Sex education: four reasons why parents are better
By Focus on the Family
Late last week the issue of sex education made national headlines after it was revealed that a New Zealand primary school had held a sex education class for ""eleven, 12 and 13 year olds where students were told about oral and anal sex, flavoured condoms, and pleasure points"" - despite parents being told in writing beforehand that pupils would only be taught the basics.
The debate about sex education is something that raises its head on a semi-regular basis in this country, yet it seems that every time this happens all we do is go round in circles without ever getting the fundamentals straight.
The problem of course, is that this lack of clarity, around what is fundamentally important when it comes to human sexuality education, creates a dangerous vacuum that is being filled by all sorts of poorly thought out policies, proposals and curriculum.
The end result is confusion all round, and an entire generation of young people left exposed to a haphazard approach to human sexuality that is already starting to take its toll on many of them and their peers.
The most pressing correction that needs to be made to our current sexuality education curriculum and policies is a greater recognition of the fact that parents are eminently far more qualified to be the sexuality educators of their own children than schools or other organisations are.
This is because human sexuality is about far more than just the mechanics of the sexual act - some of the most important lessons to be learned about human sexuality have nothing to do with virology and bacteriology.
So, with that in mind, here are four reasons why parents are miles better at sex education than schools will ever be:
1. School-based sexuality education can only ever provide a blanket-based approach, yet it is far more advantageous when sexuality formation is individually tailored and focused
In fact, in this regard, it seems that a lot of ideologies being thrown around by the professional sex educators are actually completely out of step with where education theory is generally heading - that tailored learning is far superior to the blanket approach.
The simple fact is that sexuality education can never be tailored to the needs of the individual child in a classroom setting.
Not every child is ready for sexuality education at the same age and time, which means classroom-based sex education fails miserably in this regard because it can only ever provide a one-size-fits-all option.
2. Parents know their child far better than any school ever will
Any parent with more than a couple of years of parenting experience under their belt can tell you that one of the biggest components of good parenting is nuance - knowing the when, how and what that is right for each individual child.
This ability to parent with nuance only really comes about as the result of a strong awareness of who a child is, and that awareness exists solely because a parent will spend more time with their child than any other person will.
Not every child learns or retains information in the same way, and when it comes to sexuality education, an inability to compensate for this factor can have devastating effects - once again, classroom-based sex education can only ever provide a one-size-fits-all option.
3. Parents will journey with their child well beyond the delivery of the sex education lessons
Not only do parents spend far more time with their children than teachers do, but they remain on that journey with their child right through into adulthood, and beyond.
It will not be teachers who are left to live with, and pick up the pieces of a poorly administered sexuality education in the life of a student - this will be a task left to their parents.
Therefore it is vital that parents are fully informed and consulted before their children are led into any classroom-based sex education - the reverberations of which are likely to echo through that child's entire family for years to come.
4. Sexuality education is an area of fundamental human formation, and areas of fundamental human formation are the primary responsibility of parents
We live in a rather funny age. An age where, on the one hand, we are quick to blame parents for the failings of socially dysfunctional children, but on the other we unquestioningly tolerate things like classroom sex education programmes that undermine the ability of parents to fulfill their fundamental parenting responsibilities.
It is absolutely right that parents take responsibility for raising socially well adjusted children who contribute good to the wider community. And human sexuality is one of the fundamental areas of human formation, where, if things go astray, the results for the individual and the wider community can catastrophic.
Our legislative frameworks and school curriculum should be geared towards equipping parents to fulfill this important role, rather than undermining their ability to raise well adjusted human beings with a healthy vision of human sexuality.
But what about those parents who don't do their job properly?
Whenever this issue of sex education in schools comes up for discussion, someone invariably tries to argue that the current approach is a necessary evil because of those parents who don't take responsibility for discussing the birds and the bees with their kids.
I disagree with this line of reasoning, in fact I think it is actually a bit of a shibboleth.
Firstly, I doubt that there are enough parents unwilling to discuss relationships and sexuality with their children to actually justify the current 'use the school as the primary sex educator' approach.
Secondly, and more importantly, if this truly is an issue you are trying to address, then making the classroom the primary source of sexuality education doesn't actually solve the problem. All it does is increase the likelihood that more and more parents will start abdicating the important responsibility of being the educators of their children in this area.
If our governments and education policy planners truly are serious about providing the best for our young people when it comes to sexuality education, then there needs to be a major shift away from the current model to a more parent friendly option.
One that is far more consultative, transparent, and which functions to equip parents with the confidence and skills they need to be the primary sexuality educators of their own children.
Only when this begins to happen will our children and their parents be getting the best there is to offer.