Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Do the Schools Have to Join in the Sexualization of Children?

Finally today we have a sensible editorial on the introduction of a revised sex ed curriculum into Ontario government-controlled schools for next year. The editorial is entitled "Sex Ed Requires Prudence and Parents" and is in the National Post. Here is an excerpt:
Ontario is poised to inaugurate a new and explicit sex education curriculum in September. According to a detailed outline posted on the Ministry of Education's website in January, children in Grade 3 will for the first time learn about "invisible differences" between people, including those of gender identity and sexual orientation, while Grade 6 and 7 students will receive information about "vaginal lubrication" and "anal intercourse."

Reaction to the initiative from a "family-focused" coalition upholding traditional Judeo-Christian sexual morality was predictably, and fiercely, combative. "[Y]ou're talking about a very personal and sensitive area and dealing with kids so young I believe that it will end up infringing on their thought processes and their desires and ability to make correct choices," said Reverend Ekron Malcolm, director of the Institute for Canadian Values.

Unpacked, Reverend Malcolm's allusions to "thought processes" and "ability to make correct choices" reflect social conservatives' fears that a too-early introduction to sexuality of all kinds, particularly to the phenomenon of homosexuality, may negatively impact a child's normal sexual development.

That the most active resistance to the program comes from the Christian right should not distract thoughtful secularists from the fact that the program is objectionable on purely rational grounds that have nothing to do with homophobia.

Read it all here. The editorial makes some good points.

First, I am glad to see that the argument that physical information based sex education delays the start of sexual activity is challenged in this article because it is false. Abstinence based sex ed in higher grades does increase the age of first intercourse, which is a key statistic schools should be focused on because it reduces the spread of STD's, reduces the out of wedlock pregnancy rate, and prevents depression and suicide. (See the work of Edward C. Green of Harvard on the success of sex ed programs in Uganda: the so-called ABC method - Rethinking AIDS Prevention: Learning from Successes in Developing Countries (Praeger, 2003). Nothing should be more central to a school's sex ed approach than trying to get the age of first intercourse up by 2 or 3 years. I can't see how sexualizing young children and desensitizing them to sexual acts of all kinds does that.

The argument made for talking about body parts and sex acts is that the children will hear about such things on the playground and the need is for "accurate" information. But this is just to bring playground vulgarity inside the classroom. The classroom should be an oasis where such vulgarity, which assaults children relentlessly in media etc., is not permitted. The classroom should be devoted to learning, which is its purpose, not to prurience. One wonders, can our society not stop being fixated on sex just for a few minutes every day?

Our society is sexualizing children constantly and relentlessly and it is a widespread social problem, especially in books, movies, music and advertising. Pre-pubescent children should be allowed to enjoy childhood without people talking about sex to them or reading about sex in books or seeing it on TV. It is something they cannot understand and will only become more confused about the more they think about it. If society cannot arrange things so that children are shielded, then we have to question whether adults are not simply being selfish and lazy.

The editorial also makes the point that one does not have to be Christian or even religious in order to believe that forcing pre-pubescent children to think about sex is unhealthy and unnatural. While it is true that Judeo-Christian sexual morality shaped Western civilization, it is also true that some form of traditional sexual morality centered on marriage and child-rearing has shaped every high civilization in history.

So one cannot say that the practice of traditional sexual morality in education should change just because most people are no longer practicing Christians. It is a pillar of civilization itself; it should only change therefore if we as a society decide we no longer wish to be civilized. As the article says, the fact that it is mainly Christians who are objecting does not mean that there are not good, scientific reasons based on child development for opposing the sexualizing of pre-pubescent children.

Finally, the editorial is right to identify the genesis of this approach in a certain ideology.
. . . we see the program as a political vehicle for special interest groups obsessed with "social justice," who perceive entrenchment of their libertine agenda in public school curricula as the quickest and most efficient route to detaching children from morality-based sexual values.

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