Sunday 17 December 2006

Schools - Sex Ed

OK it’s time to get a bit more counter-cultural. So far this blog has been a bit motherhood and apple-pie, nothing much to disagree with. That stops here.

I think if parents are to be successful in raising counter-cultural kids, they need to work out how their kids are going to survive the indoctrination offered by the school system - or else remove them from the line of fire.

Home-schooling is a great option, which I will come back to in a later post. However, some of us stick with the school system and need to identify the perils therein.

At the top of my mind today is sex education. We had a parents’ evening meeting about it at my childrens’ junior school, and I was frankly outraged at what is being done.

As as part of this, we were shown a ‘tasteful’ video which the kids were going to see, including a cartoon couple having sex.

If anyone but a teacher were to make my kids watch videos of people having sex, he would be put on the sex offenders’ register.

We were also given a handout which included the claim that ‘Research has shown that sex education helps to reduce teenage sexual activity.’ When questioned the head was unable to refer me to that research - he had simply copied the quotation out of the booklet supplied with the video. To his credit he was embarrassed to admit this...

On further examination, the booklet offered no reference to research to back up the claim either. Moreover the booklet was produced by Brook.

Much of the research evidence I have seen suggests that early and explicit sex education is a co-factor with early sexual activity, as is the provision of the services that Brook offers.

In an age of evidence-based medicine it is extraordinary that the response to the failure of the government’s sex education strategy (soaring levels of STDs among teeenagers, for example) is to try more of the same....

I had a further meeting with the head, who admitted the school’s policy was a fudge, and I sent him this letter as a follow up...

Dear Mr **********

Sex and Relationships Education

Thank you for making time to see me at such short notice this morning, and also for the courtesy and understanding with which you discussed my concerns.

As I mentioned, Anna and I having discussed this further, we would now like to confirm that we will be withdrawing Charlie and Dominique from all parts of this programme which are not compulsory as part of the National Curriculum.

I thought it might be helpful to summarise those concerns, as you mentioned you may wish to discuss them with the County Advisor.

The primary concern is the ideological one. On one side there are those like me who believe that we should be educating our children for life-long monogamous marriages; on the other, those who want to see children as informed, active, consumers of sex. If you think I am over-stating the position, look at the www sites for fpa and Brook, where they make their position, including condoning under-age sex, very explicit. They are advocates of children’s right to enjoy their sexuality, and are among the country’s leading campaigners for and providers of abortion.

It is evident that Brook and fpa talk the language of ‘relationships’ to get their material past parents: there is none of that concern in their www sites. But of course any teenager can convince himself that the current infatuation is ‘a meaningful loving relationship.’ That kind of thinking provides no protection against promiscuity - but then it is not intended to.

The middle ground is made up of those who would prefer children to delay having sex and not be too promiscuous, but believe that they can’t be stopped. That risks being a self-fulfilling prophecy, transforming the historical pattern of a very small number of children being sexually active into a much larger number being so.

The evidence on early sexual activity and multiple partners seems pretty clear: the two go together, and are an unhealthy combination, physically, emotionally and psychologically. Oddly, Brook and fpa, who are so keen to deal in fact, ignore these facts absolutely - as they ignore the research which shows that 70% of girls who engage in sex early (pre-16) regret it later on and wish they had waited.

These different ideologies naturally lead to radically different approaches to sex education. I believe sex is private (indeed sacred), and that taboos (and even some things labelled by the government’s experts as prejudices) are often helpful in protecting children from premature exposure to adult issues and from aberrant thoughts and behaviours. The other side believe that anything goes (as long as it is consensual), and that openness and choice are the primary virtues.

Whilst I fully understand that the school has to comply with the government’s directives on this, the government’s view is not the only one, and some research suggests their policy to be ill-founded. I can give you details of that if you are interested (eg Marsilio and Mott’s study, based on interviews with 12000 US children which identified 4 co-factors of teenage sexual activity, of which one was sex education,)

The reason that the government is so keen on pushing this into junior schools seems to be the remarkable failure of it at senior level - indeed the more they push sex education, the more promiscuous the children seem to become with all the attendant physical, emotional and psychological damage that implies. Again, I can supply data showing the increase in teenage promiscuity coinciding with sex education, and also with the existence of Brook Advisory Centres in a locality. For example, those areas targeted by the government with special measures have seen greater increases in teenage conceptions (Oxfordshire 7.3%, Cornwall 16.4% and Torbay 22.4%) I can also supply research questioning the lessons drawn from the Dutch experience (which may be the source for the research cited in the booklet you quoted).

My second major concern is the psychological impact of sex education at this age. The risk is that it disrupts the children’s latency period - a development period widely acknowledged by psychologists when they are not naturally interested in sex. Many psychologists see the disruption of this by sex education as abusive and dangerous. For one psychologist’s assessment of this, see Melvin Anchell’s Killers of Children. I believe our children have a right to stay children and stay innocent, and that the fact that there are commercial interests desperate to turn them into adolescent consumers earlier and earlier should not drive education policy.

The third area of concern is the philosophical one. The whole approach explicitly outlaws any absolute moral teaching (We don’t judge others, we respect the choices of others...) in the sexual realm. It is curious, then, how ready the same non-judgmental policy condemns behaviour of which the government really disapproves (bullying, discrimination). In fact the implicit lesson of this whole approach is that sexual morality is subjective. This begs a massive philosophical question and risks teaching an absolute answer (ironically!) to children before they are even able to comprehend the issues at stake.

It seems to me therefore that the schools are being used by one side of an ideological debate, that the evidence supporting what you are required to do is, to say the least, unproven, and that the government is in effect experimenting with our children with potentially very grave consequences.

I can supply the research references for all the claims made above, if that would be helpful to you. Thank you once more for the time and trouble you took to understand and engage with these concerns and to explain where the school stands and how it intends to proceed.

Yours sincerely


Nick Gulliford said...

Great stuff! Please stick with it!

Ben Trovato said...

I certainly will - thanks for your comment (reassuring to know someone out there is reading this...) I found your blog interesting too!

Nick Gulliford said...

I have reproduced your letter. I hope that's Ok.

David Skinner said...

Superb. I shall take the liberty of preserving and using your evidence for the coming battle for our families and children. If people don't realise that we are at war after reading your comment, they must be suffering from wilful, self- induced ignorance and stupidity. We need to get the majority of people in Britain to wake up, get focused, organised and mobilised to wage war, not only on outfits like the FPA, but Stonewall who are cruising and grooming through our schools without meeting any opposition.

Ben Trovato said...


Glad you found it useful. You are right about the dangers we face: this is a society at war with families: indeed with the very notion of family, properly defined...

Mike in CT said...

Great letter Ben. I'm linking it for some of my friends and readers.

Ben Trovato said...

Mike, glad you think it may be useful - let me know if anything results....