Tuesday, July 23, 2013

It’s Time to Pay Attention… Because This Matters!!

Next week, I’ll be joining other Aspen Global Leadership Network fellows from around the globe in Aspen, CO and have been asked to speak on a topic that will certainly garner lots of attention – “Resisting the Mob.”  Given the amazing collection of talent at this meeting, I’m still not sure why I have been asked to be one of the lead discussants (as it is called in the program) but nonetheless, my assigned topic has been responsible for much personal reflection of late.

My reflection has focused on the sex education “debate” in South Carolina.  This is a topic I am well versed in and, in fact, quite often find myself engaged in dialogue that includes some iteration of “How do you do it?  Such controversy!  How do you resist the mob of opponents on this topic in SC?”  But see, herein lies the problem… there is no mob of opponents.  There’s only a (very) vocal minority that wants us to think there is a mob and wants us to believe this is a controversial issue!  In fact, 84% of registered voters in South Carolina support sex education that includes information on both abstinence and contraception.  That’s not controversy… that’s overwhelming support!  Yet, the majority is far too silent on this issue.

While the majority stays silent, critical decisions are being made at the Statehouse and within the SC Department of Education that will have dire consequences for young people in our state.  While the majority stays silent, a very vocal and well-organized minority is dominating the dialogue on sex education to the point that a casual observer might well think there is a controversy.  There’s not!  While the majority stays silent, the concept of providing quality, comprehensive sex education is disappearing from the SC Department of Education.  That’s wrong!

So, why is the majority so silent?  That’s exactly the question I’ve been asking myself lately.  I’m not sure, but I do know this – in order to be successful moving the conversation about quality, comprehensive sex education forward in South Carolina it’s time for us to engage the (real) mob of supporters; time for us to give them a voice, provide them with a safe platform to speak up and time for us to raise the volume on this conversation.  No more making critical decisions about the health and well being of our state’s young people under a veil of secrecy.

Dr. Seuss taught us that “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind” (side note: sadly, in preparing this blog, I found out that this quote is misattributed to Dr. Seuss). Well friends, with all due respect to a great quote it’s time to turn that thinking inside out… it’s time for us to mind, because this matters!!

Stay tuned.  I’m not done with this one yet…

By Forrest Alton, Chief Executive Officer, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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