William K. Kilpatrick

I’m not an expert on Portuguese education.  Far from it. I’ve been invited here because I do know something about the state of American education, particularly in he areas of character education and sex education.

Apparently, some of the ideas and methods used in American schools in these areas are now in use or under consideration in Portugal. So, I thought it would be helpful to you if I talked a bit about the American experience with these approaches. It will then be up to you to decide whether and to what extent my remarks apply to the Portuguese situation. 

But let me begin in Italy.  A few years ago I gave a talk to a group of educators in Italy who wanted to adopt what they called the “American Model of Education.”  My immediate reaction was “Why would you want to do that?”  American schools can scarcely teach their own students to read and write. American students are abysmally ignorant about history, geography, and world affairs.  In international assessments of achievement American students consistently rank near the bottom of developed countries in math, science, and reading skills.  As I pointed out to my Italian audience, Italy had ranked number 16 out of 21 countries in the Mathematics Literacy Scale of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study—not very good.  But the United States ranked 19th. Why model yourself on number 19? 

There is a curious inconsistency in European attitudes about America. On the one hand many Europeans think of American citizens as—let’s face it—rather uninformed and unsophisticated, and they regard American politicians as absolute Neanderthals.  Yet on the other hand, Europeans seems to look upon American educators as absolute geniuses who have designed highly sophisticated and advanced scientific solutions to the world’s educational problems.

Let me try to correct that illusion with some facts about American educators.  These basic facts are important to understand because sex education in the United States should be understood not as a subset of science but of education.  And the fact is, American educators are drawn disproportionately from the dregs of the university educated population.  In his book Inside American Education Professor Thomas Sowell points out that education majors score lower on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests than students majoring in art, music, theater, the behavioral sciences, physical sciences, or biological sciences, business or commerce, engineering, mathematics, the humanities, or health occupations.  In short, at the bottom of the list.  And the same is true on the graduate level where students in other fields far outscore education students on the Graduate Record Exam.

Professor Sowell sums up the situation thus:  “In short, some of the least qualified students, taught by the least qualified professors in the lowest quality courses supply most American public school teachers.”  Typically, American educators have taken relatively few courses in history, mathematics, biology or other sciences, but many courses in psychology, teaching methods, and self-esteem.  And that, perhaps, is why American students have the highest self-esteem in the world.  They don’t know the difference between Portugal and Peru, but they do feel good about themselves.

What does all this have to do with scientific sex education?  It means that sex education in American schools can be called scientific only in a very loose sense.  To the extent that American educators look to science, they look to the science of psychology, and when they look to psychology they look to the least scientific branch, humanistic psychology—a branch which has always been associated with pop psychology and faddish trends.  In recent years, according to psychologist Paul Vitz, an expert on trends in psychology, humanistic psychology has become almost completely divorced from scientific psychology.  According to Vitz, many people in the field now look upon humanistic psychology as a form of New Age philosophy or spirituality.  Indeed the two most prominent founders of humanistic psychology, Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow were strongly attracted to Eastern and other forms of spirituality.  Rogers, for example, became interested in spiritualism and claimed to have contacted his deceased wife through the medium of a Ouija Board.  More tellingly, perhaps, Rogers thought of himself as one of the leaders of a new revolution that would produce a radically different kind of person—what he called the “emerging person.”

Most of the non-judgmental, and non-directive techniques used in sex education were developed by humanistic educators following the lead of humanistic psychologists.  Even by the looser standards of the behavioral sciences, it is difficult to see any solid scientific basis for these techniques.  Likewise, when one looks at the writings of Professor Sidney Simon, the developer of the widely used Values Clarification technique, one is hard pressed to find anything scientific or even scholarly in them.  Even a cursory look at Simon’s best selling Values Clarification Handbook reveals that his highly manipulative strategies are designed not so much to help students clarify their values as they are to recruit students to a relativistic world view.

