I can’t stand Barbara Walters! I’m not saying she lacks worth as a human being. It’s just that she gets on my nerves. I was thinking about this when I was watching the View yesterday morning. Elizabeth was pointing out that Barack Obama supported sex education for kindergartners, as the McCain ad said, and she showed that the sex ed covered more than keeping kids safe from child predators. She even went so far as to quote the actual bill that Obama supported in the Illinois State Senate. She made a pretty thorough case that Obama was the inaccurate one when he claimed he only supported teaching kindergartners about predators.
While Elizabeth was talking, Barbara had this befuddled look like “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” She’s quoting the actual bill, Barbara! Then, Barbara accused Elizabeth of distortion because she left out two things: (1.) that the bill says the sex ed must be age-appropriate, and (2.) that parents can opt their children out of it if they have objections.
First of all, “age-appropriate” is a pretty subjective term. SIECUS‘ manual on sex education (which the Obama campaign endorsed by sending it to MSNBC) advocates that kindergartners learn about the sexual act, the names of their body parts, the “m” word, and how homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle (see Obama on Sex Education). I don’t consider any of that to be age-appropriate. Many of us wouldn’t let our young children watch an X-rated film that depicts sexual activity, so why should they learn about it in school?
Second, it’s good that parents can opt their kids out of the sex ed. But what if the parents don’t know what their kids are learning? They just go happily along, assuming the teachers are instructing their kindergarten children in what kindergartners actually need to know. They may have no idea that their children are learning SIECUS sex ed! Also, as I’ve asked before, if liberals are open to allowing parents to opt their children out of sex ed, why can’t they have the same policy with school prayer? But, no, with school prayer, it has to be removed completely lest one student take offense. After all, we wouldn’t want him to feel left out or ostracized. But such concern goes out the door when the issue is something conservatives care about (smut in schools).
And, third, what about Obama’s distortion? Do you forget that, Barbara, in your apparent adulation for the man? I guess that doesn’t matter.
I’m glad John McCain is standing by his ads. He’s not going to let a group of self-appointed gatekeepers tell him what he can and cannot bring up in his campaign.
And I’m also happy that we have alternative forms of media these days: talk radio, Fox News, and the Internet. We don’t have to take the liberal media’s word for it that John McCain is inaccurate. We can actually access the bill that Barack Obama supported. We can read people who defend the idea that Sarah Palin killed the Bridge to Nowhere. The liberal media no longer have as much of a monopoly on information as they once did.
I don’t want to debate the appropriateness of the bill or the possible curriculum.
I did wonder though if maybe we could discuss some of the ideas that you brought up.
You objected to particular things that would possibly be taught to kindergartners. At what age/grade (if any) do you believe it would be appropriate to teach those subjects in school (with the parents’ permission)?
I don’t really remember the sex education in school. I remember them teaching it in 7th grade but by then everyone already knew that stuff and there was already plenty of sexually active kids in school as well as some pregnant teen (it’s worse now).
I do remember them showing a video of a woman giving birth with the camera focused right on the actually baby coming out. Seriously I was a bit shocked that they showed it in school and everyone was pretty grossed out especially after seeing the afterbirth (which I don’t think anyone was expecting!)
Also why do you want there to be prayer in school? Do you want teachers to lead the prayer? Do you want it to be at the beginning of classes or at some other time? Should it be over an intercom by a professing Christian in the school? Would it be in the name of Jesus? Would it be a generic prayer to God? What advantage would it serve to have prayer in school?
I’d be interested in your thoughts.
Those are good questions, Bryan. I’ve written some on this blog about my experiences with sex ed. But I’m not exactly sure when I first received it. I know I got a bit of it in sixth grade–the boys were put in one classroom, and the girls in another. And, if I’m not mistaken, that may have also been when human reproduction was taught to us. In prior grades, our science classes were mostly about space, animals, and plants. But, like you, I already knew about the birds and the bees when I got sex ed.
Kids will probably ask at an early age where babies come from. I wonder if there’s a way to give them an answer without getting all that explicit (as in explicitly saying the names of the body parts–that strikes me as awkward).
But I may start sex ed around fifth grade–in terms of teaching about biology. And the boys and the girls would be kept separate. In prior grades, I’d teach them values like self-respect, etc. which would be important in terms of them being responsible. But I wouldn’t be biologically explicit before the fifth grade.
By and large, fifth grade was when I started learning about controversial political issues. So that would be the place to tell kids about the gay marriage debate–perhaps. But I’d take a “teach the controversy” approach rather than presenting homosexuality as a legitimate lifestyle.
On school prayer, that’s a hard issue. At the moment, I’d say we should just remove the prohibition on it and let communities do what they want, as long as they allow student to exempt themselves. Or a moment of silence may be a good idea, since then students who don’t pray wouldn’t stand out. Or having a prayer over the intercom may work. Objecting students wouldn’t have to get up and leave if they heard it–they could just listen and let the day proceed.
