Sex Ed is Obviously Meant to Teach…

Last Friday, I was on Sheila Liaugminas’s Relevant Radio show (“A Closer Look”) with a couple other bloggers from the Catholic channel here (Calah Alexander, Sam Rocha, Betty Duffy).  We all sat down for a roundtable on sex-ed (the mp3 can be found here).

The format was a little unconventional.  Instead of Sunday-morning-political-show-style crosstalk, where all the participants speak in dialogue (frequently overlapping dialogue) and question or build on the previous speaker’s comments, Sheila’s show had each person speak uninterrupted for a while on a single question.  The next blogger often addressed a new point, and we didn’t ask each other follow-ups.

As a result, we sure didn’t design a new comprehensive sex-ed curriculum, but I noticed something that might help defuse that fight a little.  When we talked about what sex ed was meant to accomplish, we all brought up very different goals:

  • Public health: Reduce the transmission of disease, give students tools to reduce their risk, make risks visceral enough to constrain risky behavior, etc
  • Integrating sexuality into life: Oh gosh, what’s happening to your body, what should you make of your sexual feelings (in more contexts than sex-having), counteracting sex-makes-you-dirty/worthless
  • Gender relations: Counteracting prevalent harmful narratives (women’s sexuality is depraved/disgusting), do broad gender differences mean we should use slightly different framings?
  • Romantic relationships: Now that sex is on the table, how does it fit into what you’re already doing to respect a partner?  What are common emotional risks and pitfalls?  What are good safeguards?
  • Philosophy: How has sex/eros/love been treated across cultures?  How do you know which tradition had it right (if any)?  How can sexuality be a lens on what it is to be human?
  • and plenty more….

Once you start listing them all out, it’s not obvious that any one class could satisfy all of these goals, but they’ve all ended up implicitly grouped.  And, what’s worst, we tend not to reference these goals explicitly when we argue about how to structure a sex-ed program.  People are likely to fall prey to the illusion of transparency.   We say we want a good sex-ed program, that teaches kids what they need to know, or even that they need to approach sex responsibly, and assume that everyone swaps out those italicizes phrases in the same way we do.

It’s the same problem that Arnold Kling is trying to solve with his The Three Languages of Politics.  You have to find ways to restructure the discussion so you can catch a glimpse of what your interlocutors are actually trying to protect, the thing that’s so obviously valuable that it’s hard for them to remember to explain it.  Once your cards are on the table, it’s easier to negotiate and find solutions that satisfy all (or nearly all) of these goals, even if they all don’t quite fit in one sex ed class together.

I’m tempted to try to slip my philosophy bullet point into the social studies curriculum, instead: “How did different views of eros shape culture?  Which voices weren’t included in the debate?  What prompted reframes and new ideas?  What’s left out of our discussion today?  What seems like cruft left over from the last problem we tried to solve — is that pressure still present?

But, until we pause for a moment to explain what exactly we’re trying to teach, I doubt it will help much for me to wade into a discussion and say “Doesn’t a lot of sex ed belong in social studies?” will help, as long as people are autocompleting things like “the mechanics of sex,” “slides of venereal disease,” or “biology lessons.”

About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as an Editorial Assistant at The American Conservative by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."

  • http://thinkinggrounds.blogspot.com/ Christian H

    I’m not surprised by this disagreement over the purpose of sex ed. There’s a lot of disagreement over the purpose of public education. In general, I hear that education is supposed to make students into good people, good citizens, good employees, and good capitalist consumers. The rhetoric usually falls in the first two, but practice (especially in the original system, but it carries over into today) has firmly been in the third, which these days implies the fourth. If the entire education system is confused and conflicted, I’m not sure we can expect much more from any given course.

    • Clare Krishan

      ditto with clarifying query re: “If the entire education system is…”

      Do we not need a definition for ‘entire’ before we can chew on ‘confuse’ and ‘conflict’?

