SUMMARY: SIECUS REVIEW OF HERITAGE KEEPERS
Heritage Keepers contains very little information about the majority of topics suggested by SIECUS' Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education; K-12, such as puberty, anatomy, and sexual behavior. Even topics that are frequently discussed in detail in other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, such as condoms and STDs, receive very little mention in this curriculum. Instead it devotes most of its lessons to the importance of marriage and abstinence before marriage. In these lessons, Heritage Keepers relies on messages of fear and shame and promotes biased views of gender, marriage, and pregnancy options.
Relying on Negative Messages
Messages of Fear and Shame—Trying to scare students and instill guilt
This focus on consequences is clearly designed to scare students rather than educate them. It is important to remember that 46% of all high school students and 63% of high school seniors have had sexual intercourse; it is never appropriate for a curriculum to suggest that these teens are less worthy of love, trust, and respect than their abstinent peers.
The Marriage Mandate—Demanding one lifestyle
This lesson seems based on the assumption that all students aspire to marriage, and in so doing discounts gay and lesbian individuals who are unable to marry, as well as the very real possibility that some students simply do not wish to marry. Although decisions about whether to move in with a partner are rarely relevant to high school students, the curriculum spends a great deal of time explaining why premarital cohabitation is wrong. It is not the place of an educational program to mandate relationship structures for young people.
Divorce and Family Structure—Ignoring non-traditional families
Although single-parenthood is mentioned as a consequence of premarital pregnancy and divorce is mentioned as a consequence of cohabitation, families in which the parents are never married or divorced are never mentioned. This discussion may be designed to make young people think of their future relationships, it would not be surprising if many students thought instead of their parents. It is unreasonable to put the burden of family structure on students who, as children, have no control over their current family situation. Suggesting that these young people will face a lifetime of difficulty will only serve to distress and alienate many students.
Gender—Fostering myths and stereotypes
Such statements reinforce societal double standards in which young women do not desire sex and young men cannot control their sexual behavior. By reiterating these ideas, the curriculum places all of the responsibility for refusing sexual activity on the shoulders of young women. Heritage Keepers would better serve students by reminding them that both men and women are sexual beings and are equally responsible for making decisions regarding sexual activity and relationships.
Pregnancy Options—Relying on biased language
While raising a child alone and being forced to pay child support are discussed as outcomes of premarital sex, neither abortion nor adoption is ever directly mentioned. The curriculum does, however, consistently use language that conveys an anti-choice message. Rather than relying on biased language and innuendo, Heritage Keepers would better serve students by providing an honest discussion of all options available to a young woman facing an unintended pregnancy.
Sexual Orientation—Refusing to accept diversity
By consistently ignoring the existence of LGBT individuals, Heritage Keepers is reinforcing the cultural invisibility and bias that these students already face in many schools and communities. Moreover, the curriculum's focus on marriage as the only appropriate context for sexual behavior, essentially tells these students—who cannot legally marry in this country —that they can never have a sexual relationship.