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What’s the matter with Guanajuato?

21 September 2009

A couple of years ago, a single mom friend of mine was tied up one afternoon, and asked me to help her 11-year old with his school project.  For his Biology class, he had to do a show and tell, which required using a condom.  It wasn’t so much the creepy idea of going with an 11-year old kid to the farmacia for condoms that surprised me, as buying them for a class at a Catholic school.  OK, the nun teaching biology was French, but then again, this was Mexico City, which is relatively enlightened and normal.

Mexico has good sex education, and has been held up as a model to other countries, so this shocks me.  Translated from El Universal, via Debate de Sinaloa:

The Guanajuato Department of Education (SEG, for its initials in Spanish) has removed the images of sexual organs and has added moral precepts to the state’s seventh grade biology text.

According to the new text, “abstinence and faithfulness” have an effect of reducing unwanted pregnancies and abortion. “For many people, virginity is a treasure we want to deliver to the most important person in his life,” the text states.

“The only 100% guaranteed method to avoid AIDS and other STDs is to wait until marriage”, the book, published in July, says about sexually transmitted diseases.

SEG eliminated the illustrations and texts dealing with the human reproductive system.  These are issues requiring “technical knowledge and moral judgments,” said state Secretary of Education, Alberto Diosdado.

The publication attempts to inhibit the use of contraceptive methods, promotes natural methods of birth control and lists its negative effects on women.

Procreation can only have a framework within marriage.  “Masturbation is limited to providing individual pleasure: a selfish joy without the participation of another person”; “the emergency contraceptive pill can give you cancer of the womb” are some concepts included in the section on  sexuality and health.

When asked why they eliminated explicit images of male and female sexual organs of the book, the official argued that it was for didactic and pedagogical reasons and and to strengthen a more humanistic approach to education.

Diosdado asserts that state autonomy allows the SEG to consider the needs of Guanajuato, without seeking approval from the Federal Department of Public Education (SEP).

“All state Departments of Education are free to make adjustments according to the characteristics of states. What we did is appropriate according to the needs and concerns that others have already raised during  previous textbook reviews,” said Diosdado.

He said that adjustments were made to the text to make it easier to teach sex education, a topic that requires technical knowledge.

The state official further justified the changes by adding that “this [the biology text] only adds to the important contribution of parents, who are absolutely responsible for sex education, and we, the educational authorities, are only instruments in this process.¨”

The official said that state education in this area is “only in addition to the parents, who make the most important contribution, and have absolute responsibility, for sexual education.  As educational authority, we only participate in this process.”

However,  Juan Carlos Moreno, Director of General Services for SEP [which is responsible for printing and distributing educational material to students and schools nationally]  said that state textbooks must meet the federal standards approved by SEP.

“Texts are reviewed by us based on the comprehensive reforms in basic education.  In this case, Guanajuato´s Biological Sciences text — as far as sex education is concerned — should conform to the reformed federal standards.

“Of course, being already in the classrooms, we assumed it had been approved.”

Jose Manuel Velasco, President of the Confederación Nacional de Escuelas Particularesm [the Mexican branch of an  inter-Latin American Catholic School organization]  welcomed the changes to the  Biology text.

“Fortunately Guanajuato is one of the healthiest states from the moral standpoint of the country.  We do not need to fall into the “perversions” — to use the correct term — you find elsewhere,” he said.

Besides removing images of human sexuality and reproduction in the state biology textbooks, there is mention of a local constitutional change, adopted this May, which guarantees the right to life beginning at conception.

Patrick Corcoran, at Gancho, scooped me on this (though I had bookmarked it to translate before I saw his post. Honest!).  Like I do he notes that Guanajuato sometimes resembles some of the wackier regions of the United States — not just in sexual matters (we’re talking about the State where the largest city’s administration tried to outlaw public displays of affection, after all) — but, if you re-read what the State Education Secretary is saying, in emulating the “states’ rights” movement up north.

Guanajuato has been a hotbed (if that’s the right word) of the piety wing of PAN, but I’m still wondering if San Miguel de Allende didn’t get an influx of Texans… or the perversions associated with gringos in Mexico didn’t drive their neighbors to this extreme (and frankly bizarre) reaction.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    21 September 2009 9:20 am

    I took up residence in San Miguel de Allende just this year. This arose out of a simple desire to live in México coupled with an utter ignorance about México. Through intense reading, including The Mex Files regularly, I have been attempting to remedy that ignorance. I may change locations in the foreseeable future.

    Regarding that “influx” to which you refer, early on in my residence here, I encountered an internet site maintained here for the benefit of local gringos that in part includes an area for blog-like entries from readers. After an extended complaint about the fact that some theater had not opened on time, one contributor opined that Mexican businesses need a “business plan” and in fact all México needs a “business plan.” To which I could only mentally respond, “Why don’t you return to the United States where “business plans” are run up your ass every hour of every day of every week?”

    Now that may at first blush appear irrelevant to your report here, but it is not.

    How ironic that Gruanajuato, the site of so many momentous events in Mexican history that can be characterized as progressive, should meander in this direction that you describe.

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