      That’s where Leah’s introduction of a ‘meta’-letsgetphysical component bedded (pun intended) in social studies would fit – the family and its flourishing (or not) are the statistical basis for the study of social agency in a democratic economy – political agency, economic power, cultural development, global conflict can only be adequately engaged with through a mature lens of human love and responsibility, “facts” do not by themselves form anything, they are the material we use to fashion benefits that need advocating for or against. Most teens love the rhetoric of the social justice part — they are keenly sensitive to ‘fairness’ and disadvantage — but have poor concept of rhetoric as means (as distinct from fact as material for the tool of rhetorical means) use to advocate a grammar of concrete BENEFITS: the pursuit of happiness if you will, how to use reason to plan for desired developments while avoiding foreseeable and unforseeable obstacles, ie how life with a dependent infant and no means of support *grows* or not (grammar’s future voice of hope anticipated), life with a criminal record and no accredited education *overcomes* or not (grammar’s past voice of mercy encountered), life with real restrictions on one’s legal or financial liberties – as most of the third world abides – develops or not (grammar’s present voice engaging in trusting — concommitent to growing and overcoming). FEATURE (fact of life) ADVANTAGE (development goals) BENEFIT (flourishing harmony) voiced in subjects of mutual grammar. Absent mutuality, subjects enslave themselves to some relativistic dictat that they cannot escape. The common good is the reason we educate. If there is no common good, then “entire” education can never be realized, its a fantasm perpetuated by the enslavers to suit their idealogical purposes not integral human development.

      The narrative should be told both top-down “carrot” cultural inspiration (love) and bottom-up ‘stick’ risk mitigation (responsibility) at all ages: once girls hit menarch they need to be held accountable for the use of feminine power and taught the precious and glorious outcome of fatherhood depends on their preparation for partnering with same. Once boys voice breaks they need to be held accountable for their male power and taught the precious and glorious outcome of motherhood on depends on their preparation for partnering with same (to be ‘entire’ the father and mother complement would be acquired in the home according to whatever religious or cultural standards hold sway by mothers and fathers as primary educators). Prepubescent kids need the child-safety stuff and no more. If family’s want to allow their children to develop a social life that pose no advantage or benefits to a community’s social life, then why should tax payers be funding that in public sex-ed? That’s what social associations are for – just like in driver’s ed.

      We encourage juveniles to be prudent enough to take such classes in highschool to secure a safe-driver discount on their insurance. Religious communities and youth clubs want to permit same-sex conduct? Then let them teach how it’s prudently practised (as a mere fact let them develop the ‘advantage’ rhetorical curriculm and weigh ‘benefit’ to the common good – as our armed forces will now be required to develop same-sex assault prevention programs since they’ve ballooned after repeal of don’t ask don’t tell). Those Catholic or Muslim parents who don’t think it can be prudently practised can invest the time and money in chess classes or music instruction to advance cultural contribution to the common good (a future benefit). Moral Hazard applies in all avenues of social affairs not just the economic realm, and it should inform even the most liberal compassionate approach to preparing the custodians of our dotage (for that is how we will be treated when they come to be responsible for us, if they never learned how to be responsible don’t expect much more than a ‘Planned Obsolescence’ version of Planned Parenthood with euthanasia on demand)

  • ortcutt

    Facts about contraception are facts, and the attitude on the abstinence-only side seems to be that students are better off without knowledge of these facts about contraception. Instead of facts, students of abstinence-only are indoctrinated with contentious values such as that “mutually faithful monogamous relationship in context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity”. Given that 60% of Americans believe that premarital sex is morally acceptable, that is not a description of prevailing values. Given that our society has tremendous disagreement about sexual morality, why is abstinence-only education teaching a minority set of values, while depriving students of the facts about contraception.

    • Whit Johnstone

      My preferred approach to sex ex is “abstinence plus”. Abstinence is held up as the best way to behave and the only 100% safe way of living. And some kids will be abstinent (I was), either for religious or other reasons, such as lack of opportunity or having other priorities. Statistics suggest that the kids who stay abstinent are either the most devout Evangelicals and Mormons, and college bound students of all other groups. However, many kids are going to have sex, and we do need to give them fact based information on how to use a condom, the pill, etc, to help prevent teen pregnancy and STD transmission. Interestingly, while very devout Evangelical teens are more likely to be abstinent then very devout Mainline Protestant teens, on the whole Evangelicals are less likely to be abstinent because they are less likely to be college bound. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the statistics on Catholics.

      Edit: I was wrong about which book I got this info from. Sorry. I will edit the post again when I find the information. OK, the book was Soul Searching.

      • ortcutt

        Why should we teach students that abstinence is the “best way to behave”? That may be your particular moral judgment, but it’s not mine and isn’t for the majority of Americans either. We can teach students the consequences of sexual behavior, which they may find unacceptable, but you haven’t explained why we should be indoctrinating them in particular values rather than informing them of the facts.

