Sex Education, Abolition of (UK)
Should the practice of sex education classes for children under the age of consent in Britain’s schools be abandoned?
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
Sex education leads to experimentation and early intercourse, and indirectly encourages promiscuity....
Sex education leads to experimentation and early intercourse, and indirectly encourages promiscuity. The most moral form of Sex Education says ‘you shouldn’t do this, but we know you are,’ thus pushing children to consider their sexual existence before they need to or indeed should. Thus sex education’s message is invariably confused – on the one hand, by saying ‘here are the perils of teen sex – so don’t do it,’ and on the other hand, ‘here is how to have teen sex safely.’ Less moral forms start by saying, ‘the best form of a relationship is a loving, constant relationship’ and then say, here are the ways to use protection if you’re not in such a relationship’ – a logic which presumes children are in sexual relationships to begin with.\
The justification for this is that ‘adolescents know all about sex’ – an idea pushed in our permissive society so much it’s almost a truism – but contrary to that bland generalisation, many children don’t do these things early, don’t think about these things – they actually have childhoods, and these lessons stir up confusion, misplaced embarrassment or even shame at slower development. They also encourage children to view their peers in a sexualised context. \
The openness with which education tells students to treat sex encourages them to ask one another the most personal questions (have you lost your virginity? – how embarrassing, how uncool, to have to say no), and to transgress personal boundaries – all with the teacher’s approval. Inhibitions are broken down not just by peer pressure, but by the classroom.\
As pro-sex education people love to point out, children develop in their own time – but that means that some are learning about this too early, as well as ‘too late.’ We in society are guilty of breaking the innocence of childhood, earlier and earlier – and these lessons are a weapon in the forefront of that awful attack on decent life.\
Our children are sexually active. They are making decisions that can affect the rest of their lives. They should be able to choose responsibly and be well-informed about the likely outcomes. They should know about sources of free or cheap contraception, who to turn to when pregnant or if they suspect they have a venereal disease, how to use contraception to avoid both, and, contrary to the impression of abolitionists, they should be told the benefits of abstinence. How can you tell people about that if you refuse to discuss sex? How can you imagine they will take you seriously if you turn a blind eye to something so many of their peers are doing? They need an external source of support to resist peer pressure, and have sex later rather than sooner: lamentably, it is presumed amongst many young people that having unprotected sex with many partners at an early age is the norm and they encourage others to do it (and attempt to humiliate those that don’t). We need mechanisms to support those that want to resist that pressure: sex education is such a mechanism.\
Sex education is part of a package of provisions needed to help our teenagers avoid the terrible pitfalls of unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease. This problem is here – pretending that it isn’t won’t make it go away. How else do opponents of sex education propose to deal with the huge problems of STDs and teen pregnancy? Effective and widely supported sex education programs can achieve real results. For example, in the Netherlands, amongst people having intercourse for the first time, 85% used contraception – compared to 50% in the UK.\
Sex education informs children about sex, and then invites them to make a choice. But as demonstrate...
Sex education informs children about sex, and then invites them to make a choice. But as demonstrated all the time, children are bad decision-makers, often choosing what is bad for them. That is why adult society often needs to decide for them – what they should eat, what they should watch on T.V., when they are mature enough to be able to choose whether or not to drink or smoke. Surely sex is just as important as those things – just as dangerous, just as potentially destructive. The abdication of our responsibility in the sexual arena is shameful; we should be unafraid to simply tell children this is something they cannot do, aren’t mature enough to consent to yet – a responsibility we seem to shrink from even though it is reflected by the stated aim of society enshrined in the law of the age of consent. Lessons implicitly lauding the pleasures of intercourse are entirely contrary to that aim.
That logic might sound impressive – but it’s the same one that fails to control underage drinking, underage smoking, the watching of rated movies by those forbidden to do so, the eating of bad food – and underage sex. It’s the same poor parental logic that has seen a generation of children grow up divorced from the society around them, children who die from drugs overdoses and whose parents say (honestly), ‘I just had no idea.’ It’s time to talk to our young people about what they do – honestly, frankly, without frightening them into dishonesty and deception. To do otherwise perpetuates the cycle of ignorance about youth society, and perpetuates the status quo of being able to do nothing to change it.
