Don't force 'facts of life' on children

By Gabrielle Pickard
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, September 6, 2011
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The most fascinating characteristic of children is their innocence and naivety. Crushing this purity and simplicity by teaching them about sex effectively robs children of their childhood. They have their whole lives ahead of them to experiment, enjoy and even worry about issues related to sex. So why activate the precarious love-affair we have with sex earlier than we need to by introducing young children to sex education? The debate about when we should introduce children to such 'adult' matters has been under particular scrutiny in China recently, since Beijing's first sex education textbook for primary schools was introduced into classrooms.

The book, titled, "Footsteps of Growing Up" shows some almost pornographic images of a couple engaged in sexual activities. Some parents see such 'blunt' and 'influential' teaching methods as being a constructive step forward in educating China's youngsters about the 'facts of life'. However, alerting those so vulnerable, curious and easily-influenced about such intriguing and fascinating issues will surely only encourage them to experiment with, and even re-enact what they are discovering at school.

My four-year-old-son has already been asking me questions about how babies are made. This is a natural query many young children make as they start to become inquisitive about their own bodies and notice the differences between the genders. Adopting an honest attitude to such questions is important. However, we need not go into the same graphic detail that we find in the illustrations in China's explicit new textbook, "Footsteps of Growing Up". More important than how parents educate their children about sex is the fact that parents themselves should do the educating, not a teacher in a biology lesson. It should not be a school's right or responsibility to inform children about issues of a sexual nature. That is the job of the parents.

Sharing my feelings on this contentious issue is Celia Birchby, a head teacher at a primary school in Manchester, UK. The controversial and highly contested issue of when exactly we should begin educating children about sex has been the subject of concern in the UK recently, since it was announced that sex education may be made statutory for all primary school age children, aged 5 – 11. Mrs Birchby says the only way she would introduce sex education at her school was if it was statutory. Talking about the disadvantages of educating primary school children about sex, Mrs Birchby commented:

"Children grow up so quickly and are exposed to so much, why bring it on earlier than is necessary? Let children retain some innocence.

"Not all parents would be happy about their five-year-old knowing about sex. Surely they (parents) should have a say in this."

One of the alleged advantages of exposing children to explicit sex concepts and images, such as those found in the book, Footsteps of Growing Up, is that such exposure means that children will not need to turn to pornography on the Internet for answers. On the contrary, I believe that igniting children's curiosity about sex in the classroom will make them even more determined to seek out further information about such issues. The Internet will undoubtedly be a vital tool in helping children to satisfy their now firmly embedded interest.

Two schoolchildren took their curiosity about sex to extremes recently. This was evidenced by a 24-minute video which was posted on the Internet of a boy and girl having sex on a desk in a classroom in Wuhan No. 17 Middle School. The news that such a video was circulating on the Internet aroused the curiosity of many netizens, who searched for the video to satisfy their curiosity. No doubt many of the boy and girl's fellow pupils were also interested in the video. The shocking video naturally led to a barrage of criticism, with many believing it to be evidence of the erosion of morality, a so-called characteristic of the post-90s generation.

Whilst pre-marital, underage sex does go on, the fact that, in this case, it was performed in a classroom, on a teacher's desk, and then posted on the Internet is a shocking example of kids' inquisitiveness becoming voyeuristic and pornographic.

Teachers educating those with such innocent, young and easily manipulated minds about sex violate the sanctuary of the classroom. By turning what should be an intimate, special and private matter into an 'ordinary' subject like maths or geography, devalues this incredible act. Furthermore, I believe that if we 'normalise' sex in the minds of children, we will see more incidents like the Wuhan middle school sex video.

The author is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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