Sunday, 22 April 2018
Education

Extending sex education is not likely to impact sexual behaviour

Teenage pregnancy is a societal problem.  However, depending on the society, the stigma associated with it varies.  In general, today’s society is more accepting of the issue, although everyone still bears in mind the impact it has on the economy, healthcare, as well as the health and well-being (psychological and physical) of everyone involved.

Depending on whose statistics you listen to, the rate of teenage pregnancy is still unacceptably high.  So, the government has decided that the best way to approach this is by introducing sex education in school.  Of course, there has been some sex education in school for years, though this has always been in the later years. Progressive thinkers have felt this to be inadequate, as children become sexually active at younger ages.  As a result, sex education has been introduced to younger and younger children.  The latest news is that the government would like children as young as 5 to have some form of sexual education.  This has met with much criticism.

I may be completely out of touch with the world, but when I hear about this, I have to give a big sigh.  It just seems that there is no hard and fast solution to the world’s problems.

I do not like to see my children become adults too soon.  Unfortunately, with the changes in society, I can no longer control that, unless I take them deep into the wilds and teach them at home.  I do not have the resources to do that.  But, I want my children to be children, to explore the world with a child’s innocence and gradually mature as they should, without worrying about issues such as the above.

In my own time and in my own way, I would like to be able to have an honest and open discussion about relationships and sex with my children.  I know that schools and teachers do their best to bring the subject up in a non-judgmental way, etc., but not all teachers have the same comfort level, and it also takes time away from more important educational instruction.  And the fact that parents have no opt-out in this decision takes control away from them.  Must all parents conform to the government’s idea of sex education?

The government’s response to criticism is that sex education prevents teenage pregnancy.  They point to the decrease in the pregnancy rates in other countries and conclude it is due to sex education.  Call me a skeptic, but show me the evidence.  In recent days, I have become more and more skeptical of “scientific research”, at least as it relates to human behaviour.  You can design research and ask questions and get data, but the interpretation of the data can vary from one person to another.

We have no data from the past regarding teenage pregnancy because of the stigma attached and the secrecy.  I can only surmise that in those days, sex education was not part of the school curriculum.  However, since statistics have become available, we have seen that teenage pregnancy rates have remained relatively stable with small fluctuations from year to year.  This, despite the increase in sex education, does not point to sex education as having a major impact.

You can try and teach kids about safe sex, etc., but at the end of the day, many of them will do as they choose.  Perhaps, the problem with behaviour is more deep-rooted.  The home environment will have a huge impact on this.  So, perhaps the government should focus more on home and family environments, giving support to those unstable home settings. Peer pressure is another important factor.  No amount of education can eliminate the impact of peer pressure.  Then, there are poor role models.  Even with the best parents, some children will look to others as role models for their behaviour (it is “uncool” to be just like your parents).  Unfortunately, pop icons and celebrities do not provide good examples.

While I do not oppose sex education in general (I do believe it is important and should be provided at the appropriate age), I don’t feel that 5 year-olds should be forced to start learning about relationships in school.  Many of them already have questions about where babies come from, and most parents have simple explanations for this, without going into details.  This should be adequate at their age.

There are many people out there who oppose children starting school at 5, saying this is too early and that they are more apt to learn at 6-7.  If that is the case, wouldn’t sex education at 5 be even more premature?

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