The Sex Education Canonization Process

Several years back, Utah passed a bill that allows schools to stop teaching sex ed. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

“To replace the parent in the school setting, among people who we have no idea what their morals are, we have no ideas what their values are, yet we turn our children over to them to instruct them in the most sensitive sexual activities in their lives, I think is wrongheaded,” said Sen. Stuart Reid, R-Ogden.


In Utah, this was doubly stupid, because kids and parents already had the choice to opt out of sex ed if they’re concerned about what moral values are being imparted along with basic biology. Of course, this presumes that schools are really teaching “morals” and “values,” when, for the most part, they aren’t.  Years ago, I accompanied my twin boys as they attended their first “maturation” lectures, wherein any talk of values and morals gave way to discussions about when and why they should start using deodorant. I suppose a stink-free body is a value, but that’s pretty much as far as the school’s moral advocacy goes.

I doubt sex ed has changed all that much since I had it way back when, and I’m pretty sure sex itself hasn’t changed. While societal mores on the subject are markedly different than they were when I was first learning all the boring goodness re: sperms and ovums and the like, there are basic facts that every child ought to know, and those facts ought to be taught in school. Removing those facts from the school curriculum does not negate them, nor does it make it any less necessary that children learn them.

Oh, you don’t like those facts? Well, I don’t like algebra, but I’m not going to tell my school to stop teaching it.

I agree that it would be ideal if all parents had the time, ability, and confidence necessary to teach such things to their kids. Barring that, I think a really boring biology class is a much better place to learn this stuff than on the playground with that weird kid who has a mustache at the age of twelve and tells girls that they can get pregnant from sitting on a dirty toilet seat. Nixing legitimate sexual questions from approved academic discussions teaches values, all right – it teaches children that they should be ashamed or embarrassed when they wonder what’s happening to their bodies. It teaches them to trust urban legends and breathless rumors. It creates a taboo which mystifies basic biological facts and thus leads to Beavis-and-Buttheadism, where immature boys giggle whenever they hear the word “penis.”

(Huh huh. “Penis.” Huh huh. Huh huh.)

I think back to my own spotty sexual education, and I recall a discussion with a kid named Danny in the back of our station wagon on the way home from Little League. While my mom listened to the radio, Danny, in hushed whispers, told the rest of the carpool that we could go into a drug store and buy a condom any time we wanted to, and that he had done it once, or at least tried to, but then he decided he couldn’t go through with it.

I listened with rapt attention, not having the slightest idea what a so-called “condom” was. I could tell, however, that it was dirty and forbidden, but I had no idea who I could ask about it. And NO WAY would I have brought it up with my parents. In contrast, I would very much like my own children to know what a condom is and to be given that information in a setting where the straightforward, clinical explanation of same won’t pique their curiosity. Treating facts like really exciting secrets is a much greater enticement to misbehave than simply telling the truth.

That principle applies, incidentally, whether you’re teaching sexual biology or the sexual “values” and “morals” that had Senator Stuart Reid’s panties in a bunch. (Huh huh. “Panties.” Huh huh.)

Agree? Disagree? Join a camp below – there’s been a lot of discussion on this topic.