If Lyn Allison has her way, our 8-year-olds will soon be learning the four Rs: reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmatic and reproduction. The Democrat Senator desperately wants our primary school kids to learn everything they can about sex.
But should they? Most young children are playing the latest Playstation game, or hoping to see the latest Disney movie. They certainly are not talking about sexually transmitted diseases or intricacies of the orgasm. Why do we assume young children are sex-obsessed? We don’t teach children the best way to drive drunk, on the assumption that they’re going to do it anyway. Why must we push “safe-sex”, assuming little 6 year-old Jake is a sexual dynamo? Whatever happened to a child’s natural innocence?
Especially problematic is the blind faith put in sex education as a panacea for our ills. Sex education has failed miserably in its attempt to stop teen pregnancy, sexual activity and sexually transmitted diseases. The truth is, never before have we attempted to expose children to so much so soon. Yet after all the money and time spent on sex education, teenage pregnancy continues to rise, as does the incidence of sexually transmitted disease.
The problem is, information alone is not enough. Unfortunately, sex education places its faith in the power of knowledge to change behaviour. But the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that sexual knowledge is only partially related to teenage sexual behaviour.
Two important factors, missing in most sex education courses, are needed to combat teen sexual activity. One is parental involvement, and the other is emphasis on abstinence. Parental discipline and supervision seem to have a marked impact on teen sexual behaviour, with studies finding a clear correlation between parental control and levels of sexual activity.
Moreover, courses which emphasise abstinence seem more effective, especially when this message reinforces teens already practicing abstinence.
Many experts agree. Dr John Meek of the Psychiatric Institute of Washington says this: “It is clear that sexual instruction in the lower elementary grades is unwarranted and potentially destructive to a large percentage of our children.”
Dr Sean O’Reilly, professor at the school of medicine and health services at George Washington University points out that the consensus of the members of the American Association of Child Psychologists was that the child’s development is not served by encouraging sexuality at this stage of life, and that “detailed sex instruction either in the co-educational classroom or in private to pre-pubertal children is ill-advised and potentially harmful.”
Finally, Dr David Elkind, professor of child study at Tufts University says, “There is far from total agreement as to whether sex education in the schools is beneficial to any age group, much less to young people approaching adolescence. One has to conclude that sex education in the schools reflects adult anxiety about young people’s sexuality. The ‘prejudice’ that early sex education will produce children with ‘healthy sexuality’ is open to serious question.”
Also, a number of studies have found that sex education tends to result in teens who are more sexually active, not less. As just one example, the premier sex education advocate – Planned Parenthood International – has revealed in its own survey that “comprehensive sex education programs significantly increase the percentage of teens becoming sexually active, while limited sex education, and especially those with no sex education classes, discourage kids from becoming sexually active.” The National Director of Education for Planned Parenthood has admitted that this survey “has been very much of an Achilles’ heel for us.”
Common sense bears this out: in the last twenty-five years we have been inundated with sex education courses in schools, and the media has bombarded us with sex. Yet during this same period of time we have witnessed an unprecedented escalation of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and abortions. Even if the former is not a cause of the latter, surely the former has not prevented the latter.
Clearly, the problem is not one of lack of information. The problem is the eradication of any framework of values in which to make decisions about sex. This is the real issue which the sex educators refuse to address.
Indeed, this is the major shortcoming of most sex education programs today. They treat children as animals, divorcing sexuality from the rest of personality. We simply throw up our hands and say, “kids will be kids”. But when it comes to other behaviours, we don’t give in so easily. We don’t say, “Well, kids will smoke cigarettes, whether we like it or not, so let’s teach them how to smoke safely.”
We need to remind our sexperts that sex education has to do with how boys and girls treat each other, or, rather, should treat each other and themselves. Sex education is therefore about character and the formation of character. A sex education course in which issues of right and wrong do not occupy center stage is evasive and irresponsible. Unfortunately, that is far too often the way we deal with sex ed in Australia. And that is just not good enough.