Thursday, April 22, 2010
Sex and Education
So, a Facebook friend of mine posted an article regarding a new proposed sex ed curriculum for Ontario public schools that would have children young as 6 being taught sex ed.
Read the Article
It got me thinking, as sex education in schools (and in general) has been a hot-button subject (is it bad that I giggled at the term 'hot-button'?) with me since my first year in university when I did an independent study on the advent of the birth control pill.
The following is my response to her post, verbatim:
In my honest opinion, the question shouldn't focus so much on 'who' is being taught, but 'what' and how. Personally, I am a huge proponent of sex ed in schools. Although Lori makes a great point about telling based on her perception of when her girls are ready to hear what, the unfortunate thing is not nearly enough parents are that in-tune. I agree with the statement that they are going to learn it elsewhere and frankly the messages that are portrayed in the media are pretty messed up.. so I think it's a good thing that the education system can step in for damage control, because in all honesty, a lot of parents will NOT discuss things frankly and honestly with their kids, whether it be out of some kind of moral outrage or out of sheer laziness.
As far as what is being taught.. I think oral and anal sex is way too advanced for kids (hell, for a lot of adults too). I also think that some of the wording was kind of inflammatory, such as the part about 'giving kids lessons in oral sex'.
I do think masturbation should be covered, for reasons that it's had a bad rap for a long time, and frankly I think it is healthy to explore and become familiar with your own body, and hell, if a young person is okay with 'taking care of business' on their own, they may not be so quick to run out and experiment with others.
I give HUGE applause to the proposal of covering gender and sexuality identity issues in early sex ed. Sex education in schools these days is hugely heterocentric, and I can only imagine that this has helped foster a feeling of inadequacy in people who fall outside of the so-called 'norms'. Hate stems from fear which stems from ignorance.
My beef with the way sex ed is taught, and I think that the proposed curriculum STILL doesn't do enough to address are the social and emotional implications of sexual activity. This includes thinking critically about the way sex is treated in institutions such as the media, religion, government and so on.
I also think that the open-class type forum (being the 'how' it's taught) is not conducive to open and honest discussion, mainly due to children and adolescent's seemingly ingrained need to 'fit in' with their peers, which may prevent them from really touching on subjects that they are wondering about (playing into that 'taking topics as they come' area) for fear of reprisal from teachers and peers.
That was pretty much where I left off, as I figured at that point, I'm better off, as they say in forum-land blogging that shit.
I can appreciate the desire of many parents to keep what, ideally, should be a parents' responsibility, up to the parents. I found it interesting that one of the comments in the Star's article places the blame on an increase in sexual activity on sex education in schools, but neglects to mention the increasing number of (overwhelmingly dysfunctional) images of sexuality that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. As mentioned, I think in such a media-saturated age, it's of utmost importance to have some sort of 'damage control'
I have always tried (all discomfort and squeamishness aside) to maintain an open and honest diaglogue with my girls where issues of sexuality and gender are concerned, basing their readiness simply on their questions. If they ask, I answer as simply as possible and if they have follow up questions, I answer those as well. The downside of sex education at this early age is that no, it does not account for individual readiness.. but then again, neither does the media.
For the parents that are pro-active in either talking to their children or shielding them from what they feel they may not be ready for, then the issue is not such a pressing one. However, I'm also a proponent of offering alternative views and teaching young people to think critically. There are people who, out of fear or ignorance or plain bigotry would pass down archaic beliefs and while it is not my place to say what is the 'right' or 'wrong' opinion to pass down, I think it's crucial to have a second opinion. Being able to think critically also helps down the line when perhaps in a situation of peer pressure a young person may find themselves able to weigh what they've been taught by both family and school against the current situation - for example 'It's okay, I'll pull out.. hahahaha.'
I could go on for ages, but I kind of wanted to stay on topic, but I'm interested in the debate.
In a follow up, the new curriculum, under pressure from family and parent groups and in the face of a looming election, was postponed.
Follow Up Article
In reading the second article, I actually lost some of my indecision. The way the timeline is laid out in the sidebar, I really don't think their is anything particularly outrageous about the ages that the subjects are brought up. Again, much depends on the 'how' rather than the who. As I mentioned earlier, the inflammatory language of the source in the Star article refers to lessons on anal and oral sex, whereas the parentcentral article says that the grade seven curriculum may 'touch on' anal and oral sex - two entirely different approaches.
I have to mention, I like the wording of 'delaying' sexual activity as opposed to abstinence. As well, I think grade seven/eight is a good time to start bringing up gender identity. The source quoted in the Star seemed to give the impression that 6 and 7 year olds would be made to question their identity. Meanwhile, grade 7 and 8 I have found is the age where kids start using words like 'queer' and 'fag' and 'slut' and 'bitch' to hurt each other... thus the perfect age to start looking at the connotations behind such terms.
When it's broken down in steps like this, I really don't find much objectionable at all.