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The problem with modern sex education


THE new Netflix sitcom Sex Education centres on a teenager whose psychologist mother forces him to discuss sexual matters, to his embarrassment.

In an interview with the Telegraph, the show’s star Asa Butterfield recalls his real-life embarrassment when as a young teenager his own psychologist mother tried to broach the subject, his reaction being: ‘Oh, why do you want to talk about that sort of thing?’

However, he adds: ‘As I got older, I realised it’s always healthy to talk about that stuff, especially with your parents. They’re always going to be there for you.’

In a sentence he demonstrates the fundamental problem of modern real-life sex education – that it is a project driven by adults convinced that if only children are taught about sex in great and explicit detail it will prevent mental problems emerging in adulthood. Nonetheless, 21-year-old Butterfield believes that Sex Education – which features ‘rather a lot of sex’ – acts as a ‘complete counter’ to pornography, arguing: ‘One of the things you want to do is make all the sex in the show feel very real and messy and funny. I think that’s what everyone’s experience of sex as a teenager is like.’ He omits any reference to sex being part of a loving and committed relationship.

Arguably it is quite an achievement to take something good and make it unsatisfactory, complicated and dangerous but at the same time boring. However, teaching children about sex while they are too young to process the information – as if the ‘facts of life’ can be taught in a purely mechanical way, like climbing a rope – they have inadvertently disproved the argument of the humanist sex education campaigners. They maintain that repressing the sexual instincts leads to mental illness, and yet ‘mental ill health’ is now said to be rife in schools.

Only yesterday, Education Secretary Damian Hinds announced his response – mindfulness. Up to 370 schools in England are to take part in one of the largest mental health trials in the world to boost evidence about what works to support mental health and well-being. Hundreds of children and young people will learn how to use a range of methods from mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to help them regulate their emotions. 

It is no coincidence that the twin preoccupations of humanists continue to be ‘mental health’ and sex education, both seen as enlightened substitutes for the religious teaching that used to strengthen social cohesion by strengthening individual character and providing young people with stability, structure, meaning, purpose and, above all, hope in life. Having failed in their bid to eradicate religion from schools, they have managed to achieve part of their objective. As Mr Hinds made clear, the ‘mental health’ trials will be followed by the introduction of ‘compulsory health education within which children will start to be introduced gradually to issues around mental health, well-being and happiness right from the start of school’. So bullying, falling out with friends, temper tantrums, faddy eating, jealousy, anger and every other nascent vice will be treated not as spiritual, moral or behavioural issues, understood by the intellect and controlled by the will, but as ‘mental illness’ to be diagnosed and managed by ‘experts’.

The Telegraph interviewer, Luke Mintz, notes the irony behind Sex Education is that ‘the current crop of British young people are having far less sex than their parents or grandparents were at their age’. Ironically, decades of explicit sex education in this country, intended to encourage children to ‘have sex, not babies’ has meant a decline in the birth rate, which governments have ‘fixed’ by encouraging large-scale immigration.

Being such experts in child health and welfare, the Government should probably take over the nation’s children full time, except that by their own admission, an estimated half of all children in state care meet the criteria for a possible mental health disorder, compared with one in ten ‘outside the care system’. Presumably ‘outside the care system’ is the new euphemism for ‘the family’, which used to dispense practical, simple advice to children; and the broken family, composed of individuals who have been taught in school how not to exercise self control and save sexual involvement for a long-term committed relationship, is the collateral damage of ‘sex education’.

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Ann Farmer
Ann Farmer
Ann Farmer is the author of By Their Fruits: Eugenics, Population Control, and the Abortion Movement (Catholic University of America, 2008).

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