St Francis Q&A

Monday, February 26, 2007

Sex education: a "basic right and duty of parents"

The question of sex education was raised by a few anonymous bloggers. Below are:
1) the thoughts of Pope John Paul II (excerpts from his apostolic exhortation, “Familiaris Consortio”, #37)
2) questions from the Anons
3) a response emailed to me by a woman who taught CHS (Catechesis on Human Sexuality) for three years at her parish school.

1) “Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them… In this context education for chastity is absolutely essential, for it is a virtue that develops a person's authentic maturity and makes him or her capable of respecting and fostering the ‘nuptial meaning’ of the body.

Indeed Christian parents, discerning the signs of God's call, will devote special attention and care to education in virginity or celibacy as the supreme form of that self-giving that constitutes the very meaning of human sexuality.

In view of the close links between the sexual dimension of the person and his or her ethical values, education must bring the children to a knowledge of and respect for the moral norms as the necessary and highly valuable guarantee for responsible personal growth in human sexuality.

For this reason the Church is firmly opposed to an often widespread form of imparting sex information dissociated from moral principles. That would merely be an introduction to the experience of pleasure and a stimulus leading to the loss of serenity-while still in the years of innocence-by opening the way to vice.”

2) Anon: “We have to be realistic and that is teenagers and kids even younger are having sex so what is wrong with having sex education in the schools? It is not encouraging kids to have sex its just that the schools realize kids are doing it so why not educate them?”

Anon: "Does the archdiocese have a syllabus or some guide by which sex ed is taught to our Catholic youth? It seems, at least at St. Andrew's in past years that the class taught in 7th grade is a bit unstructured. I've heard the Q&A portion of the class has become a "can we shock the teacher" free for all. It would seem that a serious subject would deserve serious consideration. In addition, shouldn't sex ed begin when most children are entering into puberty? For many girls at least, it begins one to two years before 7th grade."

3) “…As you may or may not know, the ADW has ‘guidelines’ for the information that must be covered in CHS at each grade level, in the mixed, and the single sex setting. It also has additional material that is optional to cover. However, that is as far as they go. (A pastor of the Archdiocese) once told me that several years ago they were trying to get a unified program to be taught at all the schools, but as I said, it was such an emotionally loaded topic that they punted and left it up to each parish to come up with a program. So, the quality of your program will depend on the quality of the instructors, and the lesson that they prepare…

I have a lot of other thoughts as well, based on my experience, that touch upon other aspects of her question: use of question cards; starting in 7th grade is way too late; public school students receiving sex ed and AIDS education in 5th grade vs. parochial school students who have not been previously taught; parents as the primary educators of the children; and the whole overarching idea that the instruction in the parish should be much more than just “sex ed”. The Theology of the Body as taught by Pope JPII gives evidence that human sexuality is much richer and deeper than what is taught as sex ed.

Of course the instructors must be faithful to ALL of what the church teaches regarding sexuality (i.e., contraception, abortion, homosexuality, masturbation) because this is where the “shock and awe” questions will come up. Another wrinkle that I hadn’t considered prior to actually getting up in front of the girls and their mothers, is the hostility of some of the mothers, probably because speaking the truth regarding all these issues will touch personal hot-button issues of their own. How many of them are using contraception (we won’t ask for a show of hands . . .)? How many have family members with SSA issues?…”


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