Sex education with Accelerated Christian Education is… well, it’s bizarre. Biology 1107 is, to my knowledge, the only PACE which deals with human reproduction, and it manages to do so without ever once giving so much as a hint as to how reproduction might occur.
The nouns “egg” and “sperm” both feature, but there is no indication as to where these mysterious entities might be found (beyond “in the female” and “in the male”), and absolutely no suggestion as to how the two might come into contact.
Here are some nouns that I might expect to appear in an educational booklet about human reproduction: Vagina, penis, breasts, intercourse, erection, arousal, period, puberty. Combined number of times these words appear within ACE’s booklet: Zero. “Testes” does make an appearance, but they are not described, save to say that they “produce the male gametes.” Which is enlightening.
Students are given one clue as to how reproduction occurs, in the form of the following diagram:
Well, I think they could work it out from that, don’t you?
So, students have absolutely no idea what sex is. I had a friend at school who was very curious about sex. Since I’d had normal sex education at my primary school before I started ACE, I assumed she knew what it was. Years later, she told me she had never known. When she reached 16, she realised that no one was going to tell her, so she plucked up the courage to ask her mum. I don’t know what her mum told her, but she became a single mother not too long after that.
Presumably ACE’s argument would be that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach sex education. In practice, this didn’t happen. Within a short time of my leaving the school at fourteen, four of my friends became pregnant. Not a huge number, but then there were only ten teenage girls in the whole school (By way of comparison, the average rate of teen pregnancy in my county at that time was 27 per 1,000).
Here is what ACE tells students about AIDS. Try to read this while bearing in mind that you have only the vaguest idea of what sex is. The previous paragraph is worth a read too (see the scan at the end). It tells us that AIDS can be transmitted by sharing drug needles, receiving infected blood transfusions, or “being involved in sexual activity with an infected person.” No definition for “sexual activity” is given, and I can think of quite a lot of kinds of sexual activity which don’t spread HIV or AIDS.
Thus ACE (this is among the finest paragraphs in the entire School of Tomorrow ouvre):
“The long-term results of the AIDS epidemic are unknown, but this disease may be to the 20th century was the bubonic plague, or Black Death, was to the 14th century, when half the population of Europe died. AIDS could have the same devastating effect on the world today and could change the course of history. Hospitals could become overcrowded with AIDS patients; the insurance companies could face financial disaster when they must pay the huge hospital bills of AIDS patients; government agencies could face the loss of tax revenues from AIDS victims as well as the drain on government welfare and health agencies; the government schools could become bankrupt from the loss of tax money and the flight of many of their students to Christian schools or home schooling to avoid being infected with the HIV virus; and business and industry could lose many of their young, productive employees to the HIV virus.”
This apocalyptic vision is frightening enough if you know what sex is. If you didn’t really know how AIDS is transmitted, just think of the terror. From this, you get the impression that AIDS can be passed on just from going to school with someone who is infected with HIV. Of course, there’s no discussion of contraception.
By the way, the refence to the 20th century above is not a typo. Even though it is now the 21st century, ACE have not bothered to update that sentence, and the latest revision of the PACE (2001) still reads the same.
And this, I remind you, is a science book.
Let’s look at the learning objectives for the PACE. Here they are:
When you have successfully blah blah…
To describe the steps of mitosis.
To explain the difference between mitosis and meiosis.
To tell why abortion is wrong.
To understand why physical traits are inherited.
Tu understand the processes of applied genetics.
To be able to refute the theory of evolution based on mutations.
To describe the steps in the development of a human embryo.
You can see how the religious component is simply slotted in alongside science, as though they’re all the same thing. Which, to the writers, they are. Abortion being murder and hair colour being a heritable trait are both, equally, facts. “Since a baby is a human life, abortion is murder,” says the year 10 science textbook.
Although the writers won’t tell you what sex is, they’re very happy to tell how, and when, not to do it. In a section entitled “Man’s Corruptions” we learn that sexual promiscuity, adultery, and homosexuality are all sins. And, to be fair, it’s not unreasonable to expect a discussion of morality alongside sex education (it may even be irresponsible to leave it out). It’s just weird that no discussion is permitted of what is moral, and no distinction is made whatsoever between the factual element and the values teaching.
STDs are all discussed, which is where the AIDS stuff comes in.
“Anytime that man willfully violate God’s laws and principles, consequences follow. These consequences are not a direct judgment of God, but are the natural result of violating God’s principles as found in His Word. There are several diseases that are a consequence of sexual sin.”
It goes on to describe syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes (without really explaining what genitals are), and AIDS. We know that these are spread by “sexual contact”, but we are not told what sexual contact is. We are especially not told that there may be ways to reduce the risk of catching these diseases.
Right, I’m sick of people thinking I’m making this stuff up, so here are some scans from the booklet. Click to enlarge.
Postscript: I’ve been accused of attacking ACE without offering a better alternative. Though lacking in specifics, this post has some beautiful ideas about what sex education should be. Thanks to Donald Miller for the tip.