sex education

Recently I have come across two articles on sex ed, independently of each other.

The first is by Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood, How Parents Are Falling Short With the ‘Sex Talk’, which essentially says that parents need to be more comfortable talking about sex with their kids and actually give them more useful information. The link came through The Advocate‘s tweets.

The second is by Robert P. George and Melissa Moschella, Does Sex Ed Undermine Parental Rights?, in the New York Time’s op-ed section.

The first article is a short piece and not bad for what it is but falls a little short in that it is very heterosexually focused and some of us teenagers who need or have needed the sex talk are not heterosexual.

The second goes beyond falling short and argues that parents have the right not to have their children taught “moral choices” that they don’t agree with, like that people have sex and protection against pregnancy and disease is available. You know, a real-world curriculum that deals with the facts of living in reality and doesn’t just quietly sideline the issue and say “well I’m sure your parents have given you an adequate talk about these issues” and call it quits. This is failing children in a serious way.

In addition to being 100% heterosexually focused and not addressing that the needs of some children aren’t something their straight, conservative parents could even be aware of or how many parents are desperate not to get us information because of their moral and religious beliefs, this is in general yet another way to fail LGBT children, who I assure you do exist in the school system and in the six times I had sex ed (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 11th grades) I got not so much as a whisper about LGBT issues other than that the increased AIDS transmission risk for gay men.

LGBT children are often isolated within their families. Even with accepting parents, I have never heard of anyone getting an effective sex talk. I know some parents manage an effective talk about some relationship issues, but straight parents usually do not understand what we are going through or some of the ongoing issues we have to deal with, not just with sex but with things like how to handle varying degrees of outness in a relationship, and where to draw lines between reasonable discretion and being a closet case, how to navigate the gay and lesbian scenes, how to deal with the pressures of the heterosexual world on queer people, how to handle with not just pressure for sex but pressure for sex from people who approach us fetishistically and voyeuristically, how to be safe.

Having real sex education in the schools could make a world of difference for us, and especially with the subject that the parental rights article in particular doesn’t want to approach: some parents hold values and beliefs that are toxic to their children, and having another adult or a support structure that says something positive rather than simply reinforcing a parent’s bigotry and the harmful attitudes it engenders by refusing to say anything. This is not the role of our school system, to remain silent. It is the role of our school system to educate and inform, to prepare young people for the real world, and part of that preparation is the acknowledgment that they exist and should not be left to fend for themselves with only the internet to turn to. Just as abstinence only education does not work, nor does pretending that having information is a moral issue and reinforcing completely inappropriate parental control over school curriculum. This approach to sex education is detrimental to teenagers. If parents want to instill moral values in their children, they can do that on their own time. School is a place for learning and being exposed to new ideas, not a place to reinforce conservative propaganda like abstinence-only or even conservative views where information is presented as somehow controversial.

What’s next, creationism in the science classroom? Oh, wait…

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