When we look at the research origins of sex education we find a similar lack of scientific vigor.  Many of those involved in the early development of sex education—people such as Wardell Pomeroy, Mary Calderone, Lester Kirkendall, Deryck Calderwood and Sol Gordon—looked upon themselves not simply as scientists but also, and perhaps primarily, as pioneers of a new lifestyle.  For example, in “A New Bill of Sexual Rights and Responsibilities” (1976) signed by several of the most prominent sexologists and sex educators of the day, we read:

At this point in history, we human beings are embarking on a wondrous adventure.  For the first time we realize that we own our own bodies.  Until now our bodies have been in bondage to church or state which have dictated how we could express our sexuality.  We have not been permitted to experience the pleasure and joy of the human body and our sensory nature to their full capacity.

In a similar vein, Dr. Mary Calderone, the founding director of SIECUS wrote in 1968 “ If man as he is, is obsolescent, then what kind do we want to produce in his place and how do we design the production line?  In essence, that is the real question facing those who are concerned with sex education.”

SIECUS, of course, was launched at the Kinsey Institute with the express purpose of using the Kinsey studies as the basis for transforming sex education—an endeavor which proved to be highly successful.  We now know, however, that the SIECUS model is based on a shaky scientific foundation.  As Dr. Reisman and other researchers have made clear, the Kinsey data is unreliable, deeply flawed, and strongly biased toward non-traditional forms of sexuality and away from married love.  This bias may have stemmed from Kinsey’s antipathy toward religion and moral codes.  James Jones, the author of a 937 page biography of Kinsey, observes, “Kinsey was a dedicated scientist, but not a neutral one.  He was first and foremost a reformer who wanted to end Victorian morality, to drive a stake through its heart.”  Moreover, as Jones and other biographers of Kinsey have observed, Kinsey was a deeply troubled man—a closeted homosexual, a voyeur and a masochist—whose studies may have been driven more by personal obsessions than by scientific considerations.  His case seems to be similar to that of anthropologist Margaret Mead whose now discredited observations about life in Samoa seem to have been designed to validate and justify her own unconventional lifestyle.

In sum, current evident suggests that the SIECUS model of sex education is more ideology than science.  But, even if it were not, there is a further problem.  Even if comprehensive sex education were founded on a base of objective research conducted by unbiased investigators in the most rigorous scientific manner, there remains a difficulty.  It’s what philosophers call a “category mistake.”  The mistake is to try to apply knowledge from one area to another area to which it does not apply.  A thorough study of Shakespeare does not qualify one to answer questions about molecular biology.  And any good scientist knows that science is not competent to judge all issues.

Is Mozart better than Mick Jagger?

Is a Picasso better than a Renoir?

Should families go to church on Sunday?

Should we feed the hungry?

These are not scientific questions and there is no scientific answer to them.  The same is true of questions such as:

·        Should fourteen year old boys have sex with thirteen year old girls?

·        Should eight year olds be taught about anal intercourse?

·        Should schools teach that homosexual marriages are acceptable?

One might want to take scientific data into account when formulating an answer to such questions, but, by their nature, these questions have no scientific answer.  Science can show us how to make dynamite, but whether or not ten-year olds should experiment with dynamite—that is another question.

One of the questions before us is this:  What have been the effects on children and on society of introducing sex education based on the Kinsey/SIECUS/humanistic model?  What will be the effects in future years?  The short answer is that we don’t know for sure.  Data from the social sciences is helpful here, but many questions are still unanswered.  We don’t know for sure because there are so many other variables in addition to school sex education that might affect premarital sexual activity—variables such as cultural mores, family structure, media influences, religious involvement, and so forth.  But this in itself—the fact that we don’t know for sure—is a very instructive answer.  If we don’t know what the effects of a program will be, should we be in a rush to implement that program?

