CultureWatch

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Making Sexperts of Our Children

Jan 27, 2006

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.

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4 Responses to Making Sexperts of Our Children

  • I agree that too much pressure is being put on our children in the area of sex education. Just a few months ago we had a 13yr old who brought home from school PDHPE homework. At the time they were doing sex education. In Yr 7 they were all expected to know at least 3 female contraceptives and be able to draw them. I was appalled at this and took it up with the school. Ten years ago when our daughters had to learn to put condoms on banana’s thought that was outrageous. I think that the education department has gone too far on this issue. It should be given back to the parents to educate their children in sexual matters. Children in Yrs 6 & 7 do not need to know all the intimate parts of the human body. Too much information only encourages experimentation. Let our children be children.

    Wanda Taylor

  • I am definitely in favour of comprehensive Sex Education. Wanda above asserts that, “Children in Years 6 & 7 do not need to know all the intimate parts of the human body.” Personally, I believe this is an insult to the intelligence of children. We each have a body. No matter what age we are, we deserve to understand how our WHOLE body works. There is nothing ‘taboo’ about genitals. They are a fact of life.

    When I was at High School, not so long ago, I found our Sex Ed. classes completely unhelpful. An embarrassed teacher whispered, “This is a condom,” and shuffled off. While classes usually mention the risk of pregnancy or infection through vaginal intercourse, they fail to examine the risks associated with other types of sexual activity. It is still possible to damage mental or physical health through unsafe manual and oral sex. But the fact is, young people are still sexual people, and they will still experiment, and that’s okay. The aim is to show them the consequences of their actions. Many young people I’ve encountered do not realise that they can contract STIs through oral or manual sex. I believe that if we had REAL sex education, which gave young people ALL the tools to protect themselves mentally and physically, we’d be a lot better off for it.

    Zenobia Frost

  • This article is a good one. Sex education is important in our society. I work with Christian and non christian kids and notice that both are alot more educated than I was at their age. Why do they need to be educated so well? I think that Television shows alot of sceens that required Parents gudance and often the parents are to busy to be there. Kids must learn what is right and what is wrong at a younger age….why? Because the world is using flesh to advertise more often and it probably works so it may not get any easer for kids to watch Television or even go on the internet or be influence by school friends.
    The Hebrew boys were at the age of 13 allowed to read Song of Songs (Which is a book of love poems in the Bible) and this educated them to then qualify them as men to get married. A Proverb(15:22) does say that “plans go wrong for lack of advise; many advisers bring success”. and again in Proverbs 21:5 “Good planing and hard work leads to proserity; but harty shortcuts lead to poverty”. well these Verses both influence the same point that correct education on the matter of Sex may be right for this generation to be more successful with Sex and relationships.
    Sam Newton

  • Sam and Zenobia I respectfully disagree. I come from a country which slavishly follows the USA in these matters. I have looked at the research about the benefits of sex education and what there is consists of very poor crosssectional studies, usually with leading questions and response rates of less than 50% and usually less than 30%. This is rubbish research which then gets presented as fact and then is accepted as fact by people who do not know how to critically appraise scientific evidence. The excuse that children are just exposed to more adult oriented media just does not wash with me, particularly as I restrict media exposure for my own daughter. I am not particularly religious myself, but this is using schools to inculcate a certain ideology in children from a very young age, often against the wishes of parents like myself.

    Elizabeth Rogers

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