Straight talk about sex education.
Not so long ago there was a fairly effective Christian sex education program. In it children were taught about Heaven and Hell. Heaven is a wonderful place and everyone should want to go there. Fornication (the word is still in the dictionary) might send one to Hell. The teaching was direct and simple and -judging by statistical levels of sexual misbehavior and consequent misery - was generally effective.
Then came the sexual revolution. No more "medieval morality"! Feel good about yourselves! Do your own thing! Children must be free to explore their world and their bodies! If it feels good, do it! The guarantors of this freedom would be sex education and contraceptives. Love would be "free" and sex would be "safe."
And where are we now? "Police See No Crime in School Sex Incident," reported The Washing ton Post recently. "D.C. police yesterday ended their investigation into a sexual incident at a Southeast Washington elementary school, concluding that a group of fourth-graders left unsupervised for up to an hour on Monday had engaged in consensual sex."
Yes, you read that right. Fourth-graders were engaged in "consensual sex." In Detroit, the Free Press reported that 46 percent of fifth-graders in that city say they've engaged in sexual intercourse. Children are now free to explore their world and their bodies with a vengeance.
Consider two facts: (1) Washington, D.C., was the first major city in the U.S. to incorporate mandatory sex education into its school curriculum, and (2) Washington now has the highest teen pregnancy and abortion rates in the nation. These two facts are related, and they indicate why, according to the Gannett Sunday magazine USA Weekend, one in three American children becomes sexually active before entering the eighth grade.
As researchers Joseph Olsen and Stan Weed reported in The Wall Street Journal in 1986, "the impact on the abortion and total pregnancy rates was exactly opposite the stated intentions" of school sex ed programs.
But were the stated intentions the true intentions? The connection between sex ed and pregnancy should have been no secret. As Shirley Hatley has pointed out, it was well known to those in the field that "in 1956, when Sweden mandated sex education, the illegitimacy rate, which had been declining, rose for every school age group except the older ones, who did not receive the special education" (Illegitimacy, University of California Press). Later the Swedish experience was repeated in Denmark, where "illegitimate births, which were supposed to drop, instead nearly doubled; abortion rates, which were predicted to fall with the ready availability of condoms and other contraceptives in grocery stores, actually doubled; venereal disease more than doubled; and divorces doubled" (Human Events, Mar. 1985).
Then the United States went Scandinavian. "Massive, federally subsidized sex education programs entered the American public school system during the 1970's.... Before these programs began, teenage pregnancy was already declining for more than a decade. This long decline in teenage pregnancy then reversed and teenage pregnancies soared as 'sex education' spread pervasively throughout the public schools." So wrote Thomas Sowell in Forbes magazine.
Liberal educators probably knew what would happen. But sex education was a means to an end. As early as 1963, Alan Guttmacher, then president of Planned Parenthood, wrote that contraceptive information for teens would bring about an increase in sexual promiscuity (The Knickerbocker Times, Albany, Dec. 6,1963). Sixteen years later, he acknowledged why they had promoted sex education: "The only avenue the International Planned Parenthood Federation and its allies could travel to win the battle for abortion on demand [was] through sex education" (Humanity, Aug. 1979).
For a long time legions of liberal ideologues have wanted legal abortion so as to be able to move us toward absolute women's liberation and total sexual freedom. And down that avenue we have rolled. Several years ago a minority report of U.S. House Committee on Children, Youth, and Families identified our destination in this manner: "Progressively over the past 25 years we have as a nation decided that it is easier to give children pills than to teach them respect for sex and marriage. Today we are seeing the results of that decision, not only in increased pregnancy rates but in increased rates of drug abuse, venereal disease, suicide, and other forms of self-destructive behavior."
Educators know that sex education sexualizes children and increases sexual activity among them. A 1982 survey of 1,888 teenage girls (reported in Planned Parenthood's Family Planning Perspectives) found that "prior exposure to a sex education course is positively and significantly associated with the initiation of sexual activity at ages 15 and 16." In 1986 William Barsiglio and Frank Mott listed "receiv [ing] education in sexual biology" among the factors causing boys to become involved in sexual intercourse at an early age (Family Planning Perspectives, July 1986). In the same issue Deborah Dawson emphasized that:
most researchers agree that sex education does not decrease the rate of teenage pregnancies or the incidence of sexual activity.... Neither pregnancy education nor contraceptive education exerts any significant effect on the risk of premarital pregnancy among sexually active teenagers, a finding that calls into question the argument that formal sex education is an effective tool for reducing adolescent pregnancy.
She is correct that sex ed does not reduce teen pregnancy, but she is wrong to say it has no "significant effect." Statistical models have shown that childhood contraceptive education increases the odds of starting intercourse at age 14 by 50 percent, a significant effect in anybody's book.
Given that sex ed increases sex, why does it? Isn't sex ed just facts: science, biology, harmless anatomical colored plates? What's wrong with kids learning "the facts of life," "the birds and the bees"?
