Missing the point on sex education

December 08, 1992

A group of Howard County residents, calling themselves Parents for Quality Education, have gotten it wrong when they criticize the county's family life program. PQE parents are so fearful that their children will be taught about sex in school, they have called in outside help to plot strategy on ways to scuttle the school program.

Jim Sedlak, director of the New York-based Stop Planned Parenthood, spoke with PQE parents not long ago and accused Planned Parenthood of everything from benefiting financially from condom sales to spreading secular humanism in the classroom. If you can't eliminate sex education, Mr. Sedlak counseled, "keep it at a high level -- general, no details and teach kids there's a lot of danger in sex."

As we have said before, abstinence should be discussed in sex education classes, but it should not be the lone weapon teen-agers are given in the war against unwanted pregnancy and disease. Safe sex and birth control should also be part of the equation.

The point missed by PQE is that we live in a pluralistic society. Not every family teaches the same values on any subject within the home. Moreover, in many homes, sex is a totally taboo subject, and not always because of religious beliefs. Meanwhile, society bombards young people with messages about sex, and few of them would meet PQE's standards of wholesomeness.

Kids need information. While a goal of PQE members may be to foist their moral and religious views on others, they should not be permitted to do so.

Howard County already has the distinction of having one of the highest rates of teen abortions in the state. Not teaching sex education isn't going to improve that. Also, the county's family life classes are voluntary. Parents already have the power to take their children out of the program if they so choose, but 99 percent of families choose to participate.

Family life classes aren't just about sex education. Taught at all grade levels, the program is also about relationships and responsibility within the family. Detailed information on contraceptives isn't presented until the eighth grade.

This approach appears sound. Eliminating family life instruction would be ridiculous and foolhardy. Parents for Quality Education have stumbled upon a nifty name for themselves. But what they're practicing is deceptive advertising.

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