Teaching Sex in Schools—Beneficial or Dangerous?
THE majority of the people in Denmark are evidently not disturbed by their country’s new compulsory sex-education law. Most seem to look on it as ‘a step in the right direction,’ something that will help children to attain a well-balanced life.
No one, of course, can deny that children need to learn the facts of life, how and why their bodies function as they do, what the procreation process is. It is also undeniably important that they have a healthy attitude toward these things, not looking on sex as somehow ‘unclean’ in itself.
Nevertheless, many persons see inherent dangers in Denmark’s new law or in the trend it represents. They are concerned about the increased authority granted to school officials and teachers and the corresponding reduction of parental control over children.
Guidance or Misguidance?
Many foresee the same danger that was pointed to some years ago by School Director Aage Nørfelt, who warned:
“The purpose of any instruction is . . . guidance, but if essential areas are ignored it can very easily become the very opposite, misguidance.”—Kristeligt Dagblad, August 24, 1966.
Those urging sex education in schools, he said, take the position that ‘young people are going to have sex relations anyway’ so the main thing is ‘to help them use contraceptive methods and avoid pregnancies and illegal abortions.’ He then argued:
“But in this connection one fails to do the most essential thing: to tell these big children (for that is what they are) that what is wrong is that they have intimate relations at that age.” Life has “its natural rhythm which must be respected. The child shall be a child, and the youth a youth in those specific periods.” This is the way they are prepared for fully mature life later. Just as little children that try to imitate older persons look foolish, and elderly persons trying to appear youthful make themselves ridiculous, so it goes ‘contrary to the nature of things for immature youths to try to live as mature adults.’ Director Nørfelt’s conclusion, therefore, was:
“The preaching that when one is sexually mature biologically, one has the right to sexual intercourse, is false. It is misguidance, not guidance.”
This is not to say that the new legislation totally ignores the problems involved. More than simply giving children sex information, it does endeavor to provide some guidelines. But what are these? What strength do they have?
As a basis for such guidance, the legislative committee used a treatise by Doctor of Theology K. E. C. Løgstrup. It recognizes that “the time of youth is often characterized by inconstancy and fickleness.” Youths are to be told that, if they lack the ability to establish lasting relationships, it is not in their best interests to start a sexual relationship. That, rather than solving problems, such relationships “often create new problems.” Any encouragement to chastity and restraint, therefore, is either lacking or very weak. Youths are to be warned against ‘taking chances’ that might bring pregnancy, counseled that both parties are responsible to use adequate birth-control provisions, even instructed as to when the best circumstances are for having sex relations. Along with all this they are told of the importance of ‘understanding’ and ‘consideration’ in these matters. But as to any moral obligation toward God, the treatise by theologian Løgstrup says nothing. What the young people’s parents believe as to right conduct is apparently viewed as immaterial. In the final analysis the young people are left to make their own decisions as to what they should or should not do.
Would you expect young people receiving that type of instruction to abstain from sex relations or to engage in such?
How consistent is it for legislators to doubt parents’ ability to guide their children wisely and at the same time credit inexperienced, immature youths with the wisdom necessary to make wise decisions when passion stirs in them? The trust shown in youthful judgment by sex-education advocates today is remarkable, and—in view of the problems that youth already has world wide—is at least equally naïve.
Would it make sense to explain to a young boy the mechanical functions of a car, show him how to drive it and then send him into the streets of a large city with the simple instruction that he should be ‘considerate’ and use good judgment—without giving him any knowledge of, or feeling of responsibility toward, traffic laws? City traffic is not nearly as complex as are human relations nor as fraught with dangers as those can be, particularly in our modern times. Are we to believe that God has given us no rules to follow?
State Invasion of Parents’ Rights?
Does the new law open the way for an invasion of parental rights by the political state? Department leader Oskar Hansen has complained to the Human Rights Commission that it does. He calls attention to the first amendment, article 2 of the Human Rights bill, which states:
“With the exercise of the functions which the state takes upon itself in education and instruction, it shall respect the parents’ right to see to it that such instruction and education is done in agreement with their own religious and philosophical conviction.”
But one Danish clergyman, Søren Krarup, goes beyond this. Expressing views different from many of Denmark’s clergy, he likened the new law to ‘neo-Nazism.’ In Kristeligt Dagblad of June 4, 1971, he warned: “It is an effort to steal children from their parents just as the Nazis did.”
