Whether you think this social experiment has been successful must depend upon what you think their goal was. But taken at face value, Sex Ed has been an abject failure.
Wasn’t “clarity” the original argument for Sex Ed? Clarity, to keep little Mary from believing she’d be “with child” from kissing a boy or using a public restroom? Clarity, in the cause-effect relationships between coitus, pregnancy and certain diseases; so that someone would understand the stakes before they “get busy”?
Wasn’t it supposed to serve as a source of reliable information so that kids don’t rely on schoolyard whispering, bawdy jokes, and contraband magazines if their parents were unwilling (or unable) to properly instruct children concerning sexual maturity and practice. Don’t forget, these classes began long before a few mouse-clicks on the internet could provide such answers.
When my turn came (the 80’s) my teachers were careful to keep instruction objective, discussing the bare biology. Testosterone changes have such-and-such effect on a guy; or this-plus-that-equals-conception. I don’t recall anyone either endorsing or condemning unmarried sex, and the birth control discussion emphasized degree of effectiveness at preventing conception or transmitting disease. Discussion was focused on basic facts; they tried to avoid value-laden statements, other than the factual statement that only faithful monogamy between uninfected partners will completely reduce disease risk to zero.
Parental involvement was sought out. Parents were given advance warning about what would be discussed, and certain students were exempted from the class, without comment as to why. In no sense was there any attempt to circumvent parental authority, or make unilateral curriculum decisions without their knowledge.
If the role and extent of “Sex Ed” were to simply teach in a classroom the sorts of facts that any farm kid would already understand, there wouldn’t be much controversy. But that isn’t really what is happening anymore, is it?
In a time when students can barely function in mathematics or language arts, when science is praised, but poorly taught, and when students have a weaker grasp of their founding documents than many naturalized citizens, shouldn’t we be demanding answers about how sex became “the” issue of primary importance in education?
Much has changed since the 80’s: Toronto School board’s website had a link for unorthodox uses of vegetables; Chicago has recently expanded its sex ed program to include kindergarten; in the media, story after story details sexual misconduct by teachers. News crews once clamored over salacious reports of clergy misconduct, but now their silence on this topic is deafening, especially if — as argued here — teacher misconduct turns out to be the bigger story.
And then there’s the biggest change. Sex has become far more complicated. Instead of it being a question of when is it OK to begin, we have a whole new set of terms. LBGTQ is the alphabet soup Americans are familiar with, and in Canada, we’ve dreamed up still others, including “two-spirited”, whatever that is.
A well educated person acquires a clear understanding of what is taught, whereas the poorly-taught are confused and uncertain. We have had sex ed in the school systems for generations now, so let’s examine the results.