Bad education

In amongst the current cat calls across Parliament about the state of British education in schools, there can be heard the cry for sex and relationship education in schools. I never thought I would be sceptical about the provision of sex education in schools until I saw my own children go through what passes for sex and relationship ‘education’. If I’d known what idiotic ideas their teachers would present to them, I’d have removed them from class for the duration of the lessons. Because if teaching can go bad in any area, in this area, it can go really, really bad.

Example: aged 9, my daughter – small for her age, slim, with very little body fat, and therefore, extremely unlikely to begin menstruating any time soon, given that there needs to be a critical level of body fat for this to happen, and given that there are genetic aspects to age of menarche and there is no family history of early menstruation – comes home from school very worried because her class teacher, a middle aged man, has told all the girls in the class that from now on, they all have to take sanitary pads into school every day, in case they start their first period.

Now, a few girls start as young as nine, but not many. For those who do, can’t the school spend a couple of quid on some pads for use in emergency? No, apparently not. They would prefer to save their money, and in doing so, give every  little girl the impression that she personally, as an individual, might start bleeding at any minute. The teacher presumably thought that this was sensible precaution given the bare possibility of commencement of menarche; what it meant however to the mind of a small girl was day after day, week after week, of worry that she was about to start her periods, and indeed, she had to carry a pad with her in any case, out of fear also of getting into trouble with her teacher. It was several years before she needed it. Moreover, can’t I, as her mother, be the one to have this chat with her? Given that it was very very unlikely that she’d start at that age, I had not yet broached the topic. How dare this complete stranger pre-empt my maternal discussion with my own daughter?

Second example: my daughter, aged about nine or ten, came home from school and told me that her teacher, the same middle aged man, had instructed the class that girls had to wear bras or else their breasts would sag. On what planet does this pass for sex education? Isn’t it up to the girl whether or not she wears a bra? Given that virtually all of them are going to want to wear bras anyway, why do they have to be told this by anyone, least of all a man? Why do they have to go to school in order to learn, to return having been told as if it’s a fact, that sagging breasts are to be avoided? What fucking business is it of my daughter’s teacher if, at some time in the future, her breasts sag or not? (What kind of a weirdo is he to care about this?)

Third example I must confess involves not  my own child but the son of a friend, who was a year or two ahead of my daughter at her secondary school. He was the kind of kid who doesn’t lie or make things up – sweet and very literal and a bit young for his age. He reported a sex and relationships lesson he’d had, aged 14, on consent to sex. The teacher explained to the class that consent to sex was only an issue for girls, not for boys. Why? Because if you’re a boy, the teacher said, if you had an erection, that meant that you were ready for sex. The lesson then proceeded to explain to boys how to tell if a girl was really up for it.

Had this been my own son who had come home with this story, I would have been at the headmaster’s office door within fifteen minutes with a gun. Okay, I haven’t got a gun, but I would have been in that kind of mind set. I would also have rung the police. Encouraging minors to engage in sexual relations is a criminal offence. Telling children (because that’s what they are) that any time a boy has an erection, he really wants sex, is to my mind encouraging them to have sex. Teenage boys get erections at the drop of a hat. And in any case the idea that sexual arousal in itself means that you really ‘want’ to have sex is monstrous. It completely destroys any notion that a human being might make any kind of judgement about whether to act on their desires or biological urges. You get an erection whilst alone with your best friend’s girlfriend? You want to have sex with her, then, according to this teacher. Your geography teacher puts his hands on your inner thigh and to your surprise, you get an erection involuntarily – you really want to have sex with your geography teacher, don’t you? He’s only just doing what you really want him to do, isn’t he, now, children?

Those who hold more conservative views about sexual relations have long had worries about the provision of sex education in schools. I never thought I would see their point of view. But what comes out of these few examples? A peculiar kind of laissez-faire, sexist, quasi-amoral liberalism. Girls, don’t let your tits sag! Boys, if you’ve got a hard-on, go for it! Makes you realise why in the old days, schools just stuck to describing the biological facts.


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