‘Comprehensive’ sex ed abandons young people Friday, 04 September 2015

Next week, on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m., the Legislature’s Education Committee will hold a public hearing at the State Capitol on an interim study resolution, LR 334, introduced by Sen. Adam Morfeld.  LR 334 asks the Committee to examine “the integral link between academic achievement and risky health behaviors,” but its primary focus is on so-called “comprehensive sex education” (CSE) as a means of reducing risky health behaviors.

While interim study resolutions are for the purpose of studying an issue, they often lead to legislation being introduced. Legislative bills proposing to mandate CSE have been introduced in Nebraska’s Legislature in recent years and, thankfully, have not been adopted.

However, efforts to expand and mandate CSE seem to be on the march again. In addition to our Legislature’s interim study, some school districts and the Nebraska Department of Education are also looking at proposals to advocate CSE.

Parents and, indeed, everyone who cares about the health and well-being of our children and society should take notice of these efforts and oppose them for several reasons. First, CSE generally embodies a hedonistic view of sexual activity that sees nothing wrong or harmful with recreational sex outside marriage as long as its concomitant physical risks (i.e. pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases) are reduced through use of condoms and contraception.

However, with regard to pregnancy, there is little if any research showing that promotion and provision of contraceptives reduces unintended pregnancy, and contraception provides no protection from STDs. Even condoms do not provide protection from all STDs.

Second, one of the ironies of CSE is its use of the term “comprehensive” when its approach is anything but comprehensive. Human beings are more than physical beings. We are also emotional, spiritual and relational beings. Traditional CSE, however, gives little consideration to the relational, psychological and spiritual consequences of sexual activity outside marriage.

Third, CSE generally gives a minimal, dismissive nod to abstinence while emphasizing and promoting contraception. And many CSE curricula have content that borders on pornography.

Fourth, CSE embodies an approach to human sexuality that both abandons and insults young people by largely dismissing their capacity to control themselves sexually. This approach reduces expectations and sex education to the lowest common denominator rather than inspiring and assisting young people to postpone using this sacred gift until marriage, which is in their best interest physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Fifth, CSE presumes that communicating, directly or indirectly, an expectation or acceptance of out-of-wedlock sexual activity will have no effect on increasing that activity. This is contrary to evidence in other areas of risky behavior.

For example, the Nebraska Risk and Protective Factors Survey [2005] found that “young people are 2-4 times more likely to use alcohol and other drugs if parents show any acceptance of alcohol use.” It is highly improbable that this phenomenon applies to alcohol and drug abuse, but not to sexual activity.

A better approach is to help young people save the sacred gift of sexuality for marriage as God intended. In Familiaris Consortio, the Church explained sexuality as a “means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses… [it] is by no means something purely biological, but concerns the innermost being of the human person as such. It is realized in a truly human way only if it is an integral part of love by which a man and a woman commit themselves totally to one another until death (FC, #11).

Chastity education does not simply tell students to avoid sexual activity until marriage, it teaches them how and supports them in achieving this goal. It helps them to identify a healthy relationship and to avoid or get out of a dangerous or unhealthy relationship.  It helps them to develop skills to make good decisions, to set goals for the future and take realistic steps to reach them. It instructs them on practical ways to avoid inappropriate sexual advances, and why abstinence until marriage is optimal. It helps them grow in virtue.

In Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II said that “the trivialization of sexuality is among the principal factors which have led to contempt for new life.” So-called comprehensive/contraceptive sex education trivializes sex and undermines the true meaning of human sexuality. It should be opposed vigorously.