The Pitfalls of Sex Education

TONI COLLINS

We faced a lot of unforeseen issues when we decided that the best choice for our third child was public high school.

Not Like the "Good Old Days"

A history teacher made snide remarks about the Pope and his “buddy” Mussolini. Our daughter was asked to take a drug-use survey so exquisitely detailed that, if I’d let her take it, she very probably would have thought she was the only student not “using.” Required community service work was disallowed because she performed it at church. Still, is there any course in public high school more damaging to a family’s values than sex education?

Fortunately, we knew enough to opt our daughter out of the school’s sex-education course, and her teacher was very supportive of our choice. But what was shocking to me was that she was the only student opted out of the class. It made me realize that not nearly enough parents know what is presented to students in sex-ed classes, and how sex education can do more to destroy family values and relationships than any other aspect of public school education.

Typically, sex-education courses are designed by Planned Parenthood-style organizations. The goal of these groups is to reduce teen births (not pregnancies), and their primary tools are contraception and abortion. They truly believe that teens are going to be sexually active, and that it’s imperative that teens know how to use birth control and how to obtain an abortion if the birth control fails. They believe that leaving this information out of a sex-ed course would be both dangerous and immoral. They’ll pay lip service to abstinence, but their focus is always contraception.

Most parents with school-age children were brought up with sex ed in their own schools, but it was a far different curriculum than exists today. Back in the sixties and early seventies, sex ed was taught in single-gender groups and covered feminine hygiene, physical development, and venereal disease. It was pretty benign, and did nothing to prepare parents for what their own children today would be fed in the name of sex education.

For example, Carol Everett, a former abortion clinic owner who now reveals the secrets of the abortion industry, used to visit classrooms in her area of Texas. Under the guise of sex education, she would secretly hold as her goal 3 to 5 abortions for girls between the ages of 13 and 18. She’d get the students to laugh at their parents’ values, she’d break down their natural modesty by talking about sex in mixed-gender groups, and would offer girls a low-dose birth control pill with instructions no teen was capable of following. Pregnancies, and their profitable abortions, were guaranteed. She’d earn $25 for every abortion in her clinics, and would pocket over $10,000 a month. Speakers like Carol are the hardest area of sex education for parents to monitor, because we can’t “view” their material before they talk to our kids.

What about material that is made available to parents? In my daughter’s high school health class, sex-ed material was unavailable until the night before the instruction began. The notice came home; our permission was requested and refused. If there were any parents who wanted to preview written material, they had roughly a 6-hour window to do so. Such an arrangement makes it virtually impossible for parents to find out what’s going on in their children’s sex-education classes.

For me, this lack of opportunity was not a problem. We knew we didn’t want our daughter exposed to today’s sex-education materials. You see, in the mid-nineties, I spent a couple of years researching sex-ed curriculum, and have reviewed more recent materials last year. Now that I actually have a daughter in public high school, I’m convinced that most parents don’t understand the graphic, destructive nature of sex-ed courses today. The following examples will probably upset you, but remember that this information is presented to high-school students every year. Please further be aware that I left out the most shocking examples. What is presented here is among the more moderate material presented to students.

Training Children to Be Immoral

Let’s start with the textbook Human Sexuality. This book told students that if, as adults, they’re attracted to members of their own sex, then they are homosexual. (By the way, the same statement appeared in a 5th grade, Catholic-school sex-ed book without the reference to adulthood, a much more insidious statement. So please don’t assume that these problems are limited to the public schools.) Human Sexuality suggested guidelines high-school students could use to determine if they are ready for sexual intercourse. Marriage wasn’t mentioned; instead the text stated that if students are not worried about pregnancy or sexually-transmitted diseases, then they may be ready for sexual involvement. In other words, those kids who haven’t thought through the consequences of sex were being told, “Go ahead.”

The F.L.A.S.H. (Family Life and Sexual Health) curriculum developed by the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health, misinformed 9th and 10th grade students that using a condom was as effective as abstinence in preventing sexually transmitted diseases. It defined “dancing” as a type of “sexual touch.” The goal of this book seemed to be that we all engage in sexual activity, we just need to decide what kind. One of the worst aspects of the curriculum was that it required students to engage in several different classroom role plays, usually as unmarried couples involved in sexual relationships. Not a single role play featured young people who remained abstinent.

But as that curriculum progresses, so does the offensiveness of its content. The 11th and 12th grade F.L.A.S.H. outlines various physical and emotional dysfunctions, then has students name the dysfunctions and suggest advice for the “couples.” The detail of the material is so explicit that it would be inappropriate to post it in this venue. In fact, if this material were to be presented in the workplace, allegations of sexual harassment would start flying. Remember, this text is designed for juniors and seniors in high school. How many of them will walk out of such a lesson with purity on their minds?

Further, F.L.A.S.H. for 11th and 12th grade contained the most egregious statement I’ve ever seen in a sex-ed text. It defined breastfeeding as sexual behavior between mother and child. The subtle message is that if your mother breastfed you, you’ve already been sexually active. The thought of that passage still makes my blood boil.

