Monday, February 26, 2007

Sex education: a "basic right and duty of parents"

The question of sex education was raised by a few anonymous bloggers. Below are:
1) the thoughts of Pope John Paul II (excerpts from his Apostolic Exhortation, “Familiaris Consortio”, 1981, #37)
2) questions from the Anons
3) a response emailed to me by a woman who taught CHS (Catechesis on Human Sexuality) for three years at her parish school.

1) “Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them… In this context education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the ‘nuptial meaning’ of the body.

Indeed Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality.

In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for the moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality.

For this reason the Church is firmly opposed to an often widespread form of imparting sex information dissociated from moral principles. That would merely be an introduction to the experience of pleasure and a stimulus leading to the loss of serenity-while still in the years of innocence-by opening the way to vice.”

2) Anon: “We have to be realistic and that is teenagers and kids even younger are having sex so what is wrong with having sex education in the schools? It is not encouraging kids to have sex its just that the schools realize kids are doing it so why not educate them?”

Anon: "Does the archdiocese have a syllabus or some guide by which sex ed is taught to our Catholic youth? It seems, at least at St. Andrew's in past years that the class taught in 7th grade is a bit unstructured. I've heard the Q&A portion of the class has become a "can we shock the teacher" free for all. It would seem that a serious subject would deserve serious consideration. In addition, shouldn't sex ed begin when most children are entering into puberty? For many girls at least, it begins one to two years before 7th grade."

3) “…As you may or may not know, the ADW has ‘guidelines’ for the information that must be covered in CHS at each grade level, in the mixed, and the single sex setting. It also has additional material that is optional to cover. However, that is as far as they go. (A pastor of the Archdiocese) once told me that several years ago they were trying to get a unified program to be taught at all the schools, but as I said, it was such an emotionally loaded topic that they punted and left it up to each parish to come up with a program. So, the quality of your program will depend on the quality of the instructors, and the lesson that they prepare…

I have a lot of other thoughts as well, based on my experience, that touch upon other aspects of her question: use of question cards; starting in 7th grade is way too late; public school students receiving sex ed and AIDS education in 5th grade vs. parochial school students who have not been previously taught; parents as the primary educators of the children; and the whole overarching idea that the instruction in the parish should be much more than just “sex ed”. The Theology of the Body as taught by Pope JPII gives evidence that human sexuality is much richer and deeper than what is taught as sex ed.

Of course the instructors must be faithful to ALL of what the church teaches regarding sexuality (i.e., contraception, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation) because this is where the “shock and awe” questions will come up. Another wrinkle that I hadn’t considered prior to actually getting up in front of the girls and their mothers, is the hostility of some of the mothers, probably because speaking the truth regarding all these issues will touch personal hot-button issues of their own. How many of them are using contraception (we won’t ask for a show of hands . . .)? How many have family members with SSA issues?…”


At 12:12 PM, Anonymous Marion (Mael Muire) said...

“We have to be realistic and that is teenagers and kids even younger are having sex so what is wrong with having sex education in the schools? It is not encouraging kids to have sex; . . .why not educate them?”

Many people have argued in this way, and I understand that, to them, this line of reasoning makes a great deal of sense.

To illustrate why this reasoning doesn't really make sense, though, try repeating that argument, substituting some other vital topic, like gun safety for example.

"“We have to be realistic and realize that young children and teenagers are around loaded handguns - in their own homes, in their friends' homes. More and more kids - younger and younger every year - have been injured or even killed from handling loaded handguns. Handgun accidents are killing our children. The schools have got to teach gun safety education in the schools!

"For example: How to check the safety; how to inspect the chamber for rounds; the safe ways to aim and fire a weapon; what different types of bullets looks like: 22, 38, and 45 caliber, and how they travel; what impact bullets have on contact with the body at different ranges - point blank - 20 feet - 50 feet, etc.

"It is not encouraging kids to pick up handguns, its just that the schools realize kids are doing it so why not educate them?”

I suspect that many people who argue for sex education in the schools would have a problem with the idea of gun safety education in the school, even when using the same line of reasoning.

The problem with both of these is that this kind of education in the schools is, that conveying this kind of material to young children in the school setting carries the message that it is expected and normal for students to experiment with guns or with sex, when, in fact, this message is the opposite of what many parents want conveyed: that it expected that their students will refrain from such experimentation.

There may well be ways to teach proper information and safety concerning both guns and sex, but this is not to done in ways that convey that experimentation is expected and desirable. It's not.

At 12:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is that most parents don't teach all the realities regarding Sex and most schools don't teach chastity.

