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Schools, Not Parents, Should Teach Kids about Sex

Schools, Not Parents, Should Teach Kids about Sex

A new sex education program proposed by the Ontario government outraged parents so much that the Premier backed down and the program was scrapped. Among other things that had parents reaching for their pitch forks was that the curriculum, which would have begun at grade three, threatened to teach children the proper names for body parts. Knowing that one has a penis instead of a “pee-pee” was apparently not okay with the many Christian and Muslim parents who objected. I can only guess that the term “vagina” as opposed to “love hole”, which is the term my seven-year-old just learned from a nine-year-old neighbor boy, would not sit well with them either.

My daughter, thank goodness, has known the proper names for her body parts since she was three. And sure, it lead to many an awkward conversation in the middle of Target on Saturday morning, but now I don’t have to worry about her picking up horrifying euphemisms on the playground and having no real idea what they mean.

This latest uprising against arming our children with facts about their bodies and sex is disheartening because it falls back on the tired argument that children should learn about sex in the home from their parents– where they are clearly learning nothing of the sort.

A recent study revealed that the majority of pregnancies of women in their twenties result form the improper use, or even non-use, of birth control. Tampax’s new television ad campaign illustrates that grown men know nothing about menstruation beyond that it is icky. And teen pregnancy rates are on the rise.

It is adults who are uncomfortable with sex, and our discomfort is a big part of the reason why our children need sex education in schools. We, as adults, are failing in our job to inform our kids in a timely manner.

Timely meaning not right before your daughter is ready to have her first period. Girls are menstruating as early as ten or eleven these days. And it doesn’t mean assuming that your high schooler won’t be tempted to have sex before college, so you can put off the talk until you are dropping him off at his dorm.

Given the state of clothing, television, musics, video games and other social media, a wise parent would be on constant alert for opportunities to assess his/her child for signs that wisdom about anything sexual is in need of being dispensed and then he/she would dispense it.

But many aren’t and many don’t.

Our kids are sexual beings from the moment they are conceived. Pretending that they don’t need to know anything about even the most basic sexual issues before they are teens is willful foolishness. We might want them to wait until they are twenty-five, college educated, employed and legally married to an opposite sex partner before they experience sex for the first time, but that is a fantasy land expectation based on our own prejudices and unease. Kids have sex when, where and with whom they decide whether they are properly informed or not.

Another issue Ontario parents had with the new curriculum was that at grades six and seven issues like anal intercourse and vaginal lubrication would have been discussed. I am guessing, as a former middle school teacher myself, that they would have been discussed within strict parameters, but parents feel that is information best introduced by them.

Seriously?

I can’t imagine the circumstances under which a parent raises either topic. I have a hard time imagining myself having that conversation, and I am a parent whose grade two daughter knows about menstruation and has an age-appropriate knowledge of where babies come from. 

I am pretty sure that it would be better for a student to learn about sex in a controlled classroom environment rather than from South Park for example. Trey Parker and Matt Stone are funny guys, but not my choices for sex ed instructors for my child though if you watch a few episodes – and many pre-teens do watch – you can learn a lot about issues sexual.

So is it the job of the state to teach our kids about sex or not?

If not, shouldn’t parents actually do that job they are insisting should be done at home?

As a high school teacher, I fielded numerous queries from boys and girls about pregnancy.

More than one pregnant student told me that she’d been surprised about ending up pregnant because “I didn’t think it would happen the first time” or  “My friends said that if he pulled out it would be okay.”

Kids are still sharing misinformation like this, even with all their supposed sophistication.

Twice I had young men pulling me aside and ask, “If my girlfriend is late, does that mean she is pregnant?”

“How late?” I asked one youngster expecting him to say a couple of days or a week, which isn’t worrisome in teen girls as their cycles can still be erratic.

“Three weeks,” he said, “Almost four.”

I wrote him a pass to the nurse’s office with a note asking her to track down the girl in question.

I won’t argue with any parent’s right to be the arbiter of what her child learns and when. I would, however, question a parent’s right to substitute disinformation for fact or to not inform at all. The Ontario program allowed for opt outs as do most sexual education programs. Parents with objections could have removed their kids from the class. That’s their prerogative. It’s not their right to decide if my child attends the class or has access to sexl education however.

When I was twelve, my friends and I learned about vaginal intercourse by reading Judy Blume’s book, Forever. I would hate to think that girls are still getting their information that way, but I have a feeling that many of them are.

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191 comments

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6:06AM PST on Nov 21, 2011

I'm an 18 year old guy... Never lived with either of my parents but got raised by my guardian being my uncle, grandmother and aunt. It was my duty (how I see it) to learn about it myself. This of course is because I didn't have my parents around and still don't. The thing is with most parents however is they are too goddamn lazy that they want to depend on school for providing everything. Isn't it YOU the parent's should be the one's to advise your children on what to do! Don't depend on no school to give your children about that kind of topic because once something goes wrong you the parents are quick to point fingers at the school. Step up parent's and do the right thing. This Coming from A guy who never had parents...
AJP.

