THE SEX EDUCATION MYTH
THIS IS WHAT THEY ARE TEACHING YOUR KIDS
There’s been huge debate recently about the agenda-driven nature of sex education in New Zealand schools. One parent, scientist RICHARD O’KEEFE, was concerned enough to ask for a copy of the book kids are being given lessons from. What he discovered will shock you
“The Sexuality Road: Discovering Me, Year 8”, written by Jennie Down, published by Family Planning in 2009.
– Reviewed by Richard A. O’Keefe, 2012.
My younger daughter’s school will be teaching her from this book next term, and before agreeing to that I wished to read the material, so they loaned me a copy over night. Some things seem worthy of comment.
Provenance. It troubles me greatly that the course material in school represents the views of a single organisation. If any organisation has the knowledge and skill to produce such material, Family Planning should be that organisation. Given their aims, it would be irresponsible of them not to produce such material, whether any school uses it or not. I expect that Jennie Down reacted to the opportunity to write this book with pride, enthusiasm, and an honest determination to do the best she could for the children of this country. What troubles me is not her writing it, but taxpayer-funded schools using it as their sole source.
There is a wide spectrum of views in this country about what kinds of sexual activity are appropriate, by whom, and under what conditions. There is even a wide spectrum of views about how we can tell what should count as right or wrong. You may find it interesting to explore your own moral attitudes and frameworks at www.yourmorals.org, where you will find that human cultures seem to base their moral systems on five basic issues: Fairness, Harm, Loyalty, Tradition, and Purity. Different cultures put different weights on these. It turns out that “liberals” are keenly sensitive to Fairness and Harm, while “conservatives” take all five as important. The biblical statement “we are members of one another” is a platitude to a conservative, unintelligible nonsense to a liberal.
This book appears to come from the extreme “liberal” end of the spectrum: the rightness or wrongness of a sexual act does not depend on what the ancestors think, on whether the act fulfils conditions of sacredness, on what the extended family or village will think, on whether it counts formally as adultery or not, even on whether it is legal or not, but apparently (pages 117 to 121) on whether it is by mutual consent, and feels good, and whether safer sex, protection against pregnancy, and protection against STIs have been “talked about” (as opposed, say, to having been dealt with effectively). The idea that “I am in love” might be relevantce to the rightness of sex is presented, but the traditional idea that “my partner is loyal to me” is more relevant is not.
This is an attitude held by many people in New Zealand. But it is only one view. There is nothing evil about someone sincerely writing from such a view point. But there is something wrong about the Government privileging this view in schools. You don’t have to be a Christian to feel excluded: you could hold traditional Indian or Chinese or Samoan or Muslim values and feel alienated. There is talk about diversity, but what this means is (see page 15) that other views are to be somewhat patronisingly tolerated, not that they are allowed any expression in the course material itself. Community consultation is something that happens (page 13) after this book is adopted, not before.
What’s ironic is that page 5 has a section “What values underpin The Sexuality Road program?” including a bullet point “Being exposed to a range of values, attitudes, and opinions helps us when developing and consolidating our own.“ Perhaps other volumes in the series do that; the Year 8 volume most emphatically does not. For example, quite a lot of the material is devoted to explaining that “gays” are ok and that it is bad to say anything against them. No contrary view is allowed a look-in; anyone who would expect that children deserve to be told that people might honestly have what they think to be good reason to disapprove of homosexual acts must come from another planet.
If it comes to that, the idea that a couple might have sex because they want a baby is not to be found in this book (p 149: “recommend use of condoms on every occasion and with every partner when engaging in sexual activity” – my emphasis).
Availability. The school held a parent information evening to discuss the course. That was good, but it was quite impossible in the course of a couple of hours to give adequate insight into the material. It really is necessary to read the book in order to make an informed decision about whether to let your child be taught from it. Such much is available on the internet these days that you would naturally look for this book there. You will not find it. What you will find is the information that a single copy of a year 8 kit is $180. Ouch. The book is 156 pages, several of them (like pages 117 to 121) in very large print. It’s spiral bound, and printed on glossy paper with a card cover. A lot of money could have been saved using electronic distribution and print-on-demand.
Accessibility. For that kind of money, I expect an index. You really would expect the sentence “It is not legal for anyone to have sex with you until you are 16, no matter who and no matter how much you want it“ to appear prominently. (At least as obvious as “have tried other things” on page 118.) So look it up in the index. Whoops, no index.
There is a minor bullet point lurking near the bottom of page 57: “The legal age to have sex in NZ is 16.” That doesn’t really explain that it is a crime for someone else to have sex with an under-age partner, for which they can go to gaol. This is outweighed by three “activities” (pages 111-115) discussing the situation of some 13-year-olds. In “Keisha’s Story” on page 115, there is no mention that “Tim” was trying to commit a crime.
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