Did you hear about New York City’s comprehensive drug education program for all students in middle school and high school? The teachers inform the students that abstaining from drug use is best, but since it’s impossible to stop them from doing drugs, the teachers give out cards that list the most common drugs, explaining which are the most dangerous. They also distribute needles to kids who are involved in shooting drugs to help them avoid getting contaminated needles, thereby reducing their chances of contracting or passing on communicable diseases.
You haven’t heard about this? It sounds almost criminal to you? Well, the truth be told, I made it all up, but I did so to illustrate a point, namely, that much of the current sex-ed curricula in our schools borders on being criminal and, in many ways, it is just as irresponsible as my fictitious scenario.
Consider what’s happening in some of our nation’s schools.
In October of this year, New York City announced an aggressive, comprehensive, and quite graphic curriculum that would consist of one full semester of sex education in 6th or 7th grade (meaning, beginning with kids as young as 11) and again in 9th and 10th grade. Yet the age of consent in New York is 17.
This means that these schools (along with thousands of other schools throughout the nation) are giving kids practical instructions on having sex even though it is illegal for them to do so. (If my suggested drug analogy doesn’t work for you, then think in terms of the schools teaching 12 year-olds about responsible drinking of alcohol, since later in life, it will be legal for them but to do so at their current age is currently illegal.)
It can even be argued that, on some level, these schools fail to do everything in their power to prevent statutory rape, since in New York, it is “second-degree rape for anyone age 18 or older to engage in sexual intercourse with someone under age 15,” and that is certainly what is happening with many of these kids. Either way, the activities are illicit, be they consensual acts between 13 year-olds or consensual acts between an 18-year-old and a 14-year-old.
How, then, can the schools teach anything other than abstinence? Why are they teaching our children about “safe sex”?
A New York health department report in 2005 revealed that 1 in 10 kids reported having sex before the age of 13. As shocking as that statistic is, it also means that 90% of these kids did not have sex before that age. Why introduce them to all these sexually-charged (and often sexually titillating issues)?
I am fully aware that many of these kids are anything but “innocent,” being exposed to sexual issues a hundred different ways every single day, among their peers, through the media, and online. But I have no doubt that many of our schools could do a much better job of pointing them towards morality more than encouraging then to have “safe sex.” (If you say that the schools have no business teaching our kids morality, then why are they teaching them immorality, or at the least, condoning immorality?)
Returning to the new curriculum being introduced in New York City, the New York Post reported that some of the workbooks include these assignments (as you read this, ask yourself if this will encourage or discourage teen and pre-teen sex; what follows is extremely graphic, even for adults):
High-school students go to stores and jot down condom brands, prices and features such as lubrication.
Teens research a route from school to a clinic that provides birth control and STD tests, and write down its confidentiality policy.
Kids ages 11 and 12 sort “risk cards” to rate the safety of various activities, including “intercourse using a condom and an oil-based lubricant,’’ mutual masturbation, French kissing, oral sex and anal sex.
Teens are referred to resources such as Columbia University’s Web site Go Ask Alice, which explores topics like “doggie-style” and other positions, “sadomasochistic sex play,” phone sex, oral sex with braces, fetishes, porn stars, vibrators and bestiality.
Is it any comfort to parents that the Department of Education still encourages abstinence as the best choice? As noted by child and adolescent psychiatrist Miriam Grossman, “Kids are being told to either abstain or use condoms -- that both are responsible, healthy choices.” She also notes “that the [text]books minimize the dangers that pregnancy can still occur with condom use, and that viruses such as herpes and HPV live on body parts not covered by a condom.”
According to a staggering report released by the Centers for Disease Control in 2008, at least one in four teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease, which means that, at best, the schools are teaching the students how to have less risky sex, similar to playing Russian roulette with fewer bullets.
Are we just going to sit idly by?
(Part Two of this article will follow shortly.)
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.