While we don’t know for sure about the effects of SIECUS-style sex education we do have abundant evidence that its effects have not been positive.  A study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute found that teen pregnancy rates in the United States increased 23 percent from 1972 to 1990—the period during which comprehensive sex education was introduced and became widespread.  The 1990’s showed a slight decline in pregnancy rates, but this appears to be due to the introduction of abstinence based programs in the early nineties.  A Center for Disease Control study indicates that 53 percent of the overall decline between 1991 and 2001 was due to the practice of abstinence.  This is a telling statistic because the majority of schools still teach “safe-sex,” “comprehensive” or “abstinence plus” programs.  In 2002, SIECUS-style programs received about four times as much government funding as did abstinence-until-marriage programs. 

In the early 1990’s sex educators were forced to drop the term “safe sex” and replace it with the more realistic term “safer sex.”  Belatedly, they had discovered that human beings are not consistent when it comes to using condoms—particularly younger human beings.  The generally accepted rate of condom failure for those under 18 is 18%.  Bur these figures are only for the first year of use.  Extrapolated over time they mean that a sexually active fourteen-year old girl has more than a 50% chance of becoming pregnant before she graduates from high school, and a 70% chance before finishing college.  The National Research Council estimates that in the United States nearly one half of unintended pregnancies each year are due to contraceptive failure.  And according to Planned Parenthood, fifty-eight percent of abortions are for pregnancies attributed to contraceptive failure.  It appears that altogether too much faith has been placed in contraceptives.  Consequently, according to a 1989 article in Planned Parenthood’s Journal, Family Planning Perspectives, even for those couples who practice artificial birth control, “Abortion is needed as a back up.”

All of these problems are likely to be compounded by the fact that the sexual revolution has now made its way down to the junior high school level.  Offsetting the fact that more teenagers are using condoms is the fact that more teenagers are having sex and that more of them are having it at younger and younger ages.  In 1970 five percent of fifteen year old girls in the U.S. reported having sex, by 1988 the figure had increased to 26 percent, and by 1990 to 32 percent of 14 and 15-year olds.  I don’t have the current figures but I suspect they have continued to increase.  Pop culture, of course, has a lot to do with these trends, but so do sex education programs which begin to implant the assumption of youthful sexual activity when youngsters are still in grade school.

Consistent condom use is difficult even for adults; for teen-agers it is extremely difficult; for very young teens—people who have trouble remembering to bring their pencils to class or hang up their clothes at home—the difficulty is even more pronounced.  It is not surprising then that the number of sexually transmitted diseases has skyrocketed in recent years.  Statistics from the Center for Disease Control reveal that an estimated one in five Americans is now infected with at least one incurable sexually transmitted disease.  And if bacterial STDs are included, about one in four.

An estimated 32 to 46 percent of sexually active teenagers are infected with human papilloma virus which causes venereal warts.  HPV, in turn, is the chief cause of cervical cancer. And cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among women.  It’s a malady that kills more women in the U.S. than AIDS.

In the heady days when Mary Calderone and her colleagues at the Kinsey Institute launched the brave new vision of sex education there were only two major sexually transmitted diseases, both of which were easily treated with penicillin.  Teens today live in a much more dangerous sexual environment. Today, there are more than 30 types of sexually transmitted diseases, many of which are resistant to treatment, and some which have no cure. Many of these STDs can be passed by direct contact even though the couple is using a condom.  For example, condoms offer minimal protection from genital herpes and the human papilloma virus.  Those who experimented with sex in the 60’s were less likely to contract a venereal disease.  But, thanks in part to that experimentation, today’s youngsters are far more likely to be infected.