        • Whit Johnstone

          Did you read my entire comment? I’m in favor of informing kids about the facts about contraception, since most of them will have sex sometime before college. That’s the plus in “abstinence plus”. And where I’m from, if you outright told kids that it’s ok to have sex in high school rather then holding up abstinence as an ideal the parents would lynch you.

          • ortcutt

            I’m not in favor of teaching that it’s OK to have sex in high school. That is also a value judgment. Sex ed shouldn’t be about indoctrinating students with contentious value judgments. It should be about providing accurate information. You can’t seem to get beyond the idea that the point is to tell kids what to do.

          • Whit Johnstone

            You’re quite right- it’s hard for me to imagine sex ed without values education of one kind or another being a component. I understand your point now that you’ve made it clear what you are talking about. I wonder how you would keep value judgments out of the equation, though. You might not bring them up, but what happens when a student asks a question like “is it OK if my girlfriend and I have oral sex?” Even the answer “it’s not my decision to make, it’s your decision” is in effect a statement that having sex while in high school is morally permissible.

          • ortcutt

            Why can’t the teacher just stop at “It’s not my decision to make”? It would also be helpful to discuss the legalities and health repercussions of that choice, but there’s no need to say that it’s the student’s choice.

          • craig

            If a student asks if it’s OK to go base jumping, a responsible adult will not say “it’s not my decision to make” and stop there, for precisely the reasons Whit Johnstone articulates. “Don’t, it could screw you up for life” is the correct answer.

          • ortcutt

            Felix Baumgartner is a long-time BASE jumper and he’s got a profession, a family, and has jumped from 24 miles above the Earth. He hasn’t screwed up his life.

            If someone asked me whether it’s OK to go base jumping, I would tell them it’s often illegal, should only be attempted with tremendous preparation, and is still dangerous even if they are well prepared. I still don’t think it’s my place to tell them not to do it though.

          • Carley

            Oral sex and BASE jumping are nowhere near the same thing, and to compare them in this way is ludicrous.

          • Randy Gritter

            A question like that is a challenge. That kid is saying he wants to hear someone convince him it is a bad idea. Why else would he bring this up with a sex ed teacher? His intuition probably already tells him it is wrong. He wants someone to give a reason. To say “It’s not my decision to make” is to be politically correct as a teacher but it is to fail as a human being. Teachers know this. They are sent into a room full of students starving for guidance and they are told to leave them starving. But they care about their students. They really do want to see them make good choices. But what does “good” mean? Depends on the teacher.

          • ortcutt

            I’ve already said that the teacher is free to bring up the risks of doing so. What you and the other commenters have convinced me is that there are people who are desperate to be told what to do. I guess this is why religion finds so many willing takers.

          • Randy Gritter

            People need help to be moral. They sense that there is are moral rights and wrongs around sex. They want to know what is right and and they want to know how to acquire the self control to do what is right. You might think that is lame. I think it is human. Yes, it does lead them to search for a source of moral truth and moral strength. That is an inherently religious thing.

          • ortcutt

            First, there is nothing per se immoral about oral sex, teenage sex, unmarried sex, etc…. Assuming that is is consensual (including that the parties be of age to consent) and without intent to harm, then it’s outside the scope of morality.

            Second, if you somehow think there is, that is religious doctrine that shouldn’t be taught in our government-funded sex ed. That’s a basic Establishment Clause violation.

            Third, you want values taught to students that aren’t even majority values of Americans. 60% of Americans believe that premarital sex is morally acceptable. That number is growing every year. Oral sex is nearly universal among people 25-44. 92% of those who have had vaginal sex have also had oral sex. If people think it’s sinful, they really aren’t trying very hard to avoid it.

          • Randy Gritter

            Your first point is a religious doctrine. It should not be taught in our government-funded sex ed. That’s a basic Establishment Clause violation. Teaching about sex without talking about morals tends to implicitly communicate this religious doctrine.

            So the second point is not about establishing any state religion. It is about correcting that false impression. Even you add conditions for consent and being of age. Those morals are implicitly denied by ignoring morality as well.

            As far as numbers go, we can all find numbers we like. I am not sure numbers matter much for morality or public policy.