Let's consider It's Perfectly Normal, a popular elementary-school sex ed text written by Robie Harris, a member of the Planned Parenthood Board of Advocates. The book is designed for 10 year-olds and contains material recommended by the Connecticut Department of Education for fourthgraders. Over fifty graphic colored illustrations of naked boys and girls are used to teach little children about various sexual practices and to assure them of the normality of homosexuality. The book shows children how to masturbate and how to engage with others in sexual activities, short of intercourse. It discusses contraceptives and illustrates how to put on a condom. It also lists nine reasons for having an abortion.
Probably the most popular sex ed text in American high schools is Changing Bodies, Changing Lives. it teaches that" bisexuality is an openness to loving, sexual relationships with both sexes - our true nature," and graphically describes sexual practices of homosexuals. Then there is Learning About Sex, which is, says the blurb on the cover, "a must for all young people." This textbook blithely observes that "Sado-masochism may be very acceptable and safe for sexual partners who know each other's needs." All texts for older students recommend fornication. Learning About Sex also in effect recommends adultery: "Some people are now saying that partnerships - married or unmarried - should not be exclusive. They believe that while a primary relationship is maintained with one person, the freedom for both partners to love and share sex with others should also be present."
Bestiality is similarly given space, in the blandly normalizing statement that "a fair percentage of people probably have some sort of sexual contact with an animal during their lifetime...." (Animal-rights activists may want to check how their clients feel about this.) Wardell Pomeroy, author of Boys and Sex and Girls and Sex, also writes of "a loving sexual relationship with an animal," but Pomeroy is more interested in human fornication from a consumerist point of view. "Premarital intercourse does have its definite values as a training ground," he advises the children, "like taking a car out for a test run before you buy it." He neglects to mention that couples who fornicate before marriage are much more likely to divorce than couples who are chaste before marriage. (But maybe he likes the idea of a large supply of preowned spouses available at bargain prices.)
After reading such books, one can understand why the schools in New Haven instituted a program to provide condoms to their overstimulated fifth- and sixth-graders. But one wonders if the obvious question was ever asked: "If little boys in fifth and sixth grade are putting on condoms, how old are the girls the condoms will be used on?" Or maybe they figured that with homosexuality and bestiality normalized, the little girls might not be pestered at all.
So much for what the "professionals" are saying. To whom can concerned parents listen? Perhaps they should listen to their children. Few young people really want to participate in the frantic, barren games engendered by contemporary society's obsession with sex. Recently Seventeen magazine and the Ms. Foundation commissioned a nationwide study of teenage boys and girls. Seventy-three percent of the girls said they would have sex only if their boyfriends pressured them. The boys complained that "they are pressured by their peers to have sex and are considered wimps if they don't score." Eighty-one percent of sexually active girls said they were sorry they had become sexually active. That last statistic agrees with the results of a study by Marion Howard, a professor of obstetrics at Emory University in Atlanta, who surveyed a thousand teenage girls about what they most wanted to learn in their sex ed classes and found that 82 percent said they most wanted to learn "how to say no without hurting the other person's feelings."
And parents should listen to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which clearly state in their publication "Condoms and Their Use in Preventing HIV Infection and Other STDs" that abstinence education is the most effective solution to unwanted pregnancy and sexual disease'. There is no question that abstinence programs prevent teen pregnancy and abortion, so long as they're not diluted with contraception education.
In Washington, D.C., (where that "consensual sex" occurred among fourth-graders and where 72 percent of girls are reportedly sexually active) of 400 girls who participated in a "Best Friends" abstinence-only education program, only one became pregnant. The Best Friends abstinence program, started in Washington by Elayne Bennett, wife of former Secretary of Education William Bennett, has since been successful in other cities. Yet on Pennsylvania Avenue there is - as we know - little interest in abstinence. Sex educators have the inside track and are zealous in safeguarding their agenda, their influence, and their incomes. In 1997, when Congress appropriated $6.7 million to teach abstinence, the White House fought hard to block the appropriation.
Fr. Paul Marx, the founder of Human Life International, wrote in Faithful for Life that "Sex desensitization turns youths into 'new age' sexual nihilists having no concept of the true nature of human sexuality.... Such indifferent, affectionless relations with indifferent sex partners make sex meaningless and life empty. Affectionate feelings and the spiritualization of sex can only be learned in a loving, cohesive family setting. Affectionate love cannot be learned from a school textbook."
But sin and misery apparently can be. How does that old rhyme go with which children used to hex the school as they departed for the summer? "No more pencils, no more looks, no more teacher's dirty books." Or have I got that wrong?
Joseph Collison is the Director of the Office of Pro-Life Activities for the (Roman Catholic) Diocese of Norwich, Connecticut, and Chairman of the Board of caring Families Pregnancy Services.
This article can be found on The New Oxford Review website. Reprinted with permission of The New Oxford Review."