We live in a new era of sexual risk, yet our sex education programs still hark  back to the bygone days of hippies and flower children who were encouraged to “Make love, not war.”  Today’s students have had a lot of sex education but they still seem relatively unacquainted with the degree of risk.  I encountered this naiveté a few years ago when I happened to ask a class of my university students the following question, “Which is riskier for teens:  smoking or sexual activity?”  Almost all agreed that smoking was a far more risky activity—this despite the fact that one can smoke for 40 or 50 years without consequences and with plenty of time to quit the habit before the damage is done.  In contrast a teen who has sex can immediately contract a serious disease, or immediately become pregnant—a life changing event.  The possibility that relationships might affect their lives more deeply than smoking was not beyond the ken of these bright students, it was just that their ideological conditioning prevented them from saying so.

There does seem to be a correlation between the rise of comprehensive sex education and a rise in sexual activity, in unintended pregnancies, abortions and venereal diseases. This is not to say that the Planned Parenthood/Contraceptive model can never work in lowering the rate of teen pregnancies.  There is evidence that many European countries have dramatically lower rates of unwanted pregnancies among teens than is the case in the U.S., though, once again, these differences may have more to do with cultural and family differences than with educational programs.  In any event we should not underestimate the power of social controls, when stringently applied, to change behavior.  If youngsters can be conditioned to stop smoking, they can probably—although with much more effort—be conditioned to use contraceptives more reliably.

It is short sighted, however, to focus only on the physical risks of sexual activity—important as they are.  Even if, through some marvel of technology, all the physical risks could be removed, other considerable risks would still remain.  For example, there would remain a number of psychological and emotional risks that often accompany teenage sexual activity, including anxiety, loss of self-esteem, depression, neglect of school work, and alienation from parents.

Beyond that, there are significant risks to society itself.  We often hear that marriage is the basis of society.  It sounds like a cliché, but this particular cliché is backed up by a lot of social science data.  We know that youngsters from broken homes or fatherless homes have much higher rates of drug abuse, crime, alcoholism, and school failure.  They also have much higher rates of sexual activity, pregnancy and out-of-wedlock births.  A large part of their problems derives from the fact that one or both parents have been unable either to make or keep marital or parental commitments. When these children grow up they, in turn, tend to fail as parents and as marriage partners.  And they are less likely to feel responsibility to their aging parents.  As you can see all of this puts significant strains on the welfare state which in the absence of functioning families has been forced increasingly to play the roles of husband, wife, mother, father, and dutiful child.

What has the sex education establishment done to improve the prospects for marriage?  Not much.  With the exception of their enthusiasm for gay marriage, the SIECUS school of sex-education has never had much use for marriage.  They have always been concerned rather with liberating and emancipating individuals from all traditional bonds and with instructing children about all the different alternatives to marriage.  Educators in general don’t seem enthused about marriage. As Professor Charles Glenn has observed “Public schools in the United States, at least, have been sadly neglectful of the importance of marriage to human fulfillment and to the flourishing of children as well as of a society.”  Glenn cites a government-commissioned study of forty texts for the primary grades which revealed that “there is not one text reference to marriage as the foundation of the family.  Indeed, not even the word ‘marriage’ or ‘wedding’ occurs once in the forty books… neither the word ‘husband’ or ‘wife’ occurs once in any of these books.  Public school officials may constantly bemoan teenage pregnancy and the frequency of illegitimate children, but their own textbooks begin fostering the notion of family without marriage in grades 1 to 4.”

Sex educators, of course, go a little further than this.  Although there is little or no talk of love, commitment, family or marriage in their curriculums, there is much use of a technique called “desensitization”—a technique that is almost guaranteed to have a coarsening effect on youngsters.  For example, ten-year olds may be required to stand up in class and give the four letter words for various body parts and sexual practices, or students may be encouraged to “see, feel, smell and taste” condoms.  In some schools students may be given an assignment to go home and masturbate.  In other schools they may be taught about anal sex or dental dams.  The language used often seems deliberately crude.  And these are only some of the mild forms of desensitization.  I won’t go on to describe the others.  Suffice it to say that in the United States, at least, parents who practiced these techniques on their own children could easily end up in jail.

