What happens when a “good Southern Baptist girl” from Texas begins to look beyond the narrowness of her upbringing and see the world for how it “really” is? My wife and I found out Wednesday night as we watched “The Education of Shelby Knox,” a PBS documentary for their P.O.V. series:
A self-described “good Southern Baptist girl,” 15-year-old Shelby Knox of Lubbock, Texas has pledged abstinence until marriage. But she becomes an unlikely advocate for comprehensive sex ed when she finds that Lubbock, where high schools teach abstinence as the only safe sex, has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy and STDs in the state.
Shelby’s struggle to liberate the minds of Lubbock’s students to the ways of sexuality is continually frustrated by parents, school board members, and goofy youth ministers—yet Shelby presses on. Despite the fact that her classmates are reproducing faster than rabbits on viagra, Shelby contends that her fellow students know nothing about sex. Indeed it is a wonder how western civilization has survived three millennia without sex education in the public schools.
The focus of the film is sex education, but more interesting (and disheartening) is Shelby’s transformation from “good Southern Baptist girl” into a cookie-cutter liberal. Such conversions usually have their root in epistemology, and Shelby’s is no exception. Along the way, she summarily rejects revealed knowledge in favor of what she perceives to be reality. She indicates that the Bible’s truths are good for church, but “that’s not the real world.”
Not content with letting her high-school activism lie dormant, Shelby, now in college, has become a run-of-the-mill raging liberal:
I have also branched out to other forms of activism. I am writing for a collegiate feminist magazine called The F-Word. I have written on sex education for the first magazine and my future article topics range from women in religion to female genital mutilation. I have also joined a group that promotes the passage of legislation in support of a woman’s right to choose an abortion.
Her transformation is now complete. Give her a gold star and a PBS documentary.