The current approach to sex education revolves around the promotion of condoms as the best method of protection against sexual disease and unplanned pregnancy; as one popular website states:
“Condoms are the most effective protection against most STIs, including HIV/AIDS”
Condom promoting educational messages appear in:
• Advertisements in print, broadcast and other types of media
• Sex education classes
• On websites
• Posters/pamphlets in health providers, schools, and even workplaces
• Television/movie scripts now contain messages promoting condoms
• And condoms are given away free to various groups
Very little mention is ever made of saving sex for marriage, or fidelity to only one person, despite the fact that both of these practices have been shown to be the most effective methods for protecting against, and reducing sexual disease and unwanted pregnancy rates.
If saving sex is ever mentioned (normally referred to as “abstinence”) it is normally only ever:
a) Given very brief lip service
b) Included as a small component of a much large condom based program
c) It is rarely properly explained or adequately supported
d) It is usually referred to as “unrealistic”, and often it is even called “dangerous”
What’s wrong with sex education?
There is nothing wrong with sex education that is carried out at the right time, by the right people and which transmits factually correct and beneficial information.
But the current approach to sex education is not working, and research relating to sexual disease, unplanned pregnancy and other issues such as mental health and life outcomes reflect this failure.
No other health program is run as haphazardly and poorly as the one being employed in the area of sex education.
Most health programs involve educating people about the risks of certain behavior patterns and then encouraging them to avoid those risks through lifestyle change. A good example of this are campaigns where people are warned about the dangers of overeating, eating the wrong food and not exercising. They are then encouraged to stop overeating, avoid high sugar and fat foods and to start regular exercise.
When it comes to sex education programs however, people are not encouraged to avoid risky behaviors in favor of healthy ones, instead they are simply encouraged to try and minimize the risks of their dangerous behavior by using condoms (the only risk reduction method promoted by sex education campaigns, and even then condoms still expose the user to unnecessary risk).
Imagine if obesity campaigns were run in this same manner, and instead of encouraging people to change their dangerous eating behaviors and take up regular exercise obesity campaigns simply encouraged people to get pacemakers fitted so that if they experienced a heart attack after their overeating and lack of exercise their risk of dying would be reduced.
There are four main reasons that the current approach to sex education is failing:
1. It usually contains misleading, or factually incorrect information
2. It is being taught in a blanket approach
3. The mechanics of sex and condom use, etc are the only things being taught
4. It is normally taught by people other than the parents of the recipient
It usually contains misleading, or factually incorrect information:
The current approach to sex education normally overstates the level of protection that condoms provide; it rarely examines the full ramifications of sexual disease; it doesn’t properly address risky behaviors; and it never considers issues such as the researched links between sexual activity and mental health, life outcomes and relationship fulfillment, etc.
The current approach to sex education also attacks, downplays or provides inaccurate information about the true effectiveness of saving sex until marriage.
It is being taught in a blanket approach:
Not every person has the maturity level to assimilate and process information about human sexuality at the same time or age as everyone else, yet despite this fact sex education programs give all students in a class the exact same information about sexuality.
Such an approach is at best haphazard and problematic, and at worst is poses serious risks to young people who are subjected to this methodology despite the fact that they are not emotionally mature enough to handle the information they are being exposed to.
The mechanics of sex and condom use, etc are the only things being taught:
The current approach to sex education is taught without a moral framework, and it merely provides technical information about sex, contraceptive use and sexuality related health services.
Sexuality does not exist in a vacuum, and without a moral framework to regulate human sexuality a person exposes themselves and others to unnecessary and serious risks when they simply follow, without moral guidelines, the technical sexual information they have been taught (especially when the technical information they are being given is misleading or factually incorrect).
It is normally taught by people other than the parents of the recipient:
The current approach to sex education involves young people being given information about sexuality by people other than their parents.
The problem with this approach is that it completely bypasses the people who are the best educators of children – parents. It also means that sexuality information is passed on without a moral framework, and usually without the ability for parents to control the exact nature of the information that is given to their children.
Parents know better than anyone else when their children are ready for sexuality education, and they know exactly what sort of material to transmit to them and the best methods to transmit that information.
Supporters of the current approach to sex education claim that the reason we need their methodology is because parents aren’t actually educating their children about sexuality. The problem with the current approach is that not only does it not actually addresses the root causes of parental failure to educate children about sexuality, but it also makes this problem worse because more parents actually step away from performing this important duty as sex education classes increase.
The current approach is not the answer to parental inactivity in the area of sexuality education.
Are you saying that we shouldn’t discuss sex with young people?
Not at all, in fact we are saying that we need to become much better at educating our young people about sexuality.
The current problem is not that young people are getting too much information about sexuality, the problem is that the information they are getting is woefully inadequate and inherently risky for them.
Parents must be supported and encouraged in their role as the primary sexuality educators of their children, and they must have the right to control any sexuality education that is given to their children outside of the home.
If parents do choose to use others to educate their children about sex, then the information given in such education programs must be holistic, factually accurate, and taught within a moral framework that is in the best interests of young people and society.
The Achilles' Heel of Condoms
An excellent article about the serious failures of condom based education, and the research which supports abstinence based education.
Dirty Little Secret: Why Condoms Will Never Stop AIDS in Africa
An investigative article by Sue Ellin Browder, a veteran investigative reporter who has won seven medical journalism awards, about the research which shows that condoms are not the best weapon against AIDS
Catholic Church Teaching:
The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality
The Catholic teaching document providing guidelines for families about sexuality education
Issued by the Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for the Family on 8 December 1995
John Paul II’s Theology of the Body
A complete catalogue of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which explains the Catholic understanding of marriage and sexuality