The attempt here is to desensitize children to the special nature of sex, to demythologize it and deromanticize it.  The rationale is that they can then view sex as a non-moral, non-romantic, recreational activity, much the way we view such body-contact sports as football or hockey.  Depending on the sport, helmets, pads, masks or condoms are worn so that no one gets hurt.  Youngsters who have lost their sexual inhibitions will be able to talk with each other frankly about such things before bedding down—or so the reasoning goes.

This is called “being realistic.”  But is it really?  Think about the long-term effects.  Realistically, what sort of spouse will an individual make after years of being desensitized to the special nature of sex?  What happens when children, who are learning such a trivial view of sex, grow up?  What sort of marriages will they make?  What sort of parents?  If sex isn’t special before marriage, what will make it special afterwards?  If there’s nothing particularly special about sex, then adultery won’t seem particularly bad, either.  And why put devotion to your wife and children ahead of your own pleasures?  Why bother about getting married at all?  If you get someone pregnant, she can have an abortion. If she doesn’t want to, that’s her problem.  After all, everyone has to make their own decisions.

The hope of those who accept the SIECUS model is that if only youngsters can avoid becoming pregnant until they have grown up to become mature and responsible adults, then everything will turn out well in the end.  But this is a scheme that almost guarantees that youngsters never will become responsible in the area of sexuality.  If youngsters are conditioned to believe that they have a need for, and even a right to sexual activity, and if they are simultaneously conditioned to believe that their sexual needs trump all other considerations, what is it that will suddenly turn them into perfect partners and parents?

The unspoken message of comprehensive sex education is this:  “Yes, sex is risky, and therefore you should take care to minimize the risks.  Nevertheless, your self-gratification is so important that it is still legitimate to put your partner at risk—at risk for pregnancy, for abortion, for venereal disease, for psychological stress.”  If a youngster has been conditioned to think this way what are the chances that marriage and parenthood will miraculously reverse the rule of self-gratification?

The naïve hope, of course, is that things will turn out like one of those Cary Grant movies where the hero, after passing through a playboy interlude settles down to a happy married life.  The reality of the present situation, however, is better expressed by the English film, Alfie, which portrays a man who is incapable of growing up.  Or—if you haven’t seen Alfie—consider the situation in some U.S. inner cities where upwards of ninety percent of children are born out-of-wedlock.  Or consider the twenty/twenty club.  Inner city youth become members of this prestigious group by fathering twenty children by the age of twenty.  The problem here is not that these young men don’t know about the risks but that they don’t care.  “How can we prevent teen pregnancies?”  is an important question.  But an equally important question is “What kind of parents do promiscuous teens makes?”

Education has traditionally been perceived as a conservative vocation—one that conserves and passes on what has proven to work in life.  G.K. Chesterton, the English essayist once observed, “It ought to be the oldest things that are taught to the youngest people.”  Youngsters, in other words, ought to have the benefit of ideas that have been around for a while—the things were most sure of.

It would be a mistake to think that educators are still made in this mold.  Nowadays, in the United States, they seem to have a distinct preference for new ideas and new techniques.  Why is this?  As I suggested earlier, scholarship is not a strong point for American educators.  Their strong point is compassion:  American teachers love children.  But this combination of compassion and poor scholarship make them susceptible to fads, and especially to non-intellectual fads.  They are particularly susceptible to fads that appeal to the desire to be compassionate.  Tolerance and compassion are perhaps the two most prized virtues in American society.  And there is a tremendous pressure on those who work with children to be perceived as compassionate and tolerant of differences.

As a consequence, American educators are always experimenting with new ways to make schools more compassionate places.  This is why, over the last several decades, numerous fads and experiments—mostly based on humanistic psychology and self-esteem theory—have swept through America’s schools.

