Friday 31 May 2002 Teenage Sex: What should schools teach children?
Under New Labour, sex education is a big priority. New policies in this area are guaranteed to generate a furious debate. 'Pro-family' groups contend that young people are not given a clear message about right and wrong. Others argue there is still too little sex education. And some worry that all too often sex education stigmatizes sex. So what should schools teach children about sex?
AUTHOR: Editors: Dr Ellie Lee, Tiffany Jenkins
Contrasting approaches to this topical and contentious question are debated by
Simon Blake: Director of the Sex Education Forum
Peter Hitchens: a columnist for the Mail on Sunday
Janine Jolly: a health promotion specialist
David J. Landry: of the US based Alan Guttmacher Institute
Peter Tatchell: human rights activist
Stuart Waiton: journalist and researcher
Dr. Ellie Lee: Series Editor, Debating Matters
Tiffany Jenkins: Academy of Ideas
‘We can respond to their (children’s) plea for better sex and relationships education that will help them to develop the knowledge, attitudes and skills to manage their relationships and sexual health effectively. Indeed we cannot afford to do otherwise’.
Director of the Sex Education Forum and
‘The ugly facts are now all on our side. We do not need to gloat and we should not rub their noses in the disastrous statistics of abortions, illegitimate births, one-parent families, divorce, rape, sexual diseases and the rest. For the important thing is to change these facts for the better, and therefore if it is at all possible all decent people should be allies against the disaster which has overtaken family life in this country’.
columnist for the Mail on Sunday and a former Trotskyist who, after a spell in the Labour Party, now describes himself as a convinced reactionary.
‘Those promoting abstinence-only-until-marriage… want to impose their standard of behaviour on Americans who support more comprehensive approaches. The divide may never be closed. While respecting those who want their children to have an abstinence-until-marriage education, as adults we have a responsibility to provide students with the environment where they can learn vital information… Young people need information that is accurate and balanced, so that they can make informed choices and protect themselves’.
David J. Landry
Senior Research Associate with The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization specializing in sexual and reproductive health research and public education based in New York and Washington, DC.
‘Most pupils leave school with little idea of how to have good sex. They sometimes can’t please themselves, let alone their partners. The end result is bad sex and mutual dissatisfaction. ....Keeping young people in a state of sexual ignorance, disempowerment, ineptitude and dissatisfaction is a form of child abuse. It disfigures lives, creating untold erotic and emotional misery. The right to sexual health and happiness is a fundamental human right. It is time the school system prioritised sexual literacy, alongside literacy in words and numbers, to ensure that future generations live erotically and emotionally fulfilled lives in a mature, enlightened sexual democracy’.
human rights activist, specializing in sexual human rights, who campaigns for earlier, better quality sex education and for an age of consent of 14 - for everyone: gay, straight and bisexual.
‘Through the establishment of relationship education in schools an area of young people’s lives, which up until recently was left alone, has become both professionalized and problematized. And rather than allowing young people to develop their own network of friends to discuss sex and relationships, an attempt is being made to break the ‘power’ of the peer group, and in its place establish a network of teachers, counsellors and health specialists… The formalization, the professionalization and indeed the politicization of sex, and particularly of relationships, looks set to undermine rather than assist the development of intimate relationships amongst teenagers’.
community worker, journalist, researcher for the pressure group Generation Youth Issues, and author of Scared of the Kids: Curfews, Crime and the Regulation of Young People (Sheffield Hallam University Press, 2001).