This Throwback Thursday Post was first published on December 12th, 2014. Warning: contains content of a sexual nature.
There’s an old saying: “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” It’s a little odd, when you think about it: shouldn’t our intentions be good? The road to Heaven certainly isn’t paved with bad intentions, is it? The answer, I think, is that the second half of the proposition is left out. It's about good intentions that are not grounded in reality, or in wisdom, or in God’s law: they create more problems than they solve (if, indeed, they solve anything at all).
“Is it OK if I take my pants off?”
A classic example of the Road to Hell Principle is the thoroughly modern practice known as “Sex Education” (Sex Ed informally). A concern, and I believe a sincere one in most cases, for the well-being of young people in an increasingly sexualized world has led to instructional programs in schools (and not just public schools) that, because they are disconnected from God’s law, and Natural Law, and plain common sense, promote the very harm they are intended to ameliorate. One such program has been in the news recently: a class run by a Planned Parenthood chapter in California that was invited to teach a class on sexuality to 9th graders in the local public high school. According to the Fox News story [full story here]:
. . . some parents are irate that their children’s sex ed class at Acalanes High School in Lafayette is being taught by employees of Planned Parenthood without their prior knowledge. They are also fuming over the methods and materials being used, including a checklist that asks students if they are “ready for sex” and another worksheet that describes how to give and obtain consent, as well as a diagram that uses a "genderbread" person for lessons in gender identity.
The Gingerbread Person is a cute little fellow who clearly was designed to appeal to children, much like the old Camel Cigarettes mascot “Joe Camel”; and like the much maligned cartoon camel, who was criticized for promoting an unhealthy product to children, Gingerbread Person offers reassurance to the very young that whatever they want to express or do sexually is not just all right, but good and desirable. Things, perhaps, that had not even occurred to them before. As for the class itself, many of the children “felt the sessions were pressuring them to have sex” or, as one parent put it, “Some of the kids were distracted because it was divergent from what they were taught at home.” Indeed. For example:
Included in the materials provided to students were documents and worksheets that included a checklist entitled, “Sex Check! Are You Ready For Sex?” in which the 13 and 14-year-old students are asked questions such as if they have water– based lubricants and condoms and if they could handle a possible infection or pregnancy. Another worksheet reads like a how-to on obtaining consent from a possible sexual partner and offers possible statements like “Do you want to go back to my place?” and “Is it OK if I take my pants off?”
"You can go now."
There are more problems with school-based sex ed classes that I can get into here. I will point out that the foregoing tends to support what many of us have been saying for a long time: that such classes not only debase sexuality and separate it from its appropriate place in a loving marital relationship, but actually encourage (or even “pressure”, as the students say above) early and promiscuous sexual activity.
Here’s another case, this time from the UK [full story here]. After a sex ed class, a thirteen year-old boy and girl
. . . went to a secluded area where they discussed what they had just been taught about sexual intercourse. The boy said that he asked the girl if she wanted to "try sex." Although the young girl repeatedly said "No," the schoolboy proceeded to pin the girl down and rape her. Afterward he allegedly told the girl, "You can go now."
This is only one case to be sure, but we can see a clear connection between the instruction and the act. And, as it turns out, many British students have misgivings similar to those expressed by their American counterparts above. From the Life Site story:
Earlier this year a poll of UK teenagers by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) [here]found that a large majority of both boys and girls complained that sex education often presents promiscuity as normal, putting additional pressure on them to become sexually active before they might otherwise do so. Many of the teens criticized the sex education lessons they had received at school for not doing enough to discourage them from becoming sexually active. One 18-year-old girl responded to the poll question about her sex-ed experience: "I always felt pressured by teachers, like, 'sex is normal, just be safe OK' when actually I wasn't interested in having sex at the time and was happy to wait for the right person.” "I don't think sex should be taught as 'the norm'. I think people should be made to feel comfortable and teachers should say, 'you should wait, the law states 16, don't be pressured'."
The Definition Of Insanity
According to Dr. Philip Ney, a retired professor of psychiatry, there is plenty of research to show that the negative effects of sex ed programs are very real. In an essay he wrote for Life Site News [full article here] he says:
It is quite conclusive now, that the more sex education, the more sexual activity and all the problems that go with that. The introduction of sex education is well correlated with the increase in abortion, STDs and boy-girl interpersonal problems. Good education gives people the desire to try it out or learn more experientially. Paradoxically, in that respect, current forms of sex education are good education but have the wrong results . . . The earlier the sex education, the younger children explore sex and try various sexual techniques. Present evidence makes it possible to also conclude that the earlier the sex education, the earlier the sexual behavior. Thus sexual education is sexual titillation.
Despite all the evidence that these programs do the opposite of what they intend, the “experts” have nothing to offer but more of the same. In response to the British case above, one such expert said that “in her opinion the solution to this type of misbehavior is more sex education, ‘and much earlier than 13, I would say.’” This whole situation brings to mind an old saying: “Insanity is to keep doing the same thing, while expecting a different result”. But what else can they do in the public schools, or in the secular world in general? They have rejected a worldview in which healthy sexuality is nourished and supported. They have torn down the social attitudes and institutions that protected people from the consequences of lust run amok. In a world where the most important thing is feelings (and isn’t that what the Genderbread Person is all about?), right and wrong are random abstractions. That’s why even abstinence classes, while better than the Planned Parenthood inspired alternative, are still not enough. Young people need to be taught not simply the (negative) practice of abstinence but the (positive) virtue of Chastity, and not just in a classroom: they need to see it as part of a coherent worldview, as something that not only works but can be lived out joyfully, especially by the example of the adults in their lives.
It has happened before. There are many reasons why Christianity spread as quickly as it did throughout the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ. I have heard that one of them was that pagan Romans saw the joy in the lives of their Christian neighbors, not the least part of which was the love and respect Christian men had for their wives. In a culture that more and more encourages people to use each other for pleasure rather than embrace each other in love, we are again called to show a more excellent way. We need to understand, and help our fellow Catholics see, that Church teachings on sexuality and marriage are not so much a series of prohibitions as they are a road map to happier, more productive, and holier lives. We need to rebuild, one person, one family, at a time a culture in which Christ is King.