The typical pattern for establishing these faddish programs is this:  First, identify the most neglected minorities or the most problem-ridden children.  Second, create a sense of crisis—something must be done immediately to raise the self-esteem of these unfortunate children.  Third, devise a curriculum to meet the needs of these neglected ones.  Fourth, make all students, even those without any problems take the curriculum so that they will learn to empathize with the particular problem or difference, and learn to show tolerance, acceptance, and even approval of behaviors and lifestyles they had, perhaps, never previously considered.

Thus, if a Tasmanian child enters the school, a concern will immediately arise that his self-esteem will suffer if the curriculum does not reflect the history and culture of Tasmania.  The compassionate thing, of course, is to revise the whole history and social studies curriculum in order to make room for Tasmania.

Thus, if some students are experimenting with drugs, it must be because they lack drug education and self-esteem and, as a consequence, a drug education curriculum must be created in order to teach all students about drugs and self-esteem.

Do some students come from single-parent  homes?  Do they feel different as a result?  The compassionate thing, naturally, is to extol single motherhood, and take marriage out of the curriculum.  Students should learn to understand and appreciate alternative families and alternative lifestyles.

It would seem that the important questions to ask about any new experiment are these:  “Does this make sense?”  “Will this work?”  “Will it have the intended consequence?”  But these are not, by-and-large, the questions that American educators ask; rather they ask, “Does this seem to be the compassionate and sensitive thing to do?” Even on this count, however, the answer seems, in most case, to be “no.”  If we look at the various social and academic experiments in education over the last few decades we find a series of disastrous failures.  These experiments were initiated because they were thought to be the compassionate thing to do.  But all of them ended up hurting children.  In most cases they had the opposite effect of the one intended.

In Boston and in other large cities, educators and city officials designed a scheme to end de facto school segregation by busing students away from their neighborhood schools to schools in other parts of the city.  The result was that schools became more segregated than before, and after decades of experimentation most cities had to abandon the busing concept.

Schools across the United States abandoned phonics—a proven method of teaching reading—for an unproven method called the whole language approach. Reading scores plummeted across the nation.  Because a handful of students had difficulty with the phonics method, schools adopted a method which ensured that almost no students would learn to read properly.

An untested curriculum approach called New Math was substituted for traditional methods of teaching mathematics.  The result?  U.S. students ended up with math scores near the bottom of the list on international achievement exams.

In the 1970’s schools began experimenting with various drug education curriculums, only to find out two decades later that these programs did not reduce drug use but may have actually increased it.

In the 1980’s and 1990’s schools and universities began experimenting with multicultural programs in the hope of creating more ethnic and racial harmony and understanding.  The result was that universities became far more segregated than they had been in previous year, with separate dormitories and separate dining tables for students of different racial end ethnic groups.  Hostility among racial and ethnic groups increased dramatically.  A similar pattern soon evolved in American high schools. 

I think its fair to say that comprehensive sex education is another one of these well-intended experiments that hasn’t worked out very well, and seems to have created far more problems than it solves.  Rather than being humbled by their lack of success, however, the sex educators have insisted on continuing the experiment, and even launching new ones.  The latest experiment is a massive effort to teach students that “Gay is OK”—not only to have them accept gay lifestyles but to affirm them, as well.  There is a particularly strong push to legitimize and normalize gay marriage and gay parenthood—even though gays only make up about two percent of the population, and, of these, only a tiny fraction are bringing up children in same-sex partnerships.

Once again the pattern follows the typical sequence.  Focus on a few students who may be made to feel different or left out because their parent is in a lesbian or gay partnership.  Appeal to compassion. Declare a crisis.  Devise a gay-friendly curriculum so that all students learn the acceptable attitudes.  Emphasize that all relations are equally valid.  Begin the process as early in the child’s schooling as possible.

What will be the outcome of this experiment?   Once again, we don’t really know.  But we can make some guesses.  It will likely sow confusion.  In a great may cases children who have never given a thought to the matter of gender identity, will be forced to choose between the values of their parents and the values of the school.  Parents who normally support teachers will be forced to take sides against them. 

