Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sex Education (Because it's quite separate)

First, I'm not even THINKING about how they worked out that the Khyra case says something - anything - about home ed, rather than about the failure of social services to continue to monitor and protect known at-risk children. But I'm not surprised; I read the Badman review, after all, and it was very difficult to read through the disconnected illogic of it all, even if I had been able to assume that the research referred to existed or was accurately represented.

What I am thinking of is the way sexual and reproductive education is separated out from the rest of health and anatomy education, which I think is a Bad Idea(tm). A while ago my children specifically wanted to find out more about Where Babies Come From, so I had a look - we already had Grey's Anatomy and some written specifically for very young children, but that wasn't what they had in mind. So I looked in all the local shops and failed miserably. I also failed at the library. I found lots of books about the body but they all just glossed over the whole Dirty In Yer Pants Bit.

In the end, a friend sent us a copy of a text used in Irish primary schools, funded not by the Irish education system but by the Crisis Pregnancy Agency; in general, school texts aren't state-funded in that system anyway. The PDF is here. We really likde it - the drawings were clear, the text was unambiguous and not in the least coy, it was very matter of fact and normal.

Then recently they wanted some books about the body in general. Those were easier to find, and I asked for recommendations, and bought two Usborne books in the end - See Inside Your Body and First Encyclopaedia of the Human Body. The first book is aimed at younger children and has no reference to reproduction at all. The second book shows the female internal reproductive organs and a really nice ultrasound of a uterus with a fetus in it. Neither book has even a hint of a smidge of a genital - you know, the bit children can actually see on their own bodies and wonder which bits are what about.

My own children went through phases - we have diagrams of eyeballs on the wall by the stairs, had huge drawings of poo and teeth with wiggly tubes between them, etc. All that is normal. But it's still unusual (not, I would say, abnormal!) that they spend twenty minutes or more contemplating the diagram of their genitals in the Busy Bodies book and some visitors are embarrassed to read it to them when asked -- for the elderly embarrassed I've started asking the children not to ask them.

I can't help wondering what damage it does as a whole society, this othering of a huge part of our bodies and our lives. Though perhaps something's working, since the UK's teenage pregnancy rate is apparently down almost 4%.

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