This is none of the state’s business. Teaching this subject en masse in a classroom reduces it to bi...
This is none of the state’s business. Teaching this subject en masse in a classroom reduces it to biological notions, group embarrassment and crude jokes. Furthermore, children have never needed this from the state: left alone, they learn from their family and surroundings and grow naturally into adults without the state’s involvement. Few things are responsible for parental disaffection with education more than the teaching of sex and sexuality in ways contrary to their wishes. Parents have a right to determine the moral environment in which their children develop and this is a huge intrusion into that right. \
That moral environment has been manipulated again and again over the last forty years by a liberal teaching establishment set on undermining traditional values and beliefs. Sex education has been a prime weapon in that social engineering. That tool should be taken away from teachers, who as a body have proven themselves undeserving of it. \
As for the tedious idea that children somehow need the nanny state to look after their sexuality – who knows children and their needs better than parents? Schools are responsible for so much that is wrong with our children, and by giving them free licence to delve into students’ sexuality, things become so much worse, blurring the line between teacher, adviser, confidante, and sometimes in extremes, between teacher and lover – an abuse of power that bringing sex into the classroom makes so much easier. \
Parents often know nothing (or worse, are armed with dangerously naïve delusions) of the sexual state of their children. The picture painted by abolitionists is inaccurate – the process of deciding what is taught in schools involves parents groups and school governing bodies on a school-by-school basis, so parents do have a role in deciding what is taught. But ultimately, the state should be involved in educating the whole child, not just in doling out academic ideas – and should work hard to safeguard sexual health of youngsters, a field near-impossible to separate from sex education. This is a subject just as important for the development of young people as the conventional subjects such as maths and English.\
The role of ‘teacher’ has to change with time. Once, teachers only instructed the children of the well-off or acted as a branch of the church, now they teach everyone in a secular society. As their role changes, they must remain responsible and obey the law: thus, the scaremongering of suggesting teachers will abuse their students or lure them into relationships is irrelevant, as both sides believe that is wrong, and should be prosecuted.\
Rules banning discussions of sex in schools can deny teachers the ability to deal with real problems. When an individual student comes to a teacher with a problem, a rule against discussing such things in the classroom will probably mean that this outlet of help the troubled adolescent has sought out, often because he feels the family isn’t the place to get help, will be denied to him, will turn its back on him. Like it or not, in today’s fractured society teachers have taken on the role of counsellor, and this rule will indirectly curtail their ability to fulfil it. The result of that will be appalling.\
The role of the classroom as a place of instruction is undermined by sex education. In one lesson, c...
The role of the classroom as a place of instruction is undermined by sex education. In one lesson, children are given condoms to put on bananas – in the next, asked to concentrate in a disciplined fashion on literature or maths. Understandably, that doesn’t occur – the classroom is a place of crudity and sexualised observation, rather than a place carrying out its purpose – of instructing children in a way enabling them to learn. This requires a certain seriousness and clarity of purpose that sex education destroys.
School is exactly the place this teaching should occur in, for it is the state’s responsibility to take a holistic interest in young citizens – to care about their whole education, not just the three ‘Rs.’ It is the responsibility of schools, not just to teach academic subjects, but also to prepare young people for adult life – for its responsibilities, its pleasures, its pitfalls. \
The classroom has to adapt to reflect modern needs of pupils and to reflect new best educational practice – if it didn’t, we’d still be sitting students in rows reciting tables and hitting them when they displeased teachers. Similar arguments about the sanctity of the classroom were advanced in opposition to computers being used in lessons – they were similarly wrong there too.\
Furthermore, this artificial rule on what ‘can’t be taught’ impinges on the classroom negatively. Literature and biology, to name but two, feature sex and the reproductive instinct extensively – the prohibition of sex from teaching damages these subjects, too, unless they continue to be taught properly in which case the rule becomes absurd.\
If on the one hand our children are ignorant about sex and sexuality, then they shouldn’t be taught ...
