for learning is always vital and particularly so in sex education.
There needs to be a suitable facilitator, by which I mean
a person who genuinely likes kids, has the necessary knowledge and
expertise, as well as high communication skills, and is totally
comfortable with the subject matter.
Boys and girls in school
need to learn to discuss personal issues without embarrassment.
Diagrams and illustrations must be freely available and the
correct words used for the parts of the body and various sex acts,
such as fellatio, cunnilingus, buggary, etc. If the teacher
is hedging, the students again will pick up the message that sex
is somehow 'dirty'. There are still grown women today who
speak of having a 'naughty' with their husbands. Where do
you think they picked up that expression? It can only have
come from an attitude learnt in childhood, either from a mother
who didn't enjoy sex, or from an over-prescriptive school education.
What laughingly passed
for sex education when I was at high school came only in the final
year far too late. Most of us (I went to an all-girls
school) knew the facts of life by then and had experimented to some
degree. The local parish priest was sent to face a roomful
of giggling teenage girls. He was totally ill-equipped to
deal with the material he had to cover and the sending-up he had
to endure by way of the facetious questions that were placed in
a box for his attention. These included, 'At what age should
a girl wear a bra?' or 'Is it a sin to neck?'. My personal
favourite was, 'How long should a kiss last?', to which the answer
was given, 'As long as it takes to say the Our Father!'.
In short, he and the
class were a joke. It was humiliating for him and an entire
waste of time for us. I realise that times have changed but
I don't know of too many schools where a professional counsellor
is engaged to teach personal development and life skills.
Dealing with problems and troubleshooting, yes, but prevention and
education, sadly, no. There is the usual excuse of budget
limitations but I see life-skills education, including the teaching
of sex, as a necessity today, not a luxury.
The teaching of moral
values within a religious context is, of course, tackled in the
various church schools and that's good. However, it still
needs to be handled with a view to the actual world we live in,
not a protected fantasy world behind cloistered walls. Sex
education should be taught with humour, common sense and in an atmosphere
of love, open-mindedness and frankness. Otherwise, it can
do more harm than good.