Why’s it important? I just think it’s a good idea for our country to recognize its religious heritage–to look up every once and a while. I’m not sure if school prayer would dramatically cure our national ills, but it wouldn’t hurt.
I guess I wonder what the big deal is about kids knowing the names of the body parts. In kindergarten I already knew the names of the different body parts and what made girls different from boys. I knew what sex was and some of the different names for it. I didn’t know what orgasms were or the concept of masturbation (sorry for not saying the “m” word ; ) which didn’t make sense with out knowing what an orgasm was.
Maybe I was exposed to more of these things than average kids. Maybe I wasn’t. It’d hard to tell. I do know that the stuff that was on tv and in movies that I was exposed to already at that age was a lot more explicit than any sex ed I got from the rest of my time in school (except for that birth video).
I guess I wonder whether it is better to start earlier with kids learning certain things about sex before they learn about it through improper unmediated channels (movies, tv, internet, rumors, friends, etc).
Also, I wonder at what age it is appropriate to let kids read the racier parts of the Bible and expose them to that stuff as well as what explanations we give them for the questions they ask and how detailed we get. I mean from the very youngest age we learn that Jesus was born of a virgin. How do kids understand that without knowing what sex is and what it means to be a virgin, etc.
I wonder if we are too puritanical or cautious about teaching our kids the basics of gender and sex. I wonder what they do in other countries.
Regarding prayer in school I am just personally not comfortable with it. I don’t think kids should be prevented from praying if they want on their own time but I don’t think schools should make a mandatory prayer time or have teachers leading prayers. At some point some teacher will argue to pray in the manner he/she feels most comfortable and to the gods or spirits he/she worships and I’m not ok with that.
That reminds we when my wife was going to have an emergency c-section the doctor who was going to perform it said that before she did things like that she liked to say a prayer with the family and asked if she could with us. I responded sure but I made sure as long as she was praying to Jesus. She laughed and said of course and so she prayed. I wouldn’t like the idea of my kids in school and teachers requiring them to pray with them and the teacher getting new-agey or pagan with the prayer. Anyway I’m rambling…
I knew the names of my body parts too in kindergarten. But I learned that in the privacy of my home. It wasn’t blurted out in a classroom. There’s a place for modesty, don’t you think?
I think a lot of us pick that stuff up with time. I think that we should teach values at an early age, but I’d save the explicit biology for later–and I’d separate the girls from the boys. There’s just more modesty in doing it that way.
On the virgin birth, I’m not sure how I learned about that. To be honest, we didn’t learn that much about the New Testament. Still, we learned “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and I don’t remember what we were told that adultery actually was. I wonder if we could just tell kids that mommies and daddies come together and produce babies, and Mary simply had a baby without a daddy. I’m not sure if we need to chart out the sperm and the egg (not that this is bad in an intimate home context).
I’d be hesitant also to let a teacher fashion a New Age prayer. But if it’s a theistic prayer over the intercom, that wouldn’t happen. And if it’s just a moment of silence, that won’t happen.
Thanks for your thoughts James. I guess the major thing I am not sure that I am in agreement with you on is whether teaching kids biology and what the different parts are is immodest in a structured classroom setting where it is treated as a lesson like every other subject. I just don’t know that these subjects are really that taboo or immodest to talk about in the classroom and I wonder whether treating them that way could possibly have a negative effect on children and the way they view gender specific biology and sex. It seems that it might give them an unhealthy view of those things that would be hard to break as they get older, much in the same way the church puts a lot of unneeded baggage on Christians in regards to sex because of the way it’s most often talked about in a negative taboo way and because they won’t touch the positive healthy aspects of it with a ten foot pole.
Why is sex and sexuality such a no no subject for Christians?
Regarding prayer in school I still am not able to see what the point of it would be. Either way I don’t think it is the same issue as sex-ed in school.
On the sex-ed issue: I think there is a place for modesty, but I also know from talking to teachers and other educators–as well as reading their experiences on forums for educators–that kids are having “sex” (in one way or another)as early as 2nd grade–they know what fits where and how. That is not all that unusual nowadays. Kids are much, much more sexually aware nowadays than they were 20, or even 10, years ago, and have already been exposed to a lot, especially in some geographical areas. So, there is a need for education in that area (especially protective education), but it also should be very highly respectful of parents, children, AND teachers. When second graders are learning about sex from other second graders, well–there needs to be some way for them to separate “truth” from “myth”.
On the school prayer issue: Since I taught in a private school, prayer was obligatory before the actual start of the day. They could have, just as easily, used a “moment of silence”, but it was a Catholic school, so it was a Catholic prayer. I guess it would depend on the demographics of the school. In any case, I used the time to take a very deep breath before class started (-:!!
In either case, parents AND teachers should have equal say in the matter It should be handled democratically, not legislatively. But, that is just my opinion…Janice