Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fear and Loathing in Sex Education: 2

The Christian Institute is trying to whip up publicity and alarm parents again with more lies about sex education in their latest report, Too Much, Too Young.

Their widely quoted press release says that 'Explicit sex education materials are being pushed by public bodies for use in schools with children as young as five. One of the controversial resources encourages children aged five and over to learn about anal intercourse, oral sex and prostitution'.

However, their report is not about what is happening but about what may happen if sex education (SRE) is made compulsory and if some of the currently recommended materials are used more widely.

Enter the world of fear-mongering fantasy.

The report includes extracts from some of these resources. Some of the worst offenders are the BBC and the award-winning book by Babette Cole, Mummy Laid An Egg. It also names local authorities currently recommending them.

Particular culprits campaigning for mandatory sex education are the Sex Education Forum, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the Labour Party (even though Ed Balls seriously watered down the Children, Schools and Families Bill, as I wrote about at the time.)

Far from promoting hot sex for five year olds, the Sex Education Forum's website has a fact-based approach to sex education in which primary school children learn about relationships with family and friends, body changes, feelings, emotions, keeping safe, life cycles, gender and other entirely age-appropriate information.

One of the CI's main fears is that control of sex education will be taken away from schools and handed to Government. This would particularly affect faith schools who can currently teach sex ed 'according to their ethos' which can mean anything from excellent fact-based information to morally biased, factually inaccurate religious propaganda. A unified approach to sex ed would seem like a good thing to most people, ensuring that all children are taught to the same standard, adequately prepared for adult life and that all teachers are well-trained and resourced. But the CI would rather treat children like mushrooms ; keep them in the dark and throw bullshit at them.

Not surprisingly, some of the offending extracts from current resources featured in the report talk about homosexuality in a morally neutral way and the CI will be having none of that.

The report also has action tips for parents about how to find out what is being taught in their child's school and how to complain if they need to. And the implication is that they will need to because 'It is important for parents to recognise that today's sex education is quite unlike anything they may have seen during their own school days'.

For most of us, this would be a good thing. But not for the CI. Take up arms: your child too could have this forced on them. No child is safe!

Mike Judge, head of communications at the CI said that: 'the current approach to sex education has comprehensively failed to reduce teenage pregnancy and abortion rates'. Checking statistics is apparently not his strong point; the rates are still some of the highest in Europe but the under-18 conception rate fell in 2009 to its lowest since the early 80s.

Jumping on the bandwagon is the Campaign For Real Education. That's 'real' as in archaic and fundamentalist. Nick Seaton of CRE commented that 'Some of this stuff could destroy someone's childhood if it upset them too much'. The website has such gems as 'SRE is little more than education in birth control' and 'Politicians required teachers to promote National Socialism in pre-war Nazi Germany and International Socialism in the former Soviet Union. Would a true democrat use schools for similar purposes here? Surely, if we were living in a genuine democracy, the law would allow parents the right to withdraw their child from all areas of PSHE/C, not just SRE'.

Firstly, citing the Nazis loses you any argument and secondly, parents can legally withdraw children as even the CI report notes. Maybe the CRE didn't get the memo. According to Ofsted figures, only 0.04% of parents currently do take their children out of sex ed lessons.(Ofsted 2002, Sex and Relationships HMI 433). This is not nearly enough as the CRE would prefer all parents to use the withdrawal method.

Not far behind the CRE is the Family Education Trust. I've already written about their lovely booklet, What is Love?. (In a nutshell, love is just saying no to the ugly sex until you are safely up the aisle. Or terrible, terrible things will fall upon you). I've also covered their report Too Much, Too Soon, which has such pearls of wisdom as 'there are some sexual practices that it may be better not to know anything about at all, at any age'. Sharp-eyed readers may notice the similarity in the title of this report and the current Christian Institute one. Copycats.

This time, the FET's Norman Wells said: 'Introducing sex education at an early age runs the risk of breaking down children's natural sense of reserve.

'Far from being a hindrance, children's natural inhibitions provide a necessary safeguard against sexual abuse and casual attitudes towards sexual intimacy later on'.

This seems to mean that if children are taught the facts, they are more likely to be abused. Both the logic and moral implications of this statement are loathsome.

These organisations do not represent the majority of parents, or even the majority of religious parents but they are loud, relentless and unashamed of using emotive, manipulative, evidence-free methods.

Finally, five year olds are not now and never will be encouraged to learn about anal sex.


  1. I wonder why you singled out Christians? The only area objecting that I have seen is the Daily Mail. A Newspaper not known for its Christian views as far as I know. As a parent of three grown up children I wanted to deal with sex education myself with my wife. I would have strongly objected to having this taken away from me because the school would cover it may be quite a while before I felt the time was best. So rather than blame 'Christians' why not realise there is likely to be a variety of views and open a debate?

  2. I didn't single out Christians, I singled out the Christian Institute which, as I say, doesn't represent all Christians.

    Part of proposed sex ed plans that I've read is to work together with parents. I hope you can see that, while you may be an informed and open-minded person, not all parents are either able or willing to give young people the information they need. When you (any parent) feel the time is best may be too late. What is your idea of good timing based on, for example?

    What's more, by opting out of sex ed, your children may miss out on other aspects of the course that they would find useful.

    The best thing is for parents to become involved, find out what trained and experienced sex educators think is age appropriate and work in tandem with them.

  3. The timing of when 'a parent feels it is right' may have more to do with that parent's own sense of embarrasment giving way to the urgency of the child needing to know. As soon as a child asks the question "Where did I come from" it must be answered honestly and candidly and with enough detail as that child may be able to grasp. My own children were given the full picture by their mother at a surprisingly early age, indeed they were matter of fact about the whole process and asked further questions which I dutifully answered. It was me who was 'traumatised', not the children!:-D