I love the Ontario Catholic School Boards. We all owe them a debt of gratitude, whether we’re Catholic or not. They took one look at Dalton McGuinty’s new “let’s teach sex explicitly in grade 7” curriculum, and they said, “no way, no how”. And they forced McGuinty to stand down.
Recently a grade 7 student from a Belleville school shared with my grade 7 daughter about how she was “scarred for life” following her sex ed class. The teacher had whipped out rather anatomically specific plastic models, and then had passed them around this co-ed class, encouraging them to touch and to affix various rubber devices to “appropriate” places. She then demonstrated how the pieces fit together for heterosexual sex and for homosexual sex, and mentioned other things that couples enjoy doing together.
My little friend whined to my daughter furtively, “why did I have to know all that? It was so embarrassing! And I had to pass everything to the boy sitting behind me!”
When you’re a 12-year-old female, who still has Polly Pockets in her room, you really don’t want to be passing a plastic model of male anatomy in various states of arousal to a boy in your class with whom you have to do math homework. But after countless meetings in government buildings, bureaucrats decided that coed sex ed would break down that pesky modesty that kids naturally have, so that when 13-year-olds start groping each other, one of them may get the courage up to suggest a condom.
Turns out this experiment isn’t working very well in my little friend’s school. It has one of the highest pregnancy rates in the city, even among 13-year-olds. After hearing about their sex ed class, I could have predicted that already. By introducing sex so graphically at 12 and 13, you give the implicit message that “this is what kids do.” Perhaps we should instead be saying, “this is what kids should NOT do.” You’re not old enough. You’re not mature enough. So just say no. We tell students to say no to drugs; why can’t we say the same thing to teens about sex?
Before you all say “they’re just going to do it anyway”, back up the truck. More than half of 16-year-olds are not having sex, so abstinence is hardly impossible. And more and more studies are showing that abstinence education works. The American Medical Association published a study in February in its Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine that discovered that sex education classes that teach safe sex, and comprehensive sex education classes that teach safe sex but also teach abstinence, don’t affect teenage pregnancy or STD rates at all, unless it’s to make them go up. In contrast, abstinence education alone statistically delayed the onset of sexual activity. In the first large-scale, fully randomized study, abstinence education won. Plastic models with condoms lost. Are you listening, Mr. McGuinty?
And yet, as easy as it is to blame Mr. McGuinty, the real fault lies with us as parents. If we were doing our job and talking to our kids frankly, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Do you know the best way to reduce the teenage pregnancy rate? It’s not with sex ed classes. It’s not even with abstinence classes. It’s to eat together as a family, at least 4 times a week. Teens who eat dinner with their parents rarely become sexually active. They meet their emotional needs in the family, they feel secure, and they adopt their family’s values. Families that are too busy to talk to their teens, though, may suddenly find themselves with teens in crisis.
So thank you, Catholic School board, for standing up to the Premier. Thank you, Mr. McGuinty, for listening. Now for the rest of you, go cook dinner for your kids. At least that won’t leave them scarred for life.