Amidst growing reports of sexual harassment and abuse in schools, the chairmen and women of five Commons select committees (Neil Carmichael, Maria Miller, Yvette Cooper, Sarah Wollaston, and Ian Wright) wrote on November 30th to Education Secretary Justine Greening, calling for sex education and PSHE to be made mandatory in England’s schools (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38155851).
What a pity the five MPs are not similarly calling for the teaching of logic – because their conclusions, based on current evidence, seem seriously deficient. Far from protecting young people against the obvious dangers of sexual exploitation and abuse, such teaching, unacceptably focusing on the mechanics of sex, serves only to sexualise children prematurely – at a time when they should more properly be developing and discovering who they themselves are, sheltered by the innocence of childhood.
Similarly, as they approach puberty, they should be taught that sex is a precious gift, which should not be thrown away or lightly bestowed. Which is another way of saying, of course, that they should be taught how special they are, and to respect themselves and others.
A three-year-old child beginning to realize that boys and girls are anatomically different does not need to learn that he or she can, with the help of drugs and/or surgery, reject biology. It’s too much of a burden, demanding decisions that in the normal course of events most children will never seriously contemplate. Nor does a five-year-old child need to learn about masturbation, or what their parents get up to in the bedroom – nor how this differs from the nighttime gymnastics of homo- and bi-sexual couples. Children are naturally curious and develop at their own rate. Telling them too early about sexual choice and practices disrupts that natural development, and inevitably makes them want to experiment. Which they obviously do, in light of the growing number of reports of children as young as five sexually assaulting other children in their class.
Which brings us back to the increasing and highly worrying reports of sexual harassment and abuse in schools. Are the concerned signatories to the letter really so incapable of joining up the dots? Let us say again, and loudly: To insist on ever earlier and more comprehensive sex education, without any kind of moral frame, far from giving children the information they need ‘to make the right choices for themselves’, can and will only exacerbate the problem.
Pre-adolescent children are simply too young to be given comprehensive information about the mechanics of sex; they don’t know how to handle it. They shouldn’t be required to handle it! And teenagers need to be taught that a precious gift lightly bestowed is lost forever, and may indeed endanger their future physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. It may even kill them.
Surely, rather than insisting sex education be made mandatory, our top priority should be to help children at every age feel safe – best accomplished by allowing them to develop at their own pace, and by providing a moral framework that will safeguard and protect them as they push their personal limits, and so discover who and what they really are.
We therefore repeat our call to government to stop the premature sexualisation of children, and for urgent reassessment of policy. We further call for greater acknowledgment of the inalienable role and rights of parents, and their involvement at every stage of engagement with this subject – and for the adoption of new materials that will focus on relationship and moral boundaries, rather than the practicalities of sex.
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