How about the effect on marriage?  On society?  Anthropologist Stanley Kurtz writes, “At issue in the gay-marriage controversy is nothing less than the existence of marriage itself.”  According to Kurtz “Marriage is dying in the very same place that first recognized gay marriage”—in Scandinavia.  Kurtz points out that in Norway the two states that have shown the most acceptance of gay marriage have also shown the greatest decline in marriage and the highest incidence of out-of-wedlock births.  In both Nordland and Nord-Troendelag approximately 67 percent of all children are born out-out-of wedlock, and approximately 82 percent of first-born children are born out-of-wedlock.  That familiar phrase “out-of-wedlock births” translates into an awful lot of hurt and unhappiness for an awful lot of children.  Gay marriage, says Kurtz “will spell the end of marriage, and of the protection  marriage offers to vulnerable children who cannot vote or articulate their interests.” 

Is he right?  Well, once again, we don’t know for sure, but in the meantime is it prudent to continue with the experiment?  The concept of homosexual marriage is hardly more than ten years old.  Is it prudent to test this new alternative vision with six and seven year olds?  This is not the way things are done in other professions.  Scientists do not try out experimental drug treatments with children who have no choice in the matter, rather they ask for adult volunteers.

Sex educators are asking for the right to conduct an experiment on children—on other peoples children.And this despite the fact that almost nothing is known about the consequences.  Very little is known about the effects of growing up in a household with same-sex parents.  There is, to my knowledge, no research about the effects of introducing this concept to students in the early grades.  There is no conclusive data on the effect which gay marriage will have on heterosexual marriage—the central institution of society—but the early studies are not reassuring.

Critics of comprehensive sex education say that it constitutes a violation of the rights of parents.  But this kind of aggressive experimentation in the face of so many unknown costs to ourselves and to future generations is also a violation of common sense.

What is it that drives sex educators to continue in this path?  For the ordinary teacher in the classroom the answer is simply that they want to do what they have been told is the compassionate and modern thing to do.  Like most teachers they are typically too busy to sort out all the long-term ramifications.

As for the others—those who design and promote these programs and lobby tirelessly for their implementation—what drives them to persist amid so many signs of devastation?  It is the kind of behavior that psychologists typically associate with people of a strong ideological bent.  Let me remind you that Kinsey, Calderone, Kirkkendall and other founders of the sex education movement were animated by a utopian vision—a vision of autonomous individuals unencumbered by traditional bonds and free to pursue their pleasures.  That utopian spirit still seems very much alive today—so much so that the movement for comprehensive sex education sometimes looks more like a crusade than a curriculum.

Article 43 of the Portuguese Constitution cautions that “the State shall not arrogate to itself the right to plan education and culture in accordance with any philosophical, aesthetic, political, ideological or religious guidelines.”  I believe that a close examination of comprehensive sex education reveals that it falls quite clearly into the category of an ideologically driven movement, a movement that has exhibited extreme recklessness in pursuit of its goals. 

Let me conclude with this:  these are serious times.  Life, it appears, is more complicated than we once thought.  Society is a much more delicate web than we had believed.  We cannot reconfigure it with impunity.  We can no longer afford to be naïve about what makes a culture work.  It takes a long time to build up a civilization, but only a short time to tear it down.  This is not the time to look for guidance to programs and theories that were born in the USA at a time of great national naiveté—a time when people believed in pop psychology and pop sociology and the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.  Sex is serious.  It has to do with relationships not just release of tensions.  Sexual behavior affects us in profound ways on a personal level.  On the societal level it has a profound effect on marriage, even when we try to separate it from marriage.  Our young people deserve a much more serious discussion of sexuality than they have been receiving.

There is an old African proverb which states, “Don’t tear down a fence until you know why it was put up.”  We are now beginning to understand why certain cultural fences were put up, and why they should not unthinkingly be torn down.

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