At 12:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great topic! I began thinking about this much more last year with the growing popularity of our school kids using My Space. I was shocked with how our kids, especially our girls, chose to conduct themselves. The way in which many described themselves was really disturbing. It was obvious that they had little respect for themselves in regard to their sexual identities. I felt like we, the parents, school and church failed these kids.

I think basics of sex ed should be taught in 5th grade- that is when the questions begin. However, sex ed should be an ongoing discussion in each grade after 5th.

Before our kids go into high school, there should be some delving into the Theology of Body. I know I want my children to understand the gift that their sexuality is rather than some banner they wear to attract attention.

I can see how mothers would be hostile, and many would NOT want the giving of information paired teachings of Catholic morality. For so many, to admit mistakes in regard to chastity is hard. Many of us go back to those teenage years when we were worried about being perceived as immoral or loose.

The idea that "kids are going to do it, so just give them the info" I think is absolute surrender. Parents are much more powerful than this, but we often aren't willing to get over our own hangups and honest with our children about our own understanding and experience of sexual intimacy. It's pretty easy to give out the basics of body parts, but it is much harder to give something so personal of ourselves. I plan to be honest with my kids, especially my daughters about what choices in my past. It won't be the most comfortable discussion, but it will be one of the most important ones I will have with them.

At 12:30 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

With so many media images regarding sexuality, failing to teach our children is irresponsible! The are innundated with messages via TV, movies, music, news, magazines,etc. Our kids are already being taught about sex. The message they are bombarded with everyday is that it IS normal and expected to be sexually active. The stats on the age at which that expectation is often being met is alarming to this mom! Teaching isn't the same as condoning. I'm guessing Fr. Greg will get several hits on this topic!

At 1:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Fr. When are you going to give a talk on Chasitity to the Parish? More then just a homily that is...

At 1:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to anon above-
Do you want him to teach another class?!! I think he's pretty effective about making the church's position regarding chastity known- let the poor man have some time off!

At 11:11 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...


Great comments! We have taught our children to refrain from experimentation. Now we are working on ways of reinforcing what we have taught: through open frequent discussons. We also work on enforcing this teaching. We try not to allow them to be in situations which are ripe with temptation. Also we discuss the precious gift of their virginity is meant for their spouse. We talk about the consequences of giving away this gift before marriage: stds, pregnancy, ruined reputation, mortal sin, and the emotional pain. These are the ongoing discussions with my teenagers.

As we do our job, my husband and I are reminded that they have God given Free Will. However, until they are adults, we will try to prevent situations which invite premarital sexual experimentation.
(this comes in the form of household rules, restrictions on dating, and so forth).

So we are in midst of this and were surprised when in a sense the local high school sabotages our teachings. During my eldest daughter's sophomore year, she joined a club called the Respect Club. She described as a club which discusses politics, religions, belief systems. Come to find out the club endorces/promotes homosexuality as a healthy alternative lifestyle. The club also debates the woman's right to abortion. Before, I could get the gist of the club's true agenda, my daughter and her friends were immersed in it! It was a fiasco. She no longer attends Respect Club. Thank the good Lord.

So hopefully we will be a little more viligant/savvy with the next two younger siblings.

At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Sunshine said...

Hi Kelly,

"However, until they are adults, we will try to prevent situations which invite premarital sexual experimentation.
(this comes in the form of household rules, restrictions on dating, and so forth)."

Last weekend we went over to my sister and brother in law's home. My nephews are 3 and 8 years old. She was telling me that when they become teenagers she was going to do the very same thing you are doing right now. They are both wonderful parents but when it comes to raising children you have to be so vigilant!

"During my eldest daughter's sophomore year, she joined a club called the Respect Club. She described as a club which discusses politics, religions, belief systems. Come to find out the club endorces/promotes homosexuality as a healthy alternative lifestyle. The club also debates the woman's right to abortion."

I had no idea this is what can go on in the school systems! This is scary! I am going to have to tell my sister in law about this and to keep an eye open in the future about all the clubs they join.

Thanks for all the things you share so the rest of us have an idea what can go on.

