09/14/2012 12:07 EDT | Updated 11/14/2012 05:12 EST

Why Schools Don't Need Sex Ed


As the product of private, religious schools that didn't offer classes in sexual education, I can tell you with some degree of assurance that young men do not necessarily need to be taught about sex in school -- they do just fine figuring it out for themselves. I'll go a step further: any young male or female with even the slightest modicum of common sense should instinctively comprehend the many values of practicing sex safely, and as far as I've heard that's the central theme of sex ed as it's taught in schools. What I'm trying to say is I managed to figure out sex -- at least the idea of it -- without a teacher teaching it to me, and I don't think I'm an isolated case.

To begin, even if children aren't being taught about the birds and bees in school, chances are they'll still learn about sex at school anyways, because sex is, in some form or another, what kids chiefly talk about at school once you get past the earliest grades.

And if not, there's the Internet, the greatest repository in the history of mankind of sex education (and, yes, porn can fall under that category), and failing that one can still reliably fall back on biology: at a certain age, one instinctively thinks of sex -- not thinking about it is damn near impossible -- the point being, there are enough opportunities out there for kids to learn about sex to cover all the bases. We don't really necessarily need to rely on schools to do it.

Strictly speaking, then, it's not that terrible if parents -- like the father in Hamilton, Ont., who is demanding the right to be notified before his child is to be taught subjects he deems unseemly and/or wrong, or copycat couples in Toronto who want to pull their kids out of class when sexy time starts because they argue teaching about sex in that way, in that environment, goes against their beliefs.

People have been making this out to be an educational issue, as if allowing parents to pick and choose what their kids are taught when it comes to certain touchy subjects is somehow a danger to the very structure of public schooling. It isn't -- hell, I don't even think this is really a religious issue, either.

What this is about is parenting: These moms and dads live their lives in particular ways, based on sets of specific beliefs developed over time. (This, you'll notice, is also how you live your life, regardless of whether or not you are in any way religious.) And as parents it's their responsibility to teach to their progeny that specific behaviour and lifestyle, because it's really the only thing they're reasonably qualified to impart. In other words, it's their job.

And another thing: These parents may be insulting others' notion of public education, but they are not attacking it. Quite the opposite, they are retreating -- from talk of unseemly things in the classroom, yes, but also from the larger ideological battle relating to the role of religion in public schools, which as recently as May flared up over a provincial anti-bullying bill that allowed for gay-straight alliances in schools (the religious campaign failed, the bill passed). This isn't an act of aggression, it's capitulation, and that, realistically speaking, is the best anyone could have hoped for in this case anyways. All told, the religious parents' response here has been profoundly mature.

As for little Johnny Religious, how will his parents' decision to keep him out of sex ed affect him? As I said above, it likely won't harm him too much when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the thing. And it will hardly matter at all with regards to the crux of sex -- which relates to emotion, not anatomy, and so cannot be taught but must be experienced.

Further, if he doesn't get to learn about evolution either, because that is also contentious matter, well, one can not know about that concept, too, and still be a decent, highly functioning human being. Yes, little Johnny will be fine most likely -- despite his whacked-out parents' best efforts to screw him up.