Children learn about sex in manners good and bad. Ideally, they learn from caring discussions with parents, guardians or grandparents. In an imperfect world of challenging family circumstances, schools fulfill the task for a high proportion of kids.
Done properly, sex education can reduce unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. It can reduce misogyny, misandry and prejudices based in fear of homosexuals, transgender people and others who comprise a diverse array of sexual identities.
School sex curriculums should ensure children have an objective, well rounded, global, and historical view of human sexuality. That’s because well informed individuals understand how sexuality intersects with art, science, religion, culture, public policy, and most other aspects of life.
Alongside teaching the fundamentals of sexual relations, comprehensive sex education should instill an understanding of our culture’s ongoing effort to accept sexual relations historically marginalized. It should teach the role of religion in human sexuality, so young adults understand society’s struggle with abortion rights, why some women wear burqas, why Americans circumcise nearly 80 percent of male babies, and why even today some empowered theocracies punish and even behead homosexuals,
Sex education should teach children to understand sex and gender issues they will encounter in their travels and within the world’s most diverse melting pot.
That’s not what they will get if Colorado Democrats don’t improve House Bill 1032, which prescribes new sex education standards for public schools. The bill dictates a standard sex education curriculum that forbids “explicitly or Implicitly teaching or endorsing religious ideology or sectarian tenets or doctrines, using shame-based or stigmatizing language or instructional tools, employing gender norms or gender stereotypes, or excluding the relational or sexual experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender individuals.”
Much of this is good. Any sex education bill should forbid language that shames or stigmatizes, and should go further. It should denounce any shaming and stigmatizing language and behavior. No informed person should shame, stigmatize, disparage or otherwise bully people for personal traits. Likewise, no thorough sex education course would leave out information about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender orientations.
Problematic is the erasure of norms and religion, which play enormous roles in human sexuality for better or worse. The bill rightly forbids the “endorslng” of anything pertaining to religion. It shouldn’t proselytize, endorse or otherwise encourage children in any direction. It should only inform and educate them objectively about all aspects of human sexuality.
Objectively “teaching” norms and religious traditions is entirely different than endorsing them, and should be allowed if not required.
A school cannot explain burqas, genital mutilation, sodomy laws and other forms of sexual policy — common in the world our children inhabit — if we ban objective teaching of religious traditions and norms.
Though the bill forbids teaching this important information, it allows for “discussion of moral, ethical, or religious values of individuals as they pertain to human sexuality, healthy relationships, or family formation. The bill does not explain how a teacher might discuss religion without teaching.
The bill would leave children ignorant of Colorado’s Safe Haven Law, which has everything to do with teens having sex. It allows a parent to turn over a newborn tess than 72 hours old to any employee at a fire station or hospital with no questions asked. The law results from traumatized parents abandoning newborns in dumpsters, and has saved 60 babies since taking effect in 2000, HB 1032 does nothing to ensure children hear about it. Senate Democrats stalled a separate bill requiring schools to teach Safe Haven, and recently revived it. Regardless of that bill’s undetermined fate, the comprehensive curriculum established by HB 1032 should include this information.
The controlling party has a chance to get this right and govern for all Coloradans, teaching objectively about sex and advocating nothing. Pass a bill that guarantees an objective, comprehensive, real-world approach to teaching about sex.
The Gazette editorial board