          • ortcutt

            I never claimed that my claims about sexual morality should be taught in sex ed. If you bother to reread my comments, you’ll see that I argued the exact opposite. Sexual education should be about objective scientific facts not contentious values. Finally, I find it interesting that proponents of teaching contentious religious values are happy to claim that theirs are prevailing American values, until you point out that they aren’t prevailing at all, at which point they claim that public opinion surveys don’t mean anything.

          • Randy Gritter

            If sex ed is taught with just scientific facts and no values then what is the message that gets sent? Sex ed never explicitly claims values are unimportant but it implicitly sends the message when the topic is discussed at length and the topic of values is religiously avoided. As for numbers? They change with the wind. Atheists and Christians will tend to point to studies that favor them. Once we get past the idea that some morality needs to be part of sex ed then the debate about exactly what it should look like will begin. I would suggest exposing all kids to a variety of thinking on the subject but most Christians probably would disagree with that.

      • tedseeber

        What is wrong with teen pregnancy? Only thing I can see wrong with it is the economics; physically teens are *WAY* more fit to be parents than those of us who waited until our 30s and 40s.

        • ortcutt

          What’s more disturbing to me is that Federally-funded abstinence-only education is teaching that sex within marriage is the standard of sexual activity. So, they’re teaching that it’s outside the “expected standard of human sexual activity” for an unmarried 29 year old with a stable job living with his or her partner to have sexual activity with that partner. I know some conservative Christians believe that, but why are our states teaching a very contentious set of values?

          http://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/ssact/title05/0510.htm

          • tedseeber

            It shouldn’t be contentious at all. It isn’t to anybody who has *bothered to study the issue*- it seems to me only those in severe ignorance promote non-marital relationships.

            There are a whole lot of good secular reasons to promote marriage and promote pro-creation, starting with the need of the state to actually have a next generation of citizenry and the economic stability needed to promote a free market.

            There is no such thing as a “stable job” anymore. Anybody who thinks they have one needs to re-examine the market.

          • ortcutt

            I’m not opposed to marriage. I’m married and support the legal rights and responsibilities that come with it. I’ve also had premarital sex including with my now-wife, however, and there was nothing about it that was outside the “expected standard of human sexual activity”. As I pointed out above, 60% of Americans agree with me that premarital sex is morally acceptable and that percentage is increasing every year.

          • tedseeber

            The Truth is not dependent upon Democracy.

            I don’t care what 60% of anybody says. I care about “Is it truthful?” And I can’t call premarital sex truthful. If you want the milk, buy the cow.

          • ortcutt

            I’m very unclear on why you think you know “The Truth” on the matter. If you have evidence to provide, that would be great, but I’m sure you’ll just quote some theological ramblings instead.

          • tedseeber

            A combox is not an adequate place for a course on economic theory and population control. But I’ll give you enough of a hint to go look it up: The ability of the elites to continue to centralize the marketplace is actually endangered by a growing stable middle class population, therefore there is a political push to destabilize the middle class. At the center of that push is extra-marital sex; in an attempt to destroy the family.

            I can only say that the propaganda has worked very well over the last 80 years. To the point that today, more and more people are indeed rejecting marriage or anything resembling it. And the resulting economic imbalance benefiting the one class that does still embrace marriage is obvious.

          • ortcutt

            I’m sure you’ll explain how the Rothchilds, Bilderberg, the UN, and the New World Order are behind it all. I expected you to produce religious nonsense rather than conspiracy theory nonsense, but it’s always interesting when people surprise you.

          • tedseeber

            Funny. I was just arguing in another thread how the baby boomer generation is to blame for the sexual revolution, and the person arguing against me brought in the Rothchilds, Bilderberg, the UN, the New World Order, and added Stalin and Mao and Kinsey to boot.

            So which is it? Is it horny teenagers out of control or is it a world wide conspiracy? My guess is both in a way- the horny teenagers create the problem that isn’t really a problem and elites respond with population control measures to solve a problem that isn’t really a problem.

            Leaving those of us urging charity for teenage mothers and living wage jobs for teenage fathers exactly where?

          • ortcutt

            I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I’ll just leave it with the idea that providing all of the relevant information about sex and contraception without injecting particular value judgments into the education is the only way to function in a pluralistic society.

          • tedseeber

            Then maybe we shouldn’t have a pluralistic society.

          • ortcutt

            You’re free to go find an uninhabited island somewhere in the South Pacific where you can build your society.

          • tedseeber

            No I’m not, the First World Nations have claimed them all.

