Search this site
6.7b The facts, ma'am
Why should we teach children things that some of us consider unnecessary, unpleasant or immoral? Because some of our children will need that information. We may not like the truth, but the truth is important and never inappropriate.
What happens if we don't teach young people topics that we do not like? What happens if a sex education class only covers vaginal intercourse, conception, pregnancy and birth? And if you use every means at your disposal to stop them having sex before they marry?
No matter how hard you try to discourage them, some young people in that class will become sexually active. If you have given them good information about birth control and disease prevention, they are more likely to protect themselves and their partners. But if you haven't given them accurate and comprehensive information, they are less likely to protect themselves and more likely to believe the misinformation they hear from other young people as ignorant as themselves - such as you can't get pregnant or a disease the first time, or if you do it standing up, or if the man doesn't ejaculate and so on.
Without comprehensive sex education, myth takes the place of information - and myth frequently leads to unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
The same is true for all sexual activity, such as oral and anal intercourse (which, remember, is practised by some men with women as well as with other men). If you don't give people the basic facts - such as unprotected anal intercourse can lead to disease - you leave them at the mercy of myth. Denying people information makes them vulnerable; giving them information makes them strong.
Is it moral to deny young people the information they need? It may be religious morality, but to the rest of us it is allowing young people to harm themselves and others. Failure to provide young people with comprehensive and accurate sex education is immoral.
6.7c Sex instruction
Many adults confuse sex education with sex instruction. Some believe that to teach young people about sex is to encourage them to become sexually active. If you teach them about sex you are encouraging them to experiment - you are practically instructing them to start having sex.
That idea fits some people's prejudice, but it just isn't true. Comprehensive sex education encourages young people to delay first intercourse, and it reduces the number of teenagers that get pregnant. Repeated studies confirm that fact. Two of the most recent were reported in the United States in 2008 and 2007.
Alternately, some adults believe that you should substitute comprehensive sex education with sex instruction. Instead of teaching young people everything about sex, you give them limited information and tell them not to have sex. Because you give them sex instruction - don't do it - you need little sex education.
Comparing these alternative approaches - tell 'em everything or tell 'em only what you want them to know - tells us what works. It may seem paradoxical, but the reality is: if you want young people to protect themselves from sex, give them comprehensive sex education; if you want them to practise inappropriate sexual behaviour, teach them abstinence.
Where is the morality in all this? Some adults - those who prefer to instruct young people not to have sex - claim that facts about sex are less important than sexual morality. If you teach young people to have no sex before marriage, they won't need the other stuff.
We've already seen that sex instruction with limited information is less effective than comprehensive sex education. But the basic response to the accusation that "morality should lie at the heart of sex education" is that every single word on this webpage reflects a deeply moral point of view. If you've got this far and you still don't understand that point, let us spell it out clearly here...
True morality, sexual and otherwise, does not consist of imposing forms of behaviour which benefit some people and not others. True morality consists of enabling individuals to lead lives which make them and those around them happy. Religious morality, by forcing people into strict patterns of sexual behaviour, brings happiness to some and misery to others.
The goal of sex education is to give young people (and adults) the information they need to lead sexual lives that bring themselves and their partners pleasure and happiness. Ideally, that information will encourage them to abstain from sexual intercourse until they meet the right partner. In practice, because few of us are lucky enough to meet the right partner early in our lives, most of us have several sexual partners. Comprehensive sex education helps us to protect ourselves and our partners from unwanted pregnancy, disease and other harm.
Nothing could be more moral.
6.7e The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth
We have to recognise that young people are about to take responsibility for their own lives and decisions, sexual and otherwise. The only moral attitude towards their sex education is to give them the full facts. To give them only some of the information they need, or to insist that they behave according to inappropriate religious rules, is to harm them. If we respect our children we must tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in sex and every other kind of education.
Email us, pasting the URL into your letter with the comment
This account is protected by Spamarrest.
You will receive a one-off request to verify your email before it is delivered.
If God existed, he would...
admire the beauty of a universe that he did not create
recognize that eternity is meaningless
deny both heaven and hell
disown all men and women who speak in his name
denounce the harm caused by religious "morality"
help the human race to thrive without him
If God existed, he would be an atheist.
What is the difference between science and faith?
science is certain of nothing and requires proof of everything
faith is certain of everything and requires proof of nothing
Which do you trust?
"I know there is no God"
"I believe there is no God"
Check the answer