Sex-education: far from decent | ABC The Drum
My dear friend Benjamin Law wrote this excellent piece on the state of sex-ed in Australia, and you should read it.
In one presentation for Year 8 and 9 students, one middle-aged couple declared actor Scarlett Johansson was promiscuous (rather than, say, “responsible”) for publicly declaring she had regular STI checks. They argued condoms were ineffective and “flimsy”, and showed an American video lecture that urged women never to get abortions, even in the case of rape. Afterwards, they invited students - kids between the ages of 12 and 14 - to sign virginity pledges. A similar organisation told young women the contraceptive pill was tantamount to abortion, that condoms were immoral before marriage (and blocked a husband’s “essence” during marriage) and that homosexuality was exclusively caused by sexual abuse at a young age. These aren’t fringe organisations. They’re well-funded by churches and donors, and regularly invited speak at both private and public schools in the regions and capitals.
Read the rest and spread it around!
At my Catholic school we were taught baby-making in year seven and sex in year nine. In year seven we had a special teacher come out from CEO (Catholic Education Office) to teach us where babies came from. It was pretty basic stuff. She also told us about how twins are made - there are two sets of twins in my family, one identical set and one non-identical set, so I had a pretty good idea. In the midst of explaining the difference, the teacher stopped and asked the students if we had seen the ACA interview the week before about how twins can read eachothers’ minds. That’s right, a teacher began to teach in a Sex Education class that twins are born with psychic powers, and that when you pinprick one twin, the other one feels it. I shit you not. I raised my hand and disputed her, but she was much too adamant - and so was everyone else in the class, I was singled out and a teacher gave me that dirty look that translates to ‘stop making the school look bad’. Year nine was much worse. For one, our sex education teacher was the 70 year old Religion teacher. I know what you are thinking she probably taught us about fire and brimstone - well, yes, she did - But she also told one of my friends that she was not a child of God because she was an IVF baby. Luckily, Catholic School Students in this country aren’t usually Catholic, so my friend brushed it off. This same teacher told us that the emergency contraception pill and RU486 (the abortion pill) were the same thing. Around this time, my class of about 70 were taken out of class at the end of the day to participate in a protest march on it’s way through our small country town. We were not told what this march was about until we got to it and asked an fifty-year-old white man what the march was about : ANTI-ABORTION. Our parents weren’t notified about this excursion and we were asked if we wanted to partake. We were also too young and stupid and too sheltered to know how unethical this situation was. Another teacher who was a substitute scarred me and a friend for life by asking us to read a letter he had written for the local paper which described abortion in horrific detail. Calculated detail. Long story short, don’t send your kids to a Catholic school. Even better, don’t be Catholic.
I was lucky enough to go a Catholic school that, from memory, did a decent, scientific job of teaching about puberty and pregnancy in Year 7, then contraception in Year 9. We weren’t supposed to be taught about contraception, but the staff were sensible and taught us about it regardless in both Year 9 and 10 (though there was an emphasis on the ineffectiveness of contraceptive methods, and the only test question they could ask was “What is the only 100% safe form of contraception?”). It’s ridiculous and not OK that this was considered rulebreaking. That knowledge was incredibly valuable.
We also had a compulsory seminar in Year 10 in which a couple spent the entire day convincing us of the merits of abstinence. I wish I could remember what was said, but all I recall was being quite influenced by it, as was a more promiscuous friend who was almost swayed by their argument that it wasn’t too late to stop. There were some scary statistics about STDs and how women are 93% more susceptible to them (a fact that I’ve believed, though on searching now Google has failed to reinforce it with any similar statistics). I think I’m safe to say that it didn’t work on the vast majority of girls in that room. And while it wasn’t as objectionable as the horrible scenarios above, we would have benefited more from an extra day of normal classes.
Hopefully by the time this generation has kids Catholicism will have progressed far enough that stories like these are relics on a par with my Dad’s stories about a primary school nun who belted him for rocking on his chair, even though he insisted that the chair’s legs were uneven.