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sex-ed opponents part of movement to reclaim schools
By Jon Ward

Parents who stopped a new sex-education curriculum in Montgomery County, Maryland are at the nexus of a national trend in parental activism in school matters.
"Montgomery County has become a symbol for parental activism," said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America.
Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, said parents "are beginning to take matters into their own hands and are looking for ways to collaborate with other like-minded parents to protect their kids."
Mr. Throckmorton works with former homosexuals and wrote a 51-page critique of the Montgomery County sex-ed course. He said he has heard from parents in Fayetteville, Ark.; Pleasant Valley, Iowa; and Toms River, N.J., who have found objectionable material in school libraries and are challenging their school boards to remove the books.
The Montgomery County school board voted 7-1 Monday to dissolve the curriculum and the citizens committee that approved the course. In November, the board had voted 6-0 to adopt the course.
Curriculum supporters said the course taught tolerance for homosexuals and included factual instruction on how to deal with homosexual feelings.
But parents who formed the group Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum (CRC) said the course promoted homosexuality and promiscuity, disregarded scientifically proven health risks and denigrated traditional, religious views about sex.
A federal judge ruled in CRC's favor when he granted a temporary restraining order against the course on May 5.
"What this really illustrates is that parents have a particular set of principles and values. They work hard to instill those in the home, and they don't want this undermined in the health class," said Melissa Pardue, social welfare policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation.
Mrs. Pardue, who co-wrote "What Do Parents Want Taught in Sex Education Programs?" last year, said the Montgomery County controversy "is the first time we've seen national attention to parental concern, but I think this is happening all over the place."
Julie Underwood, general counsel for the National School Boards Association, said public schools "are at the heart of the culture wars, and you see that played out in curriculum issues.
"For the last few years, we have seen the culture wars escalating quite dramatically," Miss Underwood said.
The group Advocates for Youth (AFY), which asserts that children are sexual beings and which contributed many of the materials for the discarded curriculum, could not be reached for comment.
Adrienne Verrilli, spokeswoman for the Sexuality Education and Information Council of the United States, which is allied with AFY, said: "I think more conservative people have felt empowered to make moves against the gay and lesbian kids in their schools, given the current environment."
Parents across the country are taking action against sex-education instruction with which they disagree.
Last month, David Parker was arrested in Lexington, Mass., and spent the night in jail after he refused to leave a meeting with the school principal who refused to take his 6-year-old child out of discussions about same-sex parents.
Parents also are making an impact in the debate over evolution and intelligent design in places such as Dover, Pa.; Bluffton, Ind.; and the state of Kansas, said Albert Mohler, a national evangelical Christian leader and president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.
"Certainly, conservative Christians are at the forefront of this, but are hardly alone. The success of this in Montgomery County is evidence of this. This is blue-state America," Mr. Mohler said.
"Sex education is a special case. Here you deal with the most intimate details of morality and sexuality and the institution of marriage. This is where parents have the front-line responsibility and concern for their children," he said.

At 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Kelly-

Your daughter must have gone to Magruder. I am familiar with that program, as I have a son who went to Sherwood. At that time he knew the girl who actual began that club. She was a really nice girl who was sorting through some difficult issues in her life and felt bullied at school. The group was set-up as a means to teach tolerance. It's a shame if it turned into something else.

At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Kelly said...

Anon-Wash. Times....
Thanks for posting the article from the Washington Times. Hard to be that "liberal," Montgomery County did away with this particular part of the sex ed curriculum. Thank God for parental activism! Thank God there are people who recognize that sex ed is a basic right and duty of parents.

Anon-Respect Club.... I have no knowledge of the Magruder club's beginnings. It is presented as a club about tolerance. That is why initially it seemed so benign. Well, the topics discussed and the liberalism promoted step way past the initial idea of tolerance. It was just a shock for us. The club is open to 9th-12th graders without any parental notification/permission required. Particularly, the freshmen and sophomores who attend (ages 14,15), in my humble opinion, should be required to have parental notification. The school requires parental permission for sex ed; why not for this club?

Tell your sister in law to enjoy the young ones and their innocence! There will be plenty of time to deal with adolescent issues down the road. It is good that they have a plan for sex ed. We had a plan from early on as well (under constant modification).

The world that our kids live in is one that requires parental vigilance! I am finding that the adolescent years require more from us than their younger years. Many people think the opposite, but teens need strong family foundation more than ever now. A family is a sign of God's love to the world. For our teens, family is their soft, safe place to land in a pretty tough world! We could not do it without God's grace. As FG so often says, the grace that comes from the sacraments.

At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am finding that the adolescent years require more from us than their younger years. Many people think the opposite, but teens need strong family foundation more than ever now."

This couldn't be a truer statement. I had my first child several years younger than any of my friends, and have always been a few years ahead of what is coming for them. Whenever I'd hear one of them say, "my life will be easier when the kids can..." with the anticipation that what is coming will be much easier than what preceeded. I was fortunate that my child's teenage years weren't difficult for either one of us, but I definately had to open my eyes wider, listen more intently and hold on tighter. I guess we go from lead strings to reigns when raising our kids. When the time is right, and you know you've instilled good values, it is a great thing to let go and watch them soar.


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