          • Carley

            Then I guess you need to accept that there are people who aren’t like you and they’re still people.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      I would like it if being morally against birth control was presented as a valid approach and not as some sort of evil, but I don’t have any high hopes of this happening any time soon.

      • ortcutt

        Why is it the responsibility of sex ed to make judgments on whether something is a “valid approach” or not? You seem to assume that the purpose of sex ed is to tell students what to do or to put a stamp of approval on a way of living. Why do we need to tell students what to do rather than inform them about the facts and leave the value judgments and choices up to students and their families?

  • Cam

    “You have to find ways to restructure the discussion so you can catch a glimpse of what your interlocutors are actually trying to protect, the thing that’s so obviously valuable…”

    You’re clarifying the stunted, loaded question with the timeless question it’s supposed to replace.
    “What does my opponent want to protect” and “what does my opponent value” are exactly the same question, except the former is slightly less useful because it emotionally prejudices any response in your opponent’s favour. Why not go all the way- “What does my kind loving opponent want to love?”

    This is the issue I take with your whole post here, actually- the legitimising of terrible people with terrible ideas. The public debate is entirely ideological and both sides are sufficiently aware of each other. To present comprehension as a major issue is just muddying a relatively clear stream. Of course we should encourage opponents to engage with each other – that’s hardly relevatory- but treating the existence of this debate as due to miscommunication is legitimising the side which essentially involves demonising sex and withholding information from children in the hope that ignorance will help them abstain.

    Sex-ed is a pet topic of mine, and I often advocate for reform to the way consent is taught, and the introduction of feminism, queer theory and race theories to the curriculum, and more of a focus on relationships and respect, so I like where you’re coming from with this introducing-social-studies angle. The reason children in my country only get the biological aspects of sexual education though is because the things I just mentioned are all political and are opposed largely by people on your side of the fence, funnily enough. It’s a lowest common denominator situation – conservatives don’t like the social studies material so that gets vetoed, liberals don’t like slut-shaming and abstinence-only so those doesn’t make it in either, but everyone on the politcal spectrum can agree to teaching children that sex can lead to the transmission of disease.

  • Y. A. Warren

    I believe that we must begin all sex education with teaching of responsible compassion for the product of sex, the unborn children. Unwanted children and children born to parents without any excess resources (physical, emotional, financial, spiritual, communal) to care for them do not do as well as wanted, cherished children. They are afraid, and that fear is often acted out in rage toward themselves and others.

    • tedseeber

      And that compassion should rightly start with those who have resources, providing for those who do not.

      • Y. A. Warren

        In a responsible fashion, yes. We are enjoined to leave 10% on the vine for the needy, but are not told to pick, prepare, and feed it to those who abuse their own blessings.

        • tedseeber

          Right now, we’re not even leaving the 10% on the vine, instead we’re locking up the vineyard and shooting anybody who climbs the fence. Wish I could find the link to that video about ownership distribution, but in the United States, most people think that a fair and free market should be a curve that allows everybody *some* productive property ownership and reward those who work the most for it. Where in reality, we’ve got about 20 people owning more than 70% of the productive property and the lower 40% of the population left with no productive property negative net worth, no matter how hard they work (in the video, they switched their graph to little people- and to make the percentages easier had only 100 people on the x axis. They couldn’t scale enough for the person at the richest end to fit on the screen, and the first 40 slots were below the y axis wealth 0 point).

          To think that this imbalance doesn’t have an effect on compassion for the unborn is ridiculous; and it needs to be a big part of the solution.

          • Y. A. Warren

            I understand your point, and I agree that, “To think that this imbalance doesn’t have an effect on compassion for the unborn is ridiculous; and it needs to be a big part of the solution.”

            I know, however, that there are too many people reproducing as a way to define their own territory, where they then hide behind their progeny to get their own needs met.

            In this time of readily available conception control, for men and women, and DNA analysis to prove the legal obligation to one’s progeny, there is little excuse for those without excess resources to bring children into this world.

            For this reason, I have offered, on at least one occasion, to pay for a responsible relative’s vasectomy. Because conception control is available, does not mean that one must use it, though it may give people less pause about having sex.

            The one’s who suffer the worst effects of unwanted pregnancy are, in my opinion, not the aborted fetuses (unborn babies), but those born to nothing but abuse, fear, and despair. They take their rage out on themselves and others. This we can stop, if we have the collective will.

