Sexuality education cannot be divorced from values
The chairwoman of Vancouver’s school board declared it “bizarre” last week that a group of parents is taking legal action to overturn policy allowing self-identified transgender students to use the washroom of their choice.
Leave aside the mysterious speed with which self-styled “transgender issues” have transformed society in ways that would have left us slack-jawed a decade ago. What’s “bizarre” is that an elected official can be so overconfident in her correctness that she can be so utterly dismissive of parents who are also voters.
Yet a new recently released report argues such anti-parental attitudes are much more than politically risky. They defy solid social science research.
“Parents are their child’s primary sex educator,” writes Peter Jon Mitchell in the study issued by the Ottawa-based Institute for Marriage and Family Canada. “They know the sensitivities of their children and are perfectly placed to parent their children through critical stages of development.”
Mitchell isn’t just stating a personal sensitivity. The American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, he notes, holds that parents are uniquely able to “respond to the needs and curiosity level of their individual child, offering no more or less information that their child is able to ask and understand.”
And debunking the myth of the red-faced mom or dad being tight-lipped or stuttering about discussing the birds and the bees with their children, he cites a New Brunswick survey showing 96 per cent of parents were comfortable communicating to their own children about sex. That doesn’t mean there’s no place in the classroom for education about sexuality. An opinion poll for the Ontario Physical Health Education Association found 87 per cent of parents feel there should be a sex-ed component in health curriculum.
But Mitchell makes the case extremely effectively in Making Sex Education Work that parents must maintain a full and respected leadership role in educating their children about sexual matters. That’s not a moral matter. It’s a matter of safeguarding optimal sexual health through the stages of a child’s development, he shows.
The New Brunswick study, for example, found parental support to be strongly correlated with the very success of that province’s sexual health education programs. The same has been found on a much wider scale below the Canada-U.S. border.
“An ongoing survey by the American-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has consistently found that teens rate parents as the most influential source in their sexual decision making. Only 4 to 5 per cent of teens reported that school and educators are most influential.”
The finding flatly contradicts the claims relied on by the Ontario government, for example, that the current sexual education curriculum is “taking a toll on the health” of today’s students, Mitchell writes. On the basis of that claim, Ontario sought to introduce a revamped sexuality curriculum that would have treated children in Grade 7 to instruction on anal and oral sex, and promoted “self-discovery through masturbation” to 11-year-olds. Parental outrage forced a reset. A revamped version is scheduled for use in schools next September.
Whether it will be an improvement or not, Mitchell cites the previous backlash as a vivid example of what happens when professional educators and politicians who curry their favour ignore the indissoluble and inviolable bond between parents and children. There’s a pretty simple reason for that. Parents give their children life, and so have a natural, biological interest in forming the attitudes and approaches those kids will take to the human means for passing on that life.
“Sexuality education cannot be divorced from values,” Mitchell writes. “This is true whether one is liberal or conservative, religious or non-religious. Sexuality involves human interaction at the most intimate level and facilitates the creation of human life.”
Most of us understand that intuitively. Bizarrely, our political and pedantic class apparently needs to be reminded of it over and over again.
By Peter Stockland
Peter Stockland is publisher of Convivium magazine and a senior fellow with Cardus think-tank.