If on the one hand our children are ignorant about sex and sexuality, then they shouldn’t be taught about it and won’t enter into it until ready. If on the other hand, as pre-sex education advocates maintain, they know all about it and do it anyway, then they shouldn’t be mollycoddled by the state. They should take responsibility for their own actions. We live in an indulgence culture, where nothing is ever anyone’s fault. This is wrong, and we should be unafraid to say to individuals that they must live up to the consequences of choices they make. If teenagers get pregnant or get another teenager pregnant, that is their fault and they should live with the results. We shouldn’t set out to ruin our educational system to pander to such behaviour. Indeed, if we stopped sympathising quite so much and judged a little more, perhaps fewer teens would be rushing to copulate.
It is false to say that the choice is between children that don’t know about sex so don’t have it, and children that do know all about sex and don’t have it or have it knowing the consequences. Many young people really do have intercourse without understanding its full repercussions, or believing that it will ‘never happen to them.’ They are ignorant of its implications but do it anyway. That is our fault as a society – simply abandoning them to the perilous result of such activity would be shameful.
Given that Britain’s teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest in the developed world after over 50 ...
Given that Britain’s teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest in the developed world after over 50 years of sex education classes, they can hardly be declared to have been a success. 50 years ago, the argument for introducing sex education was ignorance amongst children. 50 years later, the argument for retaining sex education is… ignorance amongst children - not a great endorsement of its success.
The detractors of sex education have so effectively undermined it that it has had no real chance of success in the past. Real political will to do something about this issue has only existed since the late 1990’s, as represented by the preparation of the Social Exclusion Unit’s Teenage Pregnancy (1999). The implementation of more significant sex and relationship education has taken place since then, and it is too early to judge its success. Furthermore, other social factors are at play in Britain’s pregnancy rate. The real question is, how much worse would teen pregnancy and STD rates be without sex education programs?\
Comparison with the United States is extremely helpful here. In states with abstinence-only programs, or that refuse to teach sex education at all, the teen pregnancy rate is much higher than in states with programs that frankly cover the full range of sexual activity. One can’t point to bad sex education and say sex education is a failure – the proper comparison is with good sex education, such as the schemes only now being introduced in the UK.\
Children have an innate desire to do the forbidden. Once intercourse becomes a mainstream discussion...
Children have an innate desire to do the forbidden. Once intercourse becomes a mainstream discussion, a situation sex education facilitates, adolescents enter into ever more extreme activities in order to still maintain that thrill of transgression – anal sex, group sex, sado-masochistic activity.
Isn’t it equally true that, if children want to do the forbidden, then bringing the formerly ‘forbidden’ thing into the light of openness, it won’t hold the same appeal?\
Pointing to the lure of ‘worse’ activity such as group sex is just an argument for full sex education, where those things are covered in class too, as some of the strongest advocates of sex and responsibility classes urge: how can people be warned of their dangers (and helped to be responsible if they do choose to do them, nevertheless) if we refuse to discuss them?\
Sex education classes for those under the age of consent undermines the law. It says, ‘don’t do this...
Sex education classes for those under the age of consent undermines the law. It says, ‘don’t do this – but given that you are, do this, this and this.’ This sends a terrible message about the law – that breaking it isn’t serious, that authority (as represented by teachers) tacitly approves of that illegality, will tolerate it and even encourage it. Sex education fails to tell our children clearly what is right and what is wrong. And remember that these are children, who need clear boundaries to guide their behaviour, and who may not understand the subtleties appreciated by liberal educationalists.\
In any case, so few teachers want to teach this subject that the quality of teaching is awful. Those that do end up teaching it are often the oddest characters in the teaching establishment. Many teachers happy to ‘cover’ other subjects are uniquely embarrassed by this one, or object to it on moral grounds and will not do so, leaving it to the most liberal members of staff.\
Well taught sex education does no such thing. Sex and responsibility classes must tread a fine line, first stressing the importance of waiting until ready before having sex, and pointing to the physical benefits of fewer partners and starting sex later – but must then move on to the reality of modern Britain’s sex-ridden teen culture, without applauding it, and try to decrease the very high levels of STDs and pregnancy. Yes, that’s hard to do – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. On the contrary – it’s one of the most important duties society faces today. \
Arguments about poor teaching apply equally to maths. We often have to try to recruit teachers in unpopular fields – true, difficult, but hardly unique. The answer is to improve teacher training, both for new graduates and for practising teachers, and to bring in outside consultants from the health and social welfare sectors, who have deep experience in this area.\
What do you think?