          • tedseeber

            Instead of paying for a vasectomy, why not share the excess to help the so-called irresponsible side of the family own enough property to provide for their children?

            I find having ownership of property works wonderfully towards creating responsibility, where restricting ownership promotes irresponsibility.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Ownership without information, talent, training, finances, and other resources to care for it is simply adding to the illusion of adulthood. Parenthood without the same is doing the same.

            We tried that many times with more people than I can count. They squandered what we sacrificed to give them and became pregnant again. Until we stop acting as if sex or procreation is what defines adulthood, we have come to believe it best to help them prevent pregnancy, in order to protect the innocent unborns.

          • tedseeber

            If you have no ownership and no prospective of ownership, and all the elites want to do is prevent you from being a parent, why gain the information, training, and finances?

            It seems to me you’re putting prejudice first- and that’s a very dangerous way to think about your fellow human beings.

          • Y. A. Warren

            Prejudice is defined as “an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.”

            My unfavorable opinion of hand-outs is based on history, experience, observation of the experiences of others, much thought, and good reason.

            Ownership without planning for stewardship of what is owned is irresponsible. In order to be responsible stewards of children or of property, we need resources (financial, physical, emotional, spiritual, intellectual).

            There are many who are not willing to learn how to take care of property or children. There are many who do not have the resources required to be good stewards. Many can’t even care for themselves, yet want stewardship over others.

            There are work equity programs that have been shown to be successful: Microsoft and Habitat for Humanity, for instance.

          • tedseeber

            Is that the same Microsoft that spawned the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation whose motto seems to be better dead than poor?

          • Y. A. Warren

            It is Bill Gates’ Microsoft. The point being that, the “Microsoft Millionaires” were made that way by trading expertise and work for shares in Bill Gates’ endeavor, the same as other companies trade cash for expertise and effort.

          • emd04

            Whoa, wait a minute. What about personal responsibility, here? I mean I pay taxes. That supports schools, WIC, welfare, etc. I also tithe and give to charity. But personal responsibility HAS to play a role here. I mean, this isn’t Les Miserables with the unwashed masses begging for crusts of bread in the US.

          • tedseeber

            Well, actually, we’re getting uncomfortably close to that. Last six times I went to downtown Portland, I had to deal with panhandlers.

            But I was thinking more about what the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has been doing in the third world. Loads of money for birth control and abortion, very little for food, clothing, clean water, and shelter. It seems they have switched from polio eradication (which, BTW, they’ve done an excellent job on) to human eradication.

          • tedseeber

            Personal Responsibility can only be reasonably obtained where Personal Income and Personal Private Property are guaranteed.

            In communism, of course, both of those are impossible- all real income is owned by the State, all property is Public Property.

            I was disappointed to find in capitalism, private property is still denied to a surprisingly large minority of the population- this is of course well masked with negative equity and debt. Few of us truly own the houses we live in, no matter what it says on the deed, and a large percentage are even denied that ability.

  • tedseeber

    The two things I see Americans trying to protect with sex ed:
    1. The procreation of new life (and in a way, even those who teach against the Church are trying to protect this, by limiting fertility to the fit).
    2. The Joy of the Holy Orgasm
    3. Traditional marriage

    Seen as attacks on this are:
    1. Sexually transmitted disease
    2. Unintended pregnancy
    3. Traditional marriage

    If it wasn’t for the inclusion of the 3rd, most Americans could agree on 1 & 2 on both lists.

  • Randy Gritter

    It is hard to imagine society not doing a horrible job with sex ed. My suggestion is to just get the conversation started and let the parents pick up the ball. If not, then you need to find teachers with a reasonable philosophy of sex. No way that is going to happen. We just need to admit to the kids that sex is important but we don’t know what to tell them. As a society we have failed miserably at sex and we have nothing useful to say on the subject. Listen to your parents. They care about you.

    The biggest mistake you can make about sex is making it too small. That is what we get from our political process. We get a lot of biology. We get very little morality. We get none of the potential for sex to lead you into greatness. That it can lead you into the most amazing love relationship and produce the most amazing family and even give you a connection with the divine. That is what they need to know and we can’t tell them.

    Yes, they also need to know that sex can lead to nasty diseases, unwanted pregnancies, shame, pain, and cold hearts. But if you don’t get the greatness of it then just talking about the risks leaves a very bad impression.So maybe Leah’s teacher was onto something. Just don’t teach anything. Yes it is pathetic but it is honest. Society is in a pathetic place as far as sex goes.