My more recent toe-dip into sex-ed curricula showed that things have only changed for the worse. A newer curriculum, Reducing the Risk: Building Skills to Prevent Pregnancy, STD & HIV, suggests the following activity:

Once you and your partner agree to use [birth control], do something positive and fun. Go to the store together. … Plan a special day when you can experiment.
And yet, promotional material for Reducing the Risk consistently claims that the program is proven to delay the onset of initial intercourse. With instruction like that, do you believe their claim? (Dig deep enough and you’ll find that the “proof” consists of comparisons only against “standard sexuality education,” not against abstinence programs.)

Even worse, our local school district decided to recommend to our school board that the district use the Safer Choices curriculum. The committee held firm that Safer Choices’ classroom condom demonstration was critical to the program’s effectiveness, and that no opt-out procedure should be made available to students. They did, however, allow Safer Choices’ homework assignment of visiting a birth control clinic “[perhaps] with their boyfriends or girlfriends” to be reduced to mere “extra credit.” Great, now a trip to Planned Parenthood can boost your grade in sex-ed class.

The most disturbing trend of all in modern sex education is the influence of groups such as GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network). According to Marjorie King in the Spring, 2003, issue of City Journal, GLSEN is working with the National Education Association to bring Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) themes to public school classrooms. Sexual activities now considered controversial, painful and unsafe are already being taught to teens as young as 12 years old. The belief that heterosexuality is normal has been labeled “Heterosexism” and targeted to be systematically stamped out of our children’s psyches. And this, too, is starting young. Orlean Koehle, a California substitute teacher, reports knowledge of a third-grade girl asking, “Daddy, am I a lesbian? I like girls better than boys.” The LGBT advocates are attending our kids’ classrooms, and we were not even informed that they had been invited.

So What Are Parents To Do?

First of all, pray. The graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony are important. If you have any hope of getting these influences out of your kids’ classrooms, you are going to need help from above.

Second, educate yourself. A good, quick place to start is Abstinence FASTFACTS from the Center For Reclaiming America. Find out about good, effective abstinence programs, and learn their content. Some suggestions are Sex Respect, Teen Aid, and FACTS. All of these will send you preview materials, and all are solid, abstinence-until-marriage programs.

Third, believe what is in your heart and learn to defend it. Deep down, we all know that abstinence education will work better than condom education, and there is solid research to support this. Unfortunately, proponents of condom-based sex-ed programs are expert at repeating the false assertion that abstinence education is unproven. Sex Respect’s website cites research showing that program’s effectiveness, and the FASTFACTS above reference more. Learn the strengths of abstinence programs, and be prepared to defend them.

Fourth, gather other parents as partners. You’ll need a crowd if you have any hope of influencing your school board. Parents need to be prepared to attend school board meetings, to speak during public comment, and to write letters to both the school board and your local newspaper. (In fact, one of the most successful strategies you can adopt is to get a local reporter to understand your point of view before you ever take the issue to your school board. The power of the press can make you or break you.)

Fifth, the partners should all pull their kids out of sex-ed classes. There is no better way to make your school board sit up and take notice than to have numbers on your side. If 99% of all students take the existing classes, school boards won’t see any need for change. Talk to youth ministers in your community and enlist them in the effort to convince parents to opt their kids out of sex-ed classes. An appropriate opt-out form can be found at www.ccv.org/images/StudentOptOutNotice.htm. Make copies and distribute them to other families. More important than making your point to the school board, you’ll be protecting kids from the kinds of destructive curricula that are standard sex-education fare today.

Sixth, do not try to remove the existing sex-education curriculum. Instead, show your school board that there are a great number of parents who want abstinence education offered as a choice in your district. Ask them to offer both comprehensive sex education and abstinence-until-marriage sex education, just like they offer Spanish and French, or Woodshop and Auto. They will tell you it’s too expensive; ask them why they offer both Drawing and Painting. They will tell you the master schedule is too hard to change; ask them to offer abstinence education in the first quarter of the school year. They will tell you that the existing program is proven to be effective; ask them to show you the research. Be gentle but persistent, and get them to see that they have a responsibility to serve all students in the district, those who are sexually active as well as those who would find comprehensive sex ed offensive.

There are several reasons for this approach. First, there truly are parents who want the school to teach their kids about condoms. Some of these people vehemently believe that it would be immoral to teach abstinence-only sex ed. Many of these are excellent fighters, and they will have the power of Planned Parenthood and GLSEN on their side. They will accuse you of trying to ram your morality down their kids’ throats, of trying to institute a fear and shame-based curriculum, and of withholding critical health information from their kids. Their rhetoric is good, and they will probably win.

But if you instead request that your school district offer a choice, you’ll have co-opted the other side’s language and many of their arguments will evaporate. You won’t be forcing your morality down their kids’ throats, they’ll be forcing theirs down yours. You won’t be making their kids feel fear and shame, you’ll be offering alternatives for families who value abstinence. You won’t be withholding health information from sexually active kids, you’ll be providing support for the healthiest lifestyle young people can adopt.

Remember, prayer, hard work, and strong partnerships can make a difference in your school district. It won’t be easy, but it can be eternally important.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Toni Collins. "The Pitfalls of Sex Education." Catholic Exchange (July, 2003).

This article reprinted with permission from Catholic Exchange.

THE AUTHOR

Toni Collins is a convert to the Catholic faith, and has worked with Catholic youth in music ministry for 19 years. She and her husband, Rick, are the parents of four daughters.

Copyright © 2003 Catholic Exchange


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