Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sex education and schools

Would you let your Kindergarten student walk to school without knowing how to cross the street safely? Of course not. You would be risking his health and even his life by doing so. Allowing your teenager to socialize with his peers, in today's cultural milieu with its laissez-faire attitude, without a proper course in sex education is every bit as hazardous as turning a small child loose in traffic.

Undoubtedly, the ideal place for sex education is the home. Unfortunately, even the best of parents are sometimes uncomfortable discussing the subject with their children. They may delay, waiting until the child asks questions. Before they realize it, the optimal time has come and gone. The child will be questioning, all right, but perhaps the wrong people. All kinds of misinformation is passed unwittingly between friends in the same age group.

Some parents buy books for their teens to read, believing that all the questions will be addressed and answered by the volume's author. However, few teens these days are interested in reading as a leisure-time activity. The book may end up under the bed or lying unopened on a shelf in the closet. Even the best-written, most informative publication will do no good under these circumstances.

Since accurate sex education is vital to the health and safety of every teenager, the school must assume the responsibility of delivering it. The basic factual information should be supplemented by parental perspectives, and moral guidelines from home, but even if this is not the case, the young people will at least have sufficient information, to keep themselves disease-free. Although abstinence from sexual activity until marriage should be presented as the ideal, the students should also be taught how to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

In a perfect world, sex education would not be left until high school.

In the Primary Grades a section of the Health curriculum, entitled "Family Life" should introduce the children to the proper names for body parts and explain how a baby grows inside its mother's uterus until it is ready to live on its own. This information would be presented within the context of a normal family, with textbook pictures of children with whom the students can identify.

In the Junior Grades, as the children approach puberty, the boys and girls should be separated and each group given information as to what bodily changes they can expect to experience during the next few years, as they become young men and women.

In the Eighth Grade, just before High School, again in separate groups, the students should be informed about physical changes their classmates of the opposite sex are undergoing. These lessons should be given in a matter-of-fact manner, using proper anatomical terms for the specific body parts involved.

If these preparatory lessons have been presented to the students from the Primary Grades on, the sex education of teens would only be a continuation of an earlier curriculum. They will expect to be given correct and factual information, such as they have received in the past. They will receive it matter-of-factly and trust in its accuracy. It will be much more effective than if it were dropped on them suddenly, out of the blue. There should be no smirking, eye-rolling, giggling or other unseemly behaviors because these latest lessons are only a grade-specific unit of a subject they have studied since Grade One, not unlike a Biology course in college.

In summary, teens should definitely have sex education in school. Just as they have progressed from mastering street safety rules in the elementary grades to becoming potential automobile drivers themselves, their information about sexuality and sexual ethics should begin early and increase step by step, through the years in a logical, clearly-presented manner.

These lessons will be most effective if they are built on a continuum of Family Life units presented throughout the elementary grades. When a high school does not include sex education in its curriculum, it fails in its responsibility to provide information every teen wants and needs to become a well-informed and responsible adult.

Parents should be the primary instructors  in matters of sexuality and sexual ethics, but if they fail to fulfill this duty, or impart incomplete information, the school can and should reinforce the knowledge and fill in any gaps. Thus, the young adults will be ready face the challenges the teenage years present, and proceed to become responsible and 

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