I was in the shower this morning thinking about sex… Hmm… Maybe I should rephrase that? I was in the shower this morning thinking about the coverage the New Zealand Herald has been giving to sex education, over the last couple of days.
On Monday we had Too much ‘grubby stuff’, so dad steps in and Sex ed shock for angry parents. Then on Tuesday it was Readers up in arms over sex education and the abysmal Sex at 14 – I learned all about it in class. We don’t need to go into detail about the articles as they are the standard “Someone think of the children” type rhetoric. We’ve seen it all before and it’s clichéd and near comical but in a sad kind of way.
Yesterday, his story generated more than 140 emails to the Herald, the vast majority of them from “shocked”, “disgusted” and “horrified” parents and grandparents who say schools are going too far.
No, I want to wildly speculate about the articles writer and why she went in the direction she did. Does she believe in what she is writing or is this just a case of creating some controversal product to generate a large number of page views? Is this kind of social conservatism a corporate policy? If so is it because of a genuine conservative management enforcing their values on the paper or simply to shamelessly pander to the conservative beliefs and fears of its readers?
Surprisingly today’s (Wednesday) articles didn’t really answer these questions. Not that I was expecting them to. There is an opinion piece, Dr Katie Fitzpatrick: Youths need quality sex education to counterbalance the previous articles. I presume it’s there so the Herald can claim they are giving voice to all viewpoints. The other article is written by Elizabeth Binning who has penned all the others and it could be seen as an attempt to redeem herself as a decent journalist and human being by sighting some facts and fairness. It starts out well enough by declaring in the headline Good sex education works – studies and with the opening paragraph of:
Good quality and comprehensive education programmes in schools can delay the first time a teenager has sex and reduce risk-taking behaviour, international studies show.
It ends however with the message that while International research shows good quality sex education programmes do work unfortunately here in New Zealand:
A 2007 ERO report into the teaching of sexuality in years 7 to 13 found “the majority of sexuality education programmes were not meeting students’ needs effectively”.
Now if you were a cynical person you might assume this final knife in the back to New Zealand sex education could just be the coup de grâce from a journalist who has been carrying on a one sided hatchet-job for the last three days. However since I’m not a cynic I believe that our Elizabeth has in fact been laying the ground work for not just debate on the subject but is calling for a coordinated and comprehensive sex education program throughout Nrew Zealand schools. It’s the only logical purpose I can find in this collective of terrible articles.
The furore coming from outraged parents over the last few days is proof that some people do not like their kids being taught about sex and are not shy in expressing it. It is these people who will get the most attention from the press and the schools who ultimately decide on what kind of sex education is taught. It’s these people who are the problem and Liz makes this subtly but abundantly clear by pointing it out not once…
The Ministry of Education […], said that while schools could decide on the kind of sex education they taught, they were expected to consult their communities first.
In New Zealand schools can decide the kind of sex education they want to teach, as long as they consult their communities first.
I don’t think it’s a stretch of the imagination to believe it would only take a vocal few from the “community” to derail a sex education program, they are unhappy with, to the point where it is no longer effective.
The result is widely varying degrees of education from school to school – with not all of the programmes necessarily reaching the “good quality and comprehensive” threshold.
So what is the answer? I have no idea but it certainly must be a joint effort between the Ministry of Education creating a range of effective programs and the schools and communities that implement them. It is also abundantly evident that parents who want their kids educated and protected must raise their voices in an equal manner against those who just want to hide themselves and their children from modern life and the reality of human sexuality.
So Liz, I tip my hat to you. At the beginning I thought you a professional “Troll” that put the biggest internet “Trolling Trolls” to shame. However on careful reflection it seems you are in fact an intelligent and gifted journalist who understands the power of the media to start a public debate. Elizabeth Binning, I applaud you for your committment to better sex education for New Zealand children and for the brilliance of your writing to further this cause.