5 Things Christians Should Know about Sex-Ed in Schools
- Meg Gemelli Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2017 6 Mar
Technology has changed the way we talk about sexuality, as has the current social and political climate. Parents face issues unheard of by generations past. Access to erotica and pornography has changed the landscape of sexual know-how. “Early exposure” (under age 14) isn’t uncommon, and educators do everything possible to keep up with our children’s developing notions of sex. Here are five things you should know about your child’s education.
1. Teachers would love for parents to work them out of a job.
Sex-Ed exists because too many school-age children are either unknowing, or suffering gross misunderstandings of normal body functions, respect in relationships, and concepts of healthy sexuality. Parents avoid these topics out of discomfort, an assumption that the school curriculum is sufficient, or due to a lack of involvement. Friends and various media have taken the roles of teacher for children who want to understand the world and the bodies they’re living in.
Within conservative Christian circles, parents fear the worst – that our kids are becoming indoctrinated by public education efforts. Likewise, educators fear that avoiding sexual health will result in a generation of children left with no basic tools by which to protect themselves. They witness the devastation of poor life choices, relational pain, and disease daily.
Our schools need help. They need all of us to talk with our children about sexuality, beginning at a young age. They need us to use appropriate terminology for body parts and experiences. They also need us to be healthy, ourselves–spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
When we’re at peace with our own experience and God-given sexuality, the next generation can trust us for truthful instruction. We begin with a forthcoming attitude about the basics of our creation.
“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)
2. Parents have the choice to opt out.
In the state of North Carolina, students who opt out of the 14-week “Family Life” course remain in their P.E. class at no penalty. Though details vary state to state, this option is fairly standard.
Parents wishing to forgo the class are encouraged to provide lessons in their own homes. It’s important to note that, despite teachers’ best efforts to oversee conversation, children talk during free time. Parents should be willing and able to answer questions, or to dispel myths, whether or not their child has “opted out” of class.
Simply stated, if we don’t have a plan to train up our children, somebody else will.
3. School programs address the what and how of human development, but not necessarily the why.
Educators are faced with moral dilemmas daily. While they hold personal convictions, they’re not at liberty to share them. We can acknowledge that bias does occasionally seep into instruction, but overall, sex education occurs at the most basic level – catering to families of all religions and beliefs. This can be a benefit to Christian families who don’t share the views of the educator. On the other hand, moral responsibility is then subject for each student to determine for him or herself.
As a typical example, a curriculum leader might address a hormone like oxytocin, and explain that it helps people to feel close and bonded, but that leader can’t discuss why it’s important that we bond to one person alone. Of course, Christ-followers understand that the reasons are many. The school system can’t endorse sex as either a good and holy thing as the Bible teaches, nor can it apply a negative connotation to sex outside of marriage.
The school is adept at providing raw information, but it’s up to parents and caregivers to give our human experiences meaning.
“But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and Who called me by His grace…” (Galatians 1:15)
4. In some states, parents have control over which health track a child takes: abstinence-only vs. abstinence-encouraged.
What’s the difference? For parents who want their children to learn an all-encompassing approach to sex education, parents might choose the “comprehensive” route. Students in this class are taught that abstinence is the only method of ensuring 100 percent pregnancy and disease prevention, but the comprehensive theory says, “Waiting is always better, but this is what’s available to help you stay ‘safe’ if you don’t.”
Abstinence-only curriculums don’t include contraception information. They take a “warning” approach, highlighting parenting responsibilities, socio-emotional consequences, and disease prevention. Despite the seemingly Christian-leaning “moral” nature of the abstinence track, the spiritual and emotional effects of sexual activity are not heavily delved into. Programs typically last just 14 days or less each school year.
There’s a variety of literature debating the efficacy of both types of programs related to pregnancy rates, age at first intercourse, and sexually transmitted disease. Though experts can’t seem to agree on an exact curriculum, the majority confirms that children should experience a well-rounded approach: discussing spiritual, emotional, physical, psychological, and relational aspects of sex.
Regardless of the program you choose, your involvement is the best predictor of your child’s future success in relationships.
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well…” (3 John 1:2)
5. Personal life is briefly discussed, but children with additional needs are referred to the guidance counselor or school nurse.
Students react to the coursework differently depending on their experience of relationships and sex. Staff are sensitive to issues including: history of abuse, exposure to pornography, loss of a parent, speed of a child’s development, older sibling influence, family values, and media habits.
Although phenomena such as “hook-up” culture, dating apps, music, movies, magazines, sexting, erotica, peer pressure, and pornography may be briefly addressed, in no way is a teacher able to navigate a child through these challenges on a daily basis. If you already know that your child is struggling with one or more of the above-mentioned issues, it would be wise to speak with your school’s staff in advance of his or her participation.
If the passing of time, method of communication, and access to technology has done one thing, it’s increased our children’s abilities to hold us accountable as guides. Never before has a generation had to sift through so much competing information, or had access to it. It’s an honor to be charged with the responsibility of raising them. I hope you think so too.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
Please pray with me:
God, may you use us mightily to increase discernment, knowledge, and self-control in our children. Lord, help us to develop in them an understanding of the beauty of relationships, the wonder of Your holy dwelling place in us, and Your purpose for their lives. Strengthen us with Your words, Your truth, and make Your will for their education known. Amen.
Meg Gemelli is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a wife and mama to three crazy-brave guys, and an unfortunate disaster in the kitchen. Join conversations about faith, health, and family at www.TheGrittyPearl.com.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: March 6, 2017