4:56PM PST on Jan 9, 2011

Sex education and information on various types of birth control and the option of abstinence should be taught by schools AND parents. Parents who don't talk to their kids about sex and assume that their kids will wait are being lazy and foolish. While all parents want their kids to wait, most kids won't. Schools don't tell your kids what to do sexually, they just provide the facts and all the options available to them.

5:55AM PDT on Nov 2, 2010

So, what happens when you tell kids that using a condum will keep them safe, then the condum breaks and there's a pregnancy or STD? What then? Telling them about sex, the real truth is telling them "no birth control is reliable. You are still taking a chance. Abstinence is the only 100% safe method." Do they teach that? I'd just yank my kids out of school in a heartbeat. I am sick to death of this crap about parents not knowing how to raise their kids. It's nobody's business. Teaching sex without morals is wrong on every level imaginable.

6:32PM PDT on Jul 19, 2010

Just as my opinion is, I think that it SHOULD be taught in schools, a lot of times now you really depend on people to do anything (please don't take offense to this, not saying all) like this.

Then again as this is only my opinion and people have inalienable rights such as freedom of speech, I entrust others to show and speak their opinions too.

9:52PM PDT on May 11, 2010

The Ontario government should be ashamed of its handling of this issue, allowing rationality to be hijacked by reactionary and uninformed provincialism. This is obviously an inept government more capable of bringing in business-friendly taxes and selling out the voters who support them than running a province or creating a progressive, forward-looking curriculum.

Listen, kids need to learn about sex. They need news of themselves, their friends and the world they live in. This includes gay kids and sexually active ones, transgendered kids and children who live in post-modern families. Sex is one area of life we are all defined by, whether we're having it or not.

There are smart, complex, compassionate ways to teach kids about human sexuality. Ignoring it or leaving the topic in the hands of those who take their morality from antiquated belief systems are not among them.

8:16AM PDT on May 11, 2010

omg im doing a project about how teachers should teach us about sex instead of our parents! i think teahcer should bc they have more info and it would be to akward if our parents talk to us about condoms! ahhahahhaha so whats ur persenal opiniom about why teachers should teahc us about sex education instead of our parents plz send me an email to: gamy15@care2.com i need help with this research!

5:02PM PDT on May 10, 2010

"you can't blame abstinance only programs for teen pregnancy and Geo. Bush has absolutely NOTHING to do w/it; if you want to blame him for that you will have to blame bill clinton for popularizing oral sex"

The Bill Clinton debacle was DEFINITELY responsible for popularizing oral sex among kids, and oh yes, I will most certainly blame Bush's disastrous abstinence only sex ed (and YES, that program WAS Bush's) on the massive spike in teen pregnancy and STD transmission. You can pretend it was a sad coincidence if you want, Mary Jo, those of us with our eyes open know better.

"yes, kids will have sex regardless of what anyone says or teaches them so teach them about birth control and make it available."

You're contradicting yourself here. What do you think "abstinence only" means? It means kids were NOT taught about contraception, so they didn't use it and got pregnant and got STDs. By the end of the Bush presidency, the teen pregnancy rate in the U.S. was higher than in most 3rd world countries, including India.

11:16PM PDT on May 8, 2010

teaching acceptance, cultural and race is crap Miss Mary Jo? How so, if you would do me the honored in explaining how teaching different cultural and nationalities, gender and the ethics of which can be given with that knowledge, is crap?

Facts are, not enough parents are teaching their children properly, just like we are the mother's of all them nasty, wanting nothing but sex, boys, we are the mother of them nasty want nothing but sex, girls, and neither of them know what sex really is and say they are in love the very second a cute guy or girl with pretty eyes walks by. My niece still calls her vagina a cha cha, she is 16. My 3 year old can call it a vagina and it doesn't make me or her father cringe, it makes us proud to know she know the names of her BODY parts.

7:03PM PDT on May 7, 2010

sex education should not include kamasutra education and how to hone your techniques; teaching about things like anal or oral intercourse, other than its implications for contracting STDs, is absurd; no wonder the kids arren't learning math, science, and history or how to write coherently or think logically; they spend too much on crap like all the multi-culty ethnic/gender/ racial/sexual crap.

7:00PM PDT on May 7, 2010

you can't blame abstinance only programs for teen pregnancy and Geo. Bush has absolutely NOTHING to do w/it; if you want to blame him for that you will have to blame bill clinton for popularizing oral sex (which "isn't sex" according to him). yes, kids will have sex regardless of what anyone says or teaches them so teach them about birth control and make it available. when i was in college in the mid '60's a group of us women in a women's "lib" organ. met w/the m.d. who headed the student health services dept. and asked him to plese make birth control pills available to students thru that dept. at the university. Our request was granted. Since the hi sch. kids of today are the univ. kids of yesteryear maybe the same should be made available at their schools. We certainly don't need any more children having children.

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