Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Sex ed rant..(last part)

Recalling that these posts are just therapy for me and probably of no use to anyone else, I will proceed with my rant for the last time, I promise.

So far I have argued that sex education can not be confined to biology lessons, it simply doesn’t belong there as it isn’t science and treating it as science trivialises the issues. I have also said how worrying the attitude of the state is to children, how it sees them just as young consumers.

How can we teach about growing-up to children in such a way that we do justice them, treating them as precious and unique gifts of God whose wholeness, dignity and grace must be preserved and encouraged as much as is possible?

For Catholics, surely the answer lies within the context of the Theology of the Body. In order to get anywhere with this however certain things will need to happen. Firstly, we will have to reclaim Genesis from the biblical literalists. Adam and Eve and their intended nature and fallen nature are essential to an understanding of the Theology of the Body. We live in a culture where even mentioning Adam and Eve makes people think you are a simpleton who denies evolution. In contrast, Adam and Eve profoundly encompass what makes us human, what makes us so dependent on God and through God’s interaction with them we understand more clearly why a second Adam was needed to redeem us. Secondly we need to be really convinced about the validity of what we are doing, if we were then we would face the secularists with confidence and on our own terms, we would also face sex education with joy and confidence…we are a long way from this.

I have often been tempted to say to my fellow teachers (but lack the bottle), Holy Mother Church loves and cares for us and wants to protect us from lousy sex., She wants us to be good lovers by teaching us to love in the way God intended us to love each other. Yes, we must adopt an unpopular NO SURRENDER approach to the sanctity of life, to sex before marriage, to contraception and to all forms of illicit and immoral sexual activity. However, we must not forget that the Catholic Church is a great defender of the sensual world. We have great feasts, we ought to know how to put on good public pageantry, we have fantastic art and music and our sensual world transcends the ordinary because it is all directed towards God. We are equally at home with the natural and the supernatural and with the marvelous and the miraculous. We are the home of mystery and awe. Little of this penetrates the average Catholic secondary school and our children are not properly nourished as a result.

What about the non-Christian world? I have some sympathy with any secularist who says he doesn’t want to have to believe in God. I do believe that we can deliver good quality sex-education in this context too. Firstly, a new anatomy of the human body is needed. An anatomy that takes into consideration our self-awareness. An anatomy that acknowledges that the human body is the seat of the intellect (our ability to reason), the will (our ability to desire) and our heart (our ability to love). Without this anatomy, children are left without any framework for their emotions and will be left believing they are consumers is a shopping mall of choices and lifestyles devoid of higher purpose. It is truly is sinful if we allow this to continue to happen to the younger generation.


Mrs.Pogle said...

I have enjoyed your (restrained!) *rants*, Rita and share your concerns and potential solutions, although it is like banging one's head against a wall!
Mrs.P xx

irene said...

Realizing this is at some risk of offending you (which I do not want to do), permit me to finesse some of your points.

Yes, sex (and thus sex education) are tremendously important points -- though not in the same league with the gospel. More lives have been ruined by sexual error than probably any other evil (war maybe?). But what to do about it?

Life undoubtedly is very different in rural Britain than in the US. But in rural or urban US it is quite impossible to shield any child from a knowledge of sex. No child past the age of 3 is ignorant of the fact that male genitalia look different from female genitalia. Few have been successfully shielded from all views of nursing or pregnancy. By the time they are 5 or 6 they are noticing the analogous differences in domestic pets, farm animals, and zoo animals. Not much later most take note of mating and birthing activities in these same animals. Certainly before age 11, most are bright enough to see the analogy between animal genitalia and human genitalia, speculate on the possibilities, and experiment with them. And if they are a little slow to see the analogies, their friends gleefully help them. I'm sorry, by age 11 children pretty universally know the mechanics.

What they generally lack is knowledge about those non-mechanical things you referred to: the ability to reason, the ability to desire, and the ability to love. They lack the church's teachings about the Theology of the Body, the relevant Papal Encyclicals, the relevant parts of the catechism and the documents of VII. This situation is not a surprise in secular schools -- but it is shameful negligence in Catholic schools.

Let us responsibly accept responsibility for this situation which we have made. Yes, children need sex education, and we had better not wait until they are 11 -- at that point it is too late, it is all over. Sex education needs to start in the home, before children ever enter school, and continue all the way through. If the secular institutions do not permit teaching Catholic values from infancy on, then it is our responsibility -- beginning with our Bishops -- to see to it that we provide them in extra-curricular teaching. Surely this is more important than after school competitive sports (soccer et al.).

As usual, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

-- Irene

Rita said...

Hi Irene,

Glad you're still around. No, I don't think you are offending me, in fact I think we are saying much the same thing. The main thrust of my argument is that the biological approach on its own is no good. Indeed it debases sexual activity totally. My worry is that there is no vocabulary amongst our children to deal with the less biological aspects.

"Love", "desire", "will" and "reason" are not words they can get to grips with in the current educational climate. The sexuality of even quite young children can be terrifying, but also easy for adults to misread. If we are not calm and reasonable with our children then they grow up thinking we are all as smutty as a "Carry On" film when we shut the door on them.