There is a fundamental issue I have discovered (in my many many years of life :P) when it comes to resolving an argument. There are often ideological positions on both sides. Some of them are logically flawed from the start, and such flaws can be pointed out easily. Other times they boil down to differences in value judgments – for example, I place a higher value on the utility and efficiency of social programs than I do on the slight amount that my privacy is compromised by the census. Others clearly do not. These kinds of arguments are intractable, since they boil down to what a person thinks is important, and the best you can hope for is to find some common ground.
However, more often than not, disagreements boil down to conflicts that can be resolved by simply looking at data. Will raising taxes on cigarettes reduce use? Does capital punishment work as a crime deterrent? Do people become happier with more money in their pocket? Those are questions that are about observable, measurable phenomena, and we can (and have) evaluate them.
Same goes for “does sex education lead to promiscuity?” The evidence is very clear: again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again the literature is explicit that sex education programs are effective at imparting useful and valuable knowledge about sex and reproduction, without turning kids into bang-happy sluts (any more than they were when they started, at least). Comprehensive programs on safe sex actually seem to, paradoxically, reduce the rate at which kids have sex – at the very worst they are no more likely to have sex when armed with information.
(Click for full-sized image)
It seems painfully obvious in this case that a simple, cursory glance at the mountains of evidence would be enough to settle the debate. We may not like our kids having sex, but teaching them about it doesn’t make them more likely to do it, it just means they’re more likely to do it safely if and when they do.
But of course, if you want to strip reason, logic and evidence right out the argument, all you have to do is talk to the Catholic Church:
In the Philippines, a conservative, predominantly Catholic country, even older students learn little about how to make babies, or – of more urgency according to many officials and health workers – how to prevent making babies. But despite stiff opposition from the Catholic Church, this could be about to change.
In yet another example of religion’s pre-occupation with sex; ironic, since all of these bishops and priests are celibate, the Church has taken up the cause against teaching kids things. Knowing things leads, as everyone knows, to doing things. The first thing I did when I learned about particle physics, after all, was go out and build a nuclear bomb (I named it ‘Shroom’). It’s no surprise to me, having been raised Catholic, to see the Church be wrong, yet again, both in terms of public policy and science. What does surprise me, however, is the secular response. Similar to what took place in Argentina and Venezuela, the secular authority is telling the Church to go anoint itself:
Recently, the education department decided to launch a pilot scheme introducing sex education into the school curriculum from the ages of 11 onwards. The former education secretary, Mona Valisno, who has just left office because of a change of government, spearheaded the campaign, saying it would empower schoolchildren to “make informed choices and decisions”.
Sadly, the Whore of Babylon still has some power to exert over lawmakers:
According to Mrs Valisno, there will be no mention of abortion, or even contraception, during any of the new lessons. She said the scheme was not designed to emphasise the actual sex act, but to promote personal hygiene and interpersonal relationships.
This is doing no favours at all for the poor in the Phillipines, who are the most in need of real instruction. I have no doubt that when the program, with all of the useful information taken out of it, fails to reduce unwanted pregnancies and STIs, the Church will crow about how education doesn’t work.
“Children are fragile creatures. The [education] department should be very, very careful not to teach children about matters they will imitate the following day,” said Monsignor Pedro Quitorio, a spokesman for the highly influential Catholic Bishops Conference.
The shocking hypocrisy and complete lack of human decency inherent in a Catholic spokesperson arguing to protect the fragility of childhood leaves me cold. The stupidity of not wanting children to imitate the positive things they learn in school about protecting themselves from disease and unwanted pregnancy leaves me wondering why anyone with any kind of moral instinct would listen to a single word this organization has to say about values.
Like this article? Follow me on Twitter!