If someone were to write a history of Douglas M. Duncan's terms as county executive, I'd like it to be Washington Post staff writer Tim Craig. Somehow he captures the absurdity of Montgomery County's politicians -- and he does it just by observing and reporting what it is they do. Sometimes Craig's Montgomery Notebook reads like one of those wacky, off-beat southern novels, like "Big Fish." But last week's notebook item about Duncan traveling around the area with a giant barbecue grill was like something right out of "The Dukes of Hazzard."
Here's Boss Hogg, ably played by Duncan, traipsing around the Maryland suburbs, cooking up barbecue for the folks. And you just know that, somehow, it's not his money that's paying for it. Sticking to the script, it's appropriate that some of our tax money finds its way to some good-old-boy friends of the Boss. And sure enough, it turns out the Boss has guaranteed his friends an 11 percent increase in their pay and benefits each year over the next six years.
Now that story would all be fine and dandy for a television show, since we'd know that somehow the Dukes and Daisy would sort it all out in the end, and the Boss would be embarrassed and angry. But in real life, Boss Duncan got away with it. His firefighter friends are pulling around a giant grill and cooking up the pork, while Duncan gives it away in his run for governor.
Oh, sure, there is nothing wrong with the Montgomery County Career Firefighters Association negotiating to get its members a big raise. If anyone deserves to be well compensated, it's our public safety professionals, and I think that is beyond argument or doubt. And there's nothing wrong with Duncan and the County Council giving them a big raise, even though their largess threatened to bust the property tax limit in the county charter. And there's nothing wrong with the firefighters towing a brand-new, giant barbecue grill behind Duncan on his gubernatorial campaign trail.
But when you add it all up it kind of smells -- yummy, yummy, like barbecued pork!
Sex Facts for Students
While Montgomery County teenagers talk a lot about sex, their conversation is all about heat and almost without light. During a discussion of the sex education controversy with my daughter and two of her friends, I was shocked to find out that these three young adults, who have now completed their first year of college, were not sure how to correctly put on a condom.
I learned this because I was telling them about the video that the school system had planned to use to demonstrate correct condom use (school officials have since said they will not use the video). I had gone to view the video because I wanted to see if it was objectionable. I told them that I did not find it offensive and that I had become a member of Teachthefacts.org, the organization that parents may join to support a fact-based and scientific approach to sex education in Montgomery County public schools.
All three young adults asked me immediately to explain to them what I had learned in the video about correct condom use. Having read the advice about teachable moments, I told them all I had learned from the video. If I had not seen this video, I would not have been able to give them any information.
I realized that there are very few places in our culture where clear and science-based information about condoms is available. While we can see many sex acts on cable television, if we wish, I have never seen a program giving information on condom use. The Washington Post has spilled a lot of ink in its articles about the sex education issue in Montgomery County, but I have never seen the topic of correct condom use addressed in its Health section.
Like many parents, I do not believe that teaching my children how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and avoid pregnancy will encourage them to have sex at a young age. I believe that having open and honest communication about values and also providing valid information is the most respectful way to relate to my young adult children.
In their quest for higher profits, television shows and motion pictures offer a lot of images of sex but no clear information about it, so the students in our county need to get their fact-based information from the school system. I hope that the school system will provide the factual information that is absent from most other places in our overheated but dim media.