Comprehensive sexual education can be a difficult sell to many people, even when specifically coupled with abstinence education. This explains why Rep. Lynn Hemingway (D-Salt Lake) is sponsoring a bill which would allow parents to choose between two different types of health classes for their kids. One would provide comprehensive sexual education, while the other would focus more on abstinence-based education.
But a report released by a United Nations agency will make comprehensive sexual education even tougher to sell among those with a more traditional worldview of parenting and child-rearing. The report implies that it's O.K. to teach five-year-old kids about masturbation.
Produced by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the 98-page report is entitled "International Guidelines on Sexuality Education", and can be viewed HERE. Published in June 2009, the report seeks to make a case for standardized sexuality education worldwide in order to reduce their vulnerability to coercion, abuse and exploitation, unintended pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. Many young people approach adulthood faced with conflicting, confusing, and incomplete messages about sexuality and gender.
To ensure some degree of age-appropriateness, the report divides kids into four different classes; Level 1 (ages 5 to 8), Level 2 (ages 9 to 12), Level 3 (ages 12 to 15), and Level 4 (ages 15 to 18+). Some overlap is prescribed to better ensure continuity. Many of the objectives are salutary; children as young as five are curious about their bodies, their bodies' reaction to different stimuli, and the differences between gender. Thus sexuality education directed towards children as young as five is not necessarily wrong.
Except UNESCO goes just a bit too far in some cases. Scroll down to page 54 of the report and you'll see what I mean. On Sex, Sexuality, and the Life Cycle, here are the stated learning objectives for Level 1 (5-8):
Explain the concept of private parts of the body. Key Ideas:
• Most children are curious about their bodies
• It is natural to explore and touch parts of one’s own body
• Bodies can feel good when touched
• Touching and rubbing one’s genitals is called masturbation
• Some people masturbate and some do not
• Masturbation is not harmful, but should be done in private
Why in hell are they even advocating such a discussion about masturbation to five-year-olds? By even addressing the issue, they are encouraging them to experiment with it. It's bad enough to promote masturbation amongst teens, but five year olds? When and where does the sexualization of our youth stop? When I was growing up, twelve-year-old girls were sucking on lollipops. Nowadays... , well... just look at the proliferation of teacher-student sexual liaisons in our schools.
According to a Fox News story about this report, Michelle Turner, president of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, is raising hell. She said, "At that age [five] they should be learning about...the proper name of certain parts of their bodies...certainly not about masturbation." Turner is also disturbed about some other recommendations in the report, to include explaining to children as young as nine about the safety of legal abortions, and to advocate and promote the right to and access to safe abortion for everyone over the age of 15.
Even some proponents are a bit leery. Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, a child psychiatrist in New York, doesn't see much harm in explaining basic concepts that kids of all ages will have questions about. But even she was baffled by some of the ideas the U.N. hoped to introduce to kids as young as five years old, who will be taught about gender roles, stereotypes and gender-based violence, asking "I want to know how you teach that to a 5-year-old,"
This is why parents need to remain cautious about "comprehensive sex education" in our schools. They need to personally audit the course materials when possible, serve on curriculum advisory committees when available, and report to the community on their findings when serving on such committees.
Kids need more that simple "abstinence-only" sex education. But teaching five-year-old kids about masturbation is unacceptable!