rightwing politics, sexism, and homophobia into schools. They get teachers to stop talking about dry academic subjects and talk about the way humans interact with one another (the essence of politics), force them to do it through a right-wing perspective (sex is bad), and the rest happens on its own - teachers and administrators and textbook writers are emboldened to impose their beliefs on young people.

The article says that FotF has had to de-religion its materials to get into China, which is officially atheist, but they're supposed to be doing the same thing in classrooms in the US, which is officially secular, but they've been sneaking Bible verses and religious indoctrination into the classroom anyway. China will probably do a better job keeping the evangelism out (local officials and teachers probably feel less need to advance Christianity and the government is more stringent about materials that make it into the classroom), but give FotF time. They'll be sending the evangelism over too, eventually.

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You know, I wonder if anyone ever explained to them that same-sex sex doesn't generally make babies...just saying, how many queer people do you know who have had an 'accident' baby?

I'm preggers right now. No I'm not--but I wish I was.

I had a friend who was working in China and she said that the use of missionary types is actually quite common in schools and universities. It goes against the official atheism, but missionaries will work for free and corrupt officials can keep the salaries they would have had to pay out. Or divert the funds into pet projects. So, of course this is linked with corruption.

With the popularity of English as a Second Language education in China, a lot of missionaries go over there posing as English teachers and then try to convert people undercover.

With the rapid development of the country and rising materialism, there's been something of a spiritual deficit in recent years, making China something of a virgin land for foreign (mostly American) Christian missionaries.

Technically, proselytizing is a criminal offense in China, but these missionaries do it anyway. Disturbingly, a lot of them are of the extreme right-wing variety. A while back, I read a profile of an underground church minister in China, a Chinese national, who said China needs to follow "God's law." Given what that means when Christian leaders here say it, I'd say it doesn't bode well for China if this continues.

What's particularly scary about this is that China already doesn't have comprehensive sex-ed, so the only messages kids who take this program will be getting are those of Focus on the Family and whatever they can glean from usually conservative parents, porn and Hollywood movies.

And from my experience, a lot of gay guys in China are pretty ignorant when it comes to condom use, on top of the prevalence of a DL-type phenomenon where gay and bisexual men marry women (under pressure from parents who demand a grandchild) but still have sex with guys on the side.

And then there's the problem of the skewed gender ratio, where the number of boys being born is outpacing the number of girls thanks to illegal sex-selective abortions.

In other words, FOTF is playing with fire here, but I guess that's the whole point, considering what a bunch of parasitic virus people the Talibangelicals are. From a GLBT rights perspective, the really sad part is that this is happening just when attitudes are starting to change in China.

Honestly, I don't know what the officials in Yunnan are thinking, especially considering what a threat the Talibangelicals in general are to the Communist Party's power.

I'm beginning to believe that the ideal state is a "moderately militant" atheist nation in which religious beliefs are broadly tolerated as a matter of personal freedom but "professional" organized religions are not permitted to operate. Even though I'm a Christian myself, I cannot honestly claim that organized religion is anything but a massive net negative to society.