  • emd04

    To be totally old school: I think schools should teach the biology, if anything, and that’s it. Why are we teaching this in schools, anyway? Seems like we got along just fine for about 2000+ years keeping this in the family. So, yes, if we want to do it from a biological standpoint–as in, sperm, egg, developmental stages–I’m ok with that. But parents can tell their kids about its appropriateness, concerns, etc. In my house it was really easy: Don’t have sex before you’re married. If you do and you get pregnant, you have the baby and it goes up for adoption. Full stop. It was a very succinct conversation.

    • ortcutt

      Do you think that scientific factual information about STDs, contraception, and the economics and sociology of child raising, are outside of what should be taught? Those are all important factual subjects, and I doubt that most parents possess accurate information to teach their children.

      • emd04

        To be honest…not really. I mean not at the basic level. I sort of see this as equivalent to drugs. We say, “OK, don’t have sex before you’re married because it’s a bad idea”, but then follow that up with, but if you decide to, here’s how to do it to avoid ALL CONSEQUENCES. It’s like saying, “Say no to drugs, but if you want to get high, here’s a list of “pure” suppliers.” I see massive cognitive dissonance here. It is, full stop, a bad idea to have children outside of marriage. It is a bad idea to have sex outside of marriage. I’m full bore Catholic on this issue. I don’t care if “well the kids will do it anyway.” See above.

        “Economics and sociology of child raising”? Um, no. I don’t think that needs to be taught. I’m pretty sure human civilization has done OK with this over the past millenia. Why do we need to teach this to kids?

        • ortcutt

          I understand teaching people not to take drugs, because drugs are illegal, but sex isn’t illegal. Why should we be telling students not to have sex? I understand telling students the health dangers and risks of pregnancy in having sex, but what rationale is there for telling students not to have sex? As to the claim that families have done an adequate job teaching kids about STDs, contraception, and issues relating to child raising, that clearly isn’t the case. That’s the entire reason why we have sex ed, because parents either don’t know the relevant facts or don’t want to tell them to their children.

          • emd04

            So if drugs were legal, we should teach kids how to use them safely?
            The rationale for telling students not to have sex is it creates consequences they are not ready for. And I’m pretty sure anyone who is a parent is definitely aware of the relevant facts of procreation. As for not telling them to their kids–suck it up. Part of the job.

          • ortcutt

            If it was going to avoid seriously public health problems, yes. It might even be a good idea even if they are illegal to teach students that sharing needles is dangerous.

            Why can’t we tell them what those consequences are without telling them things like sex within marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity?

            Finally, if you think the average parent has accurate information about STDs, the effectiveness of contraception, etc…, you vastly overestimate what the average American knows.

          • emd04

            I didn’t say accurate about STDs, etc. I said they have a good idea of how babies are made.
            Because sex outside of marriage leads to myriad problems in society. You have single mothers with children by various fathers; you have more people on welfare and public support programs; the children have problems in school; there are health problems since the single parent usually cannot provide good health care for their children; the mother usually does not complete her education. Do you want me to go on? Many, many studies back this up. Single parenthood is one of the biggest societal problems we have.

          • ortcutt

            The vast majority of people will have sex outside marriage without any problem whatsoever. I did, including with my now-wife. Also, single parenthood isn’t really the problem. I have no doubt that the wealthy unmarried people like Angelina Jolie and January Jones have the financial resources to raise children perfectly fine. The problem is people having children when they are unable to do so. But since you don’t want sex ed to include anything about the economic and sociological costs of single parenting, I don’t see how you have any ground to stand on.

          • emd04

            Well because I believe there should not be sex outside of marriage, period. But then again I’m also Catholic and don’t believe in birth control, either.

          • ortcutt

            You do realize that not everyone is Catholic, right, and even many Catholics don’t see anything wrong with premarital sex, right? You’re free to not believe it whatever you want. I don’t see why that’s an excuse to indoctrinate every student in values that most Americans don’t agree with.

          • emd04

            Give me some good reasons for premarital sex. And those “many Catholics”? Doesn’t matter. Catholic church still says so. I totally realize that most people don’t “believe” this anymore. That’s fine. Maybe if they did we wouldn’t have so many societal problems relating to it.


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