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Monday, February 23, 2009

Going Dutch!

Well Polly...

I see the weekend left your feathers ruffled. In an effort to bring calm and alignment to your lop-sided chakras....I have leapt enthusiastically into the abyss of sexual morality which has laid bare many interesting revelations. Some of these I will happily divulge...but only when Aunty Gladys leaves the room.

I have risen enthusiastically to the challenge and am off to Amsterdam in search of 'lurve'! Where better to challenge moral inclinations. In all seriousness, exploring this notion of a 'values-free' approach to sex education confused me at the outset. Only a few weeks back the very Jack Grimston told me what we all need to be bestowing upon our children are lessons in love. Forgive my romantic idealism but isn't love and sex meant to be interlinked.....or 'inextricable entwined' as any good bodice-ripper will tell you?

Well it seems I may need to whip off my rose-tinted spectacles in wild abandon. Sorry...slipping into Mills and Boon again....and get a grip on some reality. Who better to paint a stark picture of 'the muck and litter' of today's classrooms, than Kate Sawyer, head of PSHE at a comprehensive school in Britain. She gives a revealing insight into the true stories behind our top ranking status in under-age pregnancies. She cautions us to consider that not all young teenagers are sexually active. This is borne out in research that illustrates that poverty and deprivation play their part with around half of all under 18 UK pregnancies occurring within the 30% most deprived sector of the population. There is a direct correlation between teenage birth rates and poverty rates, and Kate Sawyer's piece is a chilling expose of the plight of the sexually active.

It is her words, which cut to the heart of the issue...'is it perfectly alright to shag?' Is this the respectful status we attribute to the sexual act? I think Kate presents the state of sex education in the UK in a nutshell. Our refusal to tackle moral reponsibility, to embue self-respect and mutual understanding, to communicate and convey family values is doing a disservice to our children. Why is the government hell bent on avoiding the morality question but so eager to prescribe on practical advice. Horse, door, bolted? Of course lessons in contraception will bring down under age pregnancy rates...but it avoids the greater issue of why the b***dy h**l are they having sex in the first place?

No I'm not puritanical or prudish, as well you know Polly, but even the kids feel under pressure....63% of teens believe waiting to have sex is a good idea, but very few do? Why?
24% said they had done something they really didn't want to do. Why?
Peer pressure, drugs, alcohol...can all encourage unintended sexual activity.
But the government says keep it 'light' and don't talk about right and wrong?
Let's face it...moral reponsibility is not the strong point in the present day political arena.

In an effort to seek a better understanding of what works in sex education I found a few answers, somewhat ironically, in Amsterdam. The Dutch have the lowest rates for under age pregnancies in the Western world yet they are acutely sexually aware. Eureka!

We don't have formal sex education.....the children talk about sex when they feel like it and when they want an explanation. We treat sex as a healthy physical activity between two adults who are in love.

Let me get this right, didn't Heutzepeter use the 'L' word? The Dutch positively encourage openess about what adults do when they love each other. Boys and girls in the Netherlands gave 'love and commitment' as the main reason for losing their virginity. Whereas here in the UK, kids cited peer pressure and physical attraction?

To ram home the morality lecture further....Dutch children are five times less likely to be living in a lone parent family, divorce rates are much lower, and fewer mothers are in full-time employment. Get the picture? Family stability seems to matter and effectively, Dutch children are more interested in the emotional than the physical side of sex.

I am a simple man, and for me it is most certainly a matter of morality. We are social beings afterall and it is our moral understanding that distinguishes us apart from the animal kingdom. If our schools focus on only the biological act and practical methods of contraception surely we are missing the point? We are then denying our children the skills required to develop respectful, loving relationships based on mutual understanding that will equip them for a wonderful journey into adulthood. Only in love will they find a satisfying sex life and it is the responsibility of parents to imbue this moral code as their children grow.

I could make a flippant comment about Amsterdam...but I won't. I spent Sunday with my 11 year old niece who still plays 'fairies' with her younger sister. Next week she will be subjected to a full-on lesson on the birds and the bees. When the school schedules it's sex education it is for the benefit of the masses. I'd better tell her Father Christmas doesn't exist too. Yes...some kids are still innocents. But not if our sex educationalists have free reign.

Now I'm grumpy too, Polly!

Ivor X
PS How about Happy Hour at the Ship and Shovel on Friday? We could always go Dutch?