Because of my 12-year role as chairman of the Adolescent Pregnancy and Parenting Program Advisory Committee in the Tempe Union High School District, I was invited last fall to serve on a district task force to study sex education curricula that are available and to recommend one for implementing in the district’s seven high schools.

We examined five, and our task force chose to recommend one called Family Life and Sexual Health (FLASH).  Twelve of 16 volunteers voted (three were absent) to call on the district to adopt it.  One of our task force members serves on the school board as president, and she abstained. Thus, all who voted want FLASH.

As I pored over the teacher manuals and materials for each curriculum, I was especially on the lookout as to what they said about the male anatomy and whether they addressed circumcision, and, if so, was it accurate?  As I expected, the matter was handled in just a passing sentence or two, and some curricula had no illustrations. In all, circumcision was treated as part of the birth process.  Not a mention of the ethical or human rights issues of genital cutting.

I started off the task force members’ assessments today. I gave my evaluation of the two finalists for adoption. With that said, I took the liberty to call on the school district governing board and those implementing a curriculum to not treat circumcision as one of the routine steps taken when a boy is born. It was an opportunity I had to take advantage of.  We had about 25 community citizens in the audience.  I am certain some on the task force were thinking that I was exploiting my speaking time with a topic far afield from the immediate topic — which curriculum was best.  In any event, this is what I said regarding circumcision

 That said, my previous written remarks on FLASH  included two lengthy paragraphs on the issue on what is said and taught on infant circumcision.  If this district is going to have an earnest and enlightened curriculum on sex education, then it should not, and must not teach, circumcision as just one of the routine steps to be taken after a baby boy is born.  All babies inherently have human rights, especially to be safe in their own bodies as nature made them. Millions of baby boys lose the most sensitive parts of their sexual anatomy because of a procedure parents mindlessly allow and the circumcision industry profits from. No medical society in the world recommends circumcision, but the tyranny of culture and tradition in this country perpetuates what is a violation of a child’s genital integrity, his right to be whole and complete.

The male foreskin is a complex structure that every male has a right to keep, and only he should determine whether to keep it.  Very, very few intact males grow up to want their foreskins amputated, so that debunks and discredits any notion that parents are doing what their sons would want by having them cut after birth.

Instead, there can be resentment.  What’s cut off would represent 15 square inches of penile skin in an adult. Medicaid won’t cover circumcisions in this state because it is medically unnecessary and it’s regarded as cosmetic surgery.  It is sad and perplexing that male circumcision is allowed while females are protected from genital cutting by federal law in this country. It is hypocrisy, a double standard, and violation of the 14th Amendment of equal treatment under the law.

     So I would hope that educators in this district in years and decades ahead will come to see that circumcision is medically unethical when performed on a helpless, defenseless child who has not given his consent and deserves to keep the 20,000 nerve endings of the foreskin, more than half of skin of his penile shaft, the ridged bands, the frenulum, the Meissner’s corpuscles, the mucous membrane and so much more.  Botched circumcisions,  117 deaths a year in the U. S. to circumcision, skin bridges, and loss of so much sensation — and we wonder why the U.S. needs to consume 47 percent of the world’s Viagra and Cialis to gain a modicum of sexual vibrancy. Do you think there might be a connection here? Men are truly missing something taken from them in infancy. The foreskin has 16 identifiable purposes. It is not throw-away, expendable skin. Eighty percent of males on this planet are doing nicely being intact.

    So let’s get the real facts, teach with humanity and genital integrity in mind in this district.  Let’s not teach that circumcision is part of normal parenthood.  As a father of an intact son and two intact grandsons, I say we can put this cruel practice behind us.  May the teens of this district, who grow up and become parents one day, respect their children’s perfect bodies and their birthright to keep all the body parts they came with.  It starts with education.

 So, that said, I recommend the FLASH curriculum to governing board of this district.

One task force member thanked me publicly and acknowledged it caused a gasp in the room when I brought up circumcision, but she said it raised awareness about something she knew little about.  A male parent of five circumcised sons also said my information was fascinating and the best thing to come out of the meeting for him.  He just didn’t know that circumcision was an issue.

I intend to follow through with the hope that when the program is implemented, health educators will teach that newborn males have the right to remain intact — and reasons why. I know:  We are talking about educational bureaucracy and the likelihood this one issue will fall through the cracks.   But it is a step.   As the 12th recipient of the city’s prestigious  Don Carlos Humanitarian Award (1995) for a community of 166,000 people,  I believe I was re-earning the honor and fulfilling my duty to live up to it.

Hopefully, we saved some boys from the perverse practice of penile reduction today. It is all about education.

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