Asking how it is that a government can tell people they are incapable of managing their own affairs—when it is the people who have elected the government—his answer is:
“It is done by claiming an expert knowledge which ordinary people do not have. The tendency is obvious in politics. . . . But it is also beginning to penetrate the educational field which abounds with all-knowing and all-powerful ‘experts’ on the well-being and happiness of children.”
Such ‘experts,’ he says, claim to know other people’s innermost thoughts. “And, what is more important, they claim they know better than people themselves.” He likens them to a doctor who feels he should not waste time discussing with patients the treatment he favors, since “he knows best.”—Berlingske Tidende, June 20, 1971.
Where the Problem Really Lies
Is the problem of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, perverted ideas about sex, really to be solved in schools? For that matter, what success have schools had in solving other serious moral problems involving youth? Have their courses on civics and good citizenship been able to avert or stem the growing tide of drug addiction, crime and violence among youth? So, then, is the absence or limited extent of sex education in schools the true source of the problem?
Back in 1960, when the Women’s National Council made their appeal, they said: “It is our impression that all too many youths do not get the support they should in the home or at school and therefore they come out into the world unprepared and ignorant.”
But, obviously, home training precedes school training in a child’s life.
Former Minister of Education K. Helveg Petersen focuses on the true source of the problem, saying: “The school will never be able to carry out this assignment in a fully satisfactory manner, because first and last it belongs in the home.”
That is where the Bible places the assignment too. When an Israelite father discussed the Mosaic law with his children, as he was to do daily in accord with Deuteronomy 6:6-9, they would inevitably receive much sexual instruction, as anyone can see simply by reading that Law in the Bible. Parents—not some outside persons—gave such instruction and answered the questions of their children. And when the children heard the law on these matters read in public, the parents were present with them. (Deut. 31:10-13) Parents today who prefer to let schools care for this assignment cannot claim Bible backing. They do this at grave risk.
What Parents Can Do
Parents have tremendous advantages over others in giving sex education to their children. They know their children better than anyone else. They know how far these have developed physically, mentally and emotionally. And, if conscientious, parents naturally show superior regard for their children in giving individual help according to each child’s needs and circumstances.
What can parents do where authorities compel children to receive sex instruction in school? They can regularly inquire of the child as to what is being taught, as well as find out what he has heard from playmates and others on this subject. Then, with an open and honest discussion, the parents can supply the child with additional, healthful and helpful information. They can correct and counteract wrong ideas and strengthen the child’s determination and desire to follow the Biblical, Christian standard of right conduct, thereby seeking God’s blessing.
Here, of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Parents should guard against letting the schools take the initiative from them on the various points of sexual instruction. In Denmark, the opinion on which the new law is based says that parents should be informed as to how sexual education will be taught and at which age the different features of the subject will be introduced. Where schools fail to carry this through, parents might interview teachers to obtain such information. Then they can prepare their children beforehand so that the children already have the healthful Scriptural viewpoint in their minds when the schools begin discussing certain points. In countries like Denmark parents need to begin doing this even before their child enters the first grade.
And, even though governments impose compulsory sex education, parents can still talk with school authorities and make known their concern as to moral issues that may arise. They can express their disapproval if teachers encourage sexually loose conduct. Some Danish parents have authorized their children to request permission to leave the room if sex discussion becomes depraved. However, in view of the natural curiosity of children and youths, some parents may well feel that this is expecting a lot from their children. In some parts of the world, parents able to do so have preferred to provide their children with private school instruction, as by correspondence courses or other means approved by law. They view any extra expense involved as very minor in comparison with the spiritual well-being of their children.
Obviously, the implementation of a new law such as that passed in Denmark carries with it implicit dangers. But the greatest danger already existed before the new law was passed: the indifference of so many parents who accept the idea that the ‘experts’ know best and that they themselves do not have the ability to give adequate and complete sexual instruction to their children.
Based on his own experience, child psychologist Svend Heinild expresses the conviction that the problems of youth are not due so much to a lack of information as to a sort of spiritual and emotional undernourishment. (Politiken, August 16, 1970) Christian parents who genuinely love their offspring will see to it that this is never true of their children. They know their God-given right and responsibility to counsel and instruct their children in all facets of life. They are willing to give the time, thought and effort needed to protect their children against bad moral influences.
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Parents can inquire of the child as to what is being taught and, if necessary, they might interview teachers