A few months ago, I wrote a satirical tweet about sex education: “I sympathize with those who fear that sex ed will sexualize kids. Our youngest studied WWI on a Monday; by Friday he’d invaded Belgium.” The remark received an extraordinary 220,000 “likes” and 81,000 retweets. In other words, a lot of people support sex education and realize that opposition to it is often based on misunderstanding.
Unfortunately, much of the resistance to teaching schoolchildren about sex and sexuality comes from Christians, and the general view out there is that all Christians fall into this camp. It’s not true, of course, but it’s an entirely understandable conclusion. Because in Ontario and Alberta, where new curricula have been or will be implemented, conservative Roman Catholics and evangelicals have joined together with some in the Muslim and Sikh communities to present an organized opposition.
I’ve reported on several of the demonstrations against the Ontario curriculum, and while I’m sure many of the people present were well-meaning, I was shocked by the anger and hysteria, the number of homophobic comments and placards, and the general ignorance of what is actually taught in schools.
Many church people assume that sex education is a form of indoctrination, introducing all sorts of strange and perverse ideas at far too early an age. This is nonsense. The classes are more about explaining to young people that there is no need to feel guilty or ashamed about their feelings, including samesex attraction. Learning this can be not only life-changing but also life-saving.
There’s something else that flies in the face of those claiming, grotesquely, that sex ed is somehow about grooming kids for abuse by pedophiles. A good, thorough and modern sex education tells children that they own their bodies and always have the right to say no. It empowers them to recognize and report abuse and exploitation. So it’s jarring that Christians, who should care deeply about children’s safety, would often be so opposed.
The reasons, I believe, are based more on fear and culture than on love and faith. Change can be frightening, and I too am sometimes surprised, even shocked, at how rapidly society has transformed. But Christ called for revolution rather than complacency, and we have to be able to let go of the past and rejoice as the world is made anew.
Sex has long been a great taboo in many religious circles. We have assumed, wrongly, that there is something sinful about a healthy and open attitude to sex and sexuality. Parents are a vital part of their children’s education, but on the subject of sex, they have frequently failed to do an adequate job. Schools are there not to contradict but to help mothers and fathers, and ultimately to help children. In a few years, we will wonder what all the fuss was about. Until then, let’s be a little more trusting, optimistic and — yes — faithful.