Letter: Removing all temptation from sex education

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The Independent Online
Sir: There is an inconsistency in the attitude to children acquiring knowledge of activities we would rather they did not indulge in.

Your correspondent Tim Montgomerie (Letters, 25 March) asserts that 'our culture already robs children of their innocence of sexual matters'. Apart from the thankfully few cases of abuse, I would rather say that children are robbed only of their ignorance.

Like many others on the subject, Mr Montgomerie seems to regard sex education as potentially dangerous. So why is the teaching of history or current affairs not also dangerous? They are profuse with examples of violence and injustice of all sorts, which we are happy to explain, without fearing that the knowledge of such sins and crimes will lead to our children committing them. Some of the same people who seek to proscribe the content of sex education lessons also urge that children be taught Shakespeare. But they do not worry that if we teach our sons about Othello they will become wife murderers. And what of the under-age sex in Romeo and Juliet?

Your leading article (24 March) rightly suggested that pupils in sex education lessons will ask the most embarrassing questions they can devise. This, and the 'giggles from the boys at the back' response are predictable reactions. Children are quite able to perceive that if a subject is mostly avoided, then taught in a special, non-routine session for which written parental approval is required, there is likely to be something about it of great interest. It is evident to them that many adults would rather not talk about it at all, so the natural attraction of forbidden grown-up secrets coupled with the irresistible temptation to embarrass or shock an adult in authority will lead them to ask questions.

The obvious solution is to knock sex education off its pedestal. Make it a normal, everyday part of the primary and secondary curriculum, part of a course of human biology.

Just as a study of nutrition would include the harmful effects of sugar and perhaps some mention of eating disorders, so sex education would include the known risks of promiscuity, and the existence and nature of different sexual proclivities.

Yours faithfully,