Monday, September 1, 2008

On sex and education

Ace notes that some people are trying to turn Bristol Palin's pregnancy into a conversation-starter on Sarah Palin's support for abstinence education (or opposition to "comprehensive" sex education, if we're going to get nuanced about it).

Nothing is more fixed in liberal ideology than the belief that "education" is the panacea for all social ills. Bill Buckley noted this obsession with education qua education more than a half-century ago in God and Man at Yale. And this obsession has only deepened in the intervening years, as schools seek to teach "awareness" of various trendy subjects -- global warming, poverty, violence, racism, etc.

If only we were sufficiently aware -- yea, enlightened! -- the liberals say, these problems would soon evaporate. Conservatives are skeptical, for where the liberal sees a deficit of knowledge, the conservative sees a deficit of virtue.

So it is with sex education. Liberals apparently assume that teenagers get pregnant or contract STDs because they lack knowledge. Teach them the Latin names for the various reproductive organs, explain to them the business of how sperm and ova combine to produce an embryo, show them how to put a condom on a banana and provide them with information about contraceptive methods and you will thereby solve all problems of adolescent sexuality.

The idiocy of this liberal concept is easily demonstrated. Let us merely ask this: Has there ever been an age in which accurate information about sexuality and reproduction is so readily available as in 2008?

No, never in all human history has it been easier for kids to get such information. A mere Google search would suffice and -- thank you, Al Gore! -- every school in the country is wired for the Internet.

Well, what do you suppose the kids are Googling for? Are they searching for contraceptive information or the symptoms of STDs? No, of course not. They'd downloading all the porn they can find. If the stuff's blocked on the school computers, they download it on their personal laptops, or even on their cell phones.

Teenagers have never had more knowledge of sex than they do today, and yet it can scarcely be argued that their sex lives are less troublesome than in the Dark Ages of the 1950s, when sexual ignorance reigned supreme.

The problem with sex is not a lack of knowledge, but a lack of virtue. There is no amount of "education" about sex that will suffice to make teenagers keep their britches on, unless that teaching aims to inculcate virtue.

Yet in a secular, sexualized society, Americans no longer agree on what constitutes virtue, and thus even if public schools aim to teach abstinence, they can only do so by emphasizing chastity as the safest option for avoiding disease and pregnancy. Any attempt to proclaim chastity a moral virtue in its own right would instantly be denounced as an unconstitutional abridgement of the "wall between church and state."

If the virgin is not praiseworthy, there is no honor in chastity. If the slut is not scorned, there is no dishonor in promiscuity. Excuse my judgmentalism, but sex education that can make no distinction between virtue and vice must ultimately be ineffective, insofar as the object is to teach kids to avoid vice and its unavoidable consequences.

There is no condom or contraceptive that is foolproof, and young people are often foolish. Nor are the potential harmful consequences of vice limited to disease and pregnancy. Not even an atheist would deny that sex has psychological consequences, which the believer would deem spiritual in nature.

As in so many other things, liberals have led America far down the wrong road when it comes to sex education. All any teenager really needs to know about sex that could be contained in a not-too-thick book, and if the schools were more successful in teaching reading, kids could walk into the nearest Barnes & Noble and get all the knowledge they need.

Why is it, after all, that liberals believe that schools that do such a lousy job of teaching reading, writing and arithmetic are competent to teach kids about sex? (Go purchase a box of condoms; illustrated instructions for proper usage are included. So why the need for condom-on-a-banana lessons?)

It is profoundly discouraging that, in the wake of the revelation of Bristol Palin's pregnancy, conservatives are mouthing liberal sentiments about nonjudgmentalism, or endorsing liberal ideas about sex education. I am certainly no intolerant prude, nor an idealistic naif, but it seems to me that it is profoundly misguided to attempt to make teenagers sophisticated about sex -- and what else is the object of sex education?

Inserting a penis into a vagina is not exactly rocket science, and human beings managed to procreate long before there were any books or classes on the subject. Thus, Bristol Palin's plight probably has no relevance at all to the effectiveness of any method of sex education, except to illustrate the emptiness of the liberal claim that "education," as such, has any utility in this regard.


  1. Aside from your unbridled attack on Liberalism, you do make a good case for yourself and your position. I'm a left-leaning Marxist Capitalist. I too believe that education is a panacea for the social ills that ail us. I also believe that virtue, although innate in some, can be taught. We learn and become virtuous when we follow in the steps of those we admire.
    Virtue , in a sense, is a component of education.
    Sex Education is a response to parental delinquency.
    It is an attempt to make sure that our children practice responsible, safe sex.It accepts the premise that sexuality is a force that "abstinence only" education cannot overcome. That Sarah Palin believes in "abstinence only", and that it is a part of the Conservative value system, is understood. But Bristol Palin is proof that " abstinence only" is nothing but self-dillusional righteousness. This Palin teen-age pregnancy mess puts a huge hole in the argument. It's time to come up with something new, lest "abstinence only" become the hypocritical wink and nod lip-service Conservatives are so well known for.
    Maybe Sex Education is the Ying to " abstinence only"'s Yang....

  2. There has been a lot of drug education and anti-smoking crusades through the 1990s and in this decade. What is the result? More teens smoke and use drugs than ever before. Discouraging, no?


  3. Unless you take a religious viewpoint, teenage pregnancy is not some kind of sin. The couple involved is voluntarily doing it to themselves. It is usually just stupid, i.e. they'll be sorry about it later. The point learning knowledge is to be able to make better decisions. Education is supposed to give that knowledge, and sex education is supposed to help those avoid stupid decisions. I agree that this kind of lack of discipline or stupidty cannot be overcome by education in many cases. However, I am even more sure that telling people that is sinful or evil will be even less effective. It is also a dishonest and untrue way to make the point. The very stinging irony in this whole story is that, as is typically the case, those who talk the most about virtue are usually also the most guilty by their own standards.