When I was speaking full-time to teenagers, I used to have a transition in my talk. I would talk about love, and then about marriage. And then I’d get to the part where we would discuss sex — not how it works, but just why God created it and in what context he intended it for. The kids could see it coming. So, over time, I developed this little transition where I would say, “I know what you’re thinking. ‘Oh no, she’s going to talk about sex. PLEASE don’t let her talk about the details, because I get really embarrassed when people talk about that in public.’ And then you’re thinking ‘I wonder why I get so embarrassed, when sex is supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Clearly something is wrong with me, and I’m going to grow up to be some kind of weird, sexually-hung-up adult.’ And then you’re thinking ‘How does this lady know I’m thinking all of this?’” And then I would tell them we were not going to discuss the details, and I would without fail hear a collective sigh of relief.
One mother told me that, after the talk, her middle school son ran out the car and said “Mom, it was amazing!! She knew what we were THINKING!!!”
In that talk, I would go on to tell them that I knew because all of this is normal. I told them that God created them to be uncomfortable discussing the details of sexual activity. He did that not because it is somehow dirty or bad, but exactly the opposite — because it is holy, sacred. Because it is so good and so important that he wants it set aside in a special place in our lives, and he doesn’t want us to be comfortable discussing the details the same way we’d discuss lunch or football. I told them that they want to protect that instinct, because it protects them and protects the sacredness of their bodies and of sex.
And this, my friends, is why I oppose so-called Comprehensive Sex Education, like the bill that, as I write today, is being aggressively imposed on Coloradoans.
Sex is not an academic subject like math or social studies. It is deeply personal. Kids, especially, go through developmental stages where explicit sexual information — especially when presented in a public, mixed-gender forum — is deeply disturbing to them. I remember it myself, and I’ve seen it in the children I’ve known who have been exposed to information before they were ready for it.
The sponsors of the Colorado bill keep insisting that the information presented will be “age appropriate.” My problem with that is simple: Who decides what is “age appropriate” in such a sensitive area? Kids develop and mature at vastly different rates. Different kids are ready for different information at different times. One teacher couldn’t possibly even manage to get it right in a single classroom, much less a government dictating guidelines to an entire state.
The sponsors also keep insisting that their guidelines are just ensuring “fact-based” sex education. Here is my biggest problem with this and other “comprehensive” sex education programs. Education about sex itself is simple — much simpler than the Sex Education Establishment would have you believe. The plumbing talk — the actual “facts” — takes maybe 15 minutes. The rest is absolutely saturated in values. When should you be doing it? With whom? How is the possibility of pregnancy handled? How are the consequences of pregnancy handled?
The way those questions are answered will go a long way in determining what the rest of your child’s life looks like.
I know the advocates say that parents can still have those discussions at home. But there are two problems with that. One is that these very guidelines ensure that those discussions are also happening — extensively — in the classroom. And I can pretty much guarantee that, as a Catholic, the values being presented are going to be contrary to the values you are trying to impart to your children. The Colorado guidelines dictate the direction of many essentially values-based topics. They insist that, in discussion of pregnancy outcomes, abortion must be presented along with adoption and parenthood, and that one cannot be favored over another. They also ban the use of “gender norms” and, in a truly vague regulation, the use of “shame, stigma or fear.” And they dictate that any curriculum has to include the study of “healthy relationships,” mandating the inclusion of gay and lesbian relationships in that discussion.
My second problem is that studies consistently show that when a child receives information from a particular source, he or she will return to that source when they have questions or problems. Which means — you guessed it — when your kid has a sexual problem, he or she is going to be more likely to go to the sex ed instructor than to you for help and guidance.
In my talk transition above, I would tell them that, if they had questions about the details of sex, they should ask their parents. I really believe, as does the Church, that the family is a private, sacred space, and the ideal context for children to learn about private, sacred matters. The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, in their excellent 1983 document Educational Guidance in Human Love, says that “The family has an affective dignity which is suited to making acceptable without trauma the most delicate realities and to integrating them harmoniously, in a balanced and rich personality.”
The document also goes on to say “. . . if parents do not feel able to perform this duty, they may have recourse to others who enjoy their confidence.” The Church on the local level has sponsored many such initiatives in the past years. Among my favorites have been the Mother/Daughter and Father/Son programs, where parents decide when their kids are ready to participate, and accompany them so that the information is given to both at the same time, giving a springboard for later communication.
I could go on and on. Perhaps I will, and this will become a multi-part column. But for now, my point is simple: there are many, many ways to impart sensitive information about human sexuality to impressionable children. Individual families and school districts must be left to make these decisions for themselves, without being burdened by overbearing, biased, Draconian state regulations.
To contact your state senator and ask them to oppose House Bill 1032, click here.