16 August 2008

More Sex Ed = More Sex?

Mr. Teacher wrote awhile back about a proposal to teach FOUR-year-olds about sex in Great Britain as a means to prevent abortion, pregnancy and disease:

"This has been a contentious issue in education for a long time and it is one that I have strong feelings about. I agree that more needs to be done in order to cut our relatively very high abortion rate as well as our relatively very high number of STD's among teenagers. I do not agree, however, with the idea of placing the onus of resolving this problem entirely on to schools and teachers.

Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis will already know that I am angered and frustrated by the growing number of selfish, incompetent parents who view their children as an inconvenience and who do not equip them with the requisite behavioural and social skills to be able to cope well at school, or indeed any public environment, and thereafter contribute positively to society as well-mannered, successful adults. And when I say parents, I am not so out of touch with present reality as to assume that every child is living with a mother and a father. I am very much aware of the varied dynamics of the houses - not always homes - that many of my students come out of in the morning. This certainly makes things complicated and more difficult- not impossible.

Making it compulsory for schools to deliver sex education to students at such a young age would serve only to further shift the responsibility away from parents, many of whom are already failing to properly fulfil their roles. I do agree that some level of sex, sexual health and relationship education should be a part of the school curriculum. However, I also believe that the majority of the input and information - the core guidance - should come from the home. "

Mr. Teacher teaches students near London, but we have the same sorts of problems with parents here in America. MORE sex education isn't really the answer, just as feeding low-income children breakfast at public schools isn't going to help these families parent more effectively. MORE options at public schools for "latchkey" children isn't going to help families become stronger; it's going to foster dependence on the system. And it's going to reinforce the notion in EVERYONE'S mind that such things are the school's job.

I suppose schools are responding to market forces. Parents want the latchkey care and there's a large clamour, so the schools provide it. Parents want their children to have an opportunity to have a nutritious breakfast AND lunch, so the schools provide it. I knew folks who had very little money who were struggling but making it before schools provided breakfast years and years ago. But once programs like this are in place, it's very difficult to take away "from the children." I could very easily see the same families freak out if they HAD free breakfasts for their children, and then it were "taken" from them.

It's also becoming increasingly difficult to enforce parental rights in schools with this sort of attitude. I homeschool my middle two boys, but I also have two older boys in Junior High and High School. I have yet to receive a form asking my PERMISSION to talk to my sons about condoms, homosexuality and contraception. The school simply assumes permission is given and as the parent, I have to opt my children out of such teaching EVERY semester with EVERY individual teacher. The school refuses blanket opt-out forms and assumes you're ok with whatever is on the curriculum. Now, you know as much as I love my boys, I can't research and read EVERY book that they'll be studying. I know to look in the "health" department for problem areas, and I peruse some of the literature selections. I'm probably not the most effective parent in this regard, but apparently I'm the ONLY one that opts her children out of the portions of health class dealing with "sexuality."

But it's difficult. Do you think I like emailing Mr. R or Mr. S and writing the word "sex" to him personally and emailing it? It's one thing for me to talk about such things in general terms on my blog to a general "y'all." It's another to send a *personal* letter to a *man* and use the word "sex" inside it. OK, I'm squeamish about the whole thing. At first, I called, but it's even MORE difficult to SAY the word "sex" to a man alone on the phone than it is to type it. I want to hide.

But anyway... my kids, my responsibility. So I type the word, cringe, and hit "send." Welcome back to a new school year!

5 comments:

  1. As a third-grade teacher in my 50's, and as a parent, I would like to comment.

    I think what is lacking from most sex-education programs is the teaching of VALUES and RESPECT for other people. So they basically just focus on the what, and how, and prevention. What needs to be discussed are FEELINGS (and this would be best done in separate classes for boys and girls). Unfortunately, most teachers are not prepared or equipped to talk about FEELINGS, nor to even give conservative advice that it's best to "wait," or to discuss real circumstances.

    This should be done by parents, but isn't because no parent wants to field questions from their own children about their own personal sex lives! Also, many parents feel that by discussing it they are giving permission, which is not so if FEELINGS and VALUES are discussed. But when parents talk to their kids, that's exactly what most of them are NOT talking about--instead they are saying, "Don't do it," or "Here's what you need to know to keep out of trouble."

    At the end of the day, I guess each parent just has to decide what is right for their own kids.

    For the record, at my school (an Overseas American school) permission forms to participate in the class (generally given in grade 6) IS sent home to parents. The reaction of most parents at our school, when there has been a reaction, is to say, "Oh, this is great because now I won't have to deal with it!" I have heard of two parents over the years who chose for their kids not to participate. But in the end, of course the kids who don't participate (in any school) are going to get all the details from their friends who DID participate!

    Madame Monet
    Writing, Painting, Music, and Wine
    winewriter.wordpress.com

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  2. Around here, kids get the permissions slips to take home in Kindergarten. Because I put my boys in Charter schools though, I don't have to deal with that. By the way, I have my boys back in charter school this year! My husband has cut back hours on his job and I am trying to get a part time job at home to help out. It's been super tough for us lately so we are just trying to find ways to stay above water. :) I am so glad that they have such a great teacher this year. Although she works in a regular classroom, she worked 3 years with asperger children in New York so she understand Chaz perfectly. He absolutely loves her and she does very well with him. I got lucky this year. :)

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  3. I don't know if I agree with your idea that schools are responding to market forces.. that parents want the latchkey care and that parents want the school to take on all aspects of educating their children. I think in the 150+ years that public education has existed, lots of parents have just gotten lazy or they have even forgotten what the real role of a parent is. We have generations of families now with parents who don't see themselves as the primary educators of their children; it is just assumed that children are sent off to someone else to be educated and they do nothing. Now, I don't have a problem with parents DELEGATING aspects of their children's education to a teacher or tutor.. that can be a good thing. I just don't understand the mentality that it takes a professional "teacher" to properly educate a child. After all, people learned for thousands of years just fine without a teacher or a public school system.

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  4. Well, LAA, the thing is, we used to have half-day kindergarten here. Then working parents pushed for full-day. Nobody wanted half-day. In fact, there were only TWO classes for half-day k when G went to kindergarten in the whole school (instead of six) and G was in one of them. If you wanted half-day K, you were stuck with a certain teacher close to retirement.

    She was very upset when G told all the kids their parents were lying to them about Santa. *shrug* So, tell the parents to quit lying to their kids! Not my problem. Shouldn't be yours, either... *whatever*

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  5. Ok, now I'm thinking about it some more and maybe you're right after all. Come to think of it, I think the decision was made before the decision was made to make all schools have a full-day program.

    If you know what I mean.

    Same with sex ed. I haven't seen any questionnaires come home asking me what I think about what they should teach. The few that do come home... oh, that's another blog post.

    ;]

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