I taught Sex Ed for years - to girls as well as boys - and, it might surprise you to learn, very little of it actually mentioned the word 'sex'. Or talked about 'bits'. Or contained anything about which smutty fourth-formers could giggle or the Daily Mail be outraged.
Because - and I hope this will reassure the many, many parents out there who are (rightly, justifiably, understandably) concerned about what otherwise appears to be rather whacky ideas from the teaching profession - sex education, or Sex and Relationship education as it is correctly called, is only very rarely about biological reproduction and all that that entails.
Indeed, it's the "R' is SRE that is most important. Because good Sex Ed in schools is about teaching children how to recognise, nurture and sustain good relationships of all kinds (platonic none more so for those under the age of 16) to have respect for themselves and other people, not to use anyone as a means to an end but to treat everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve.
Having a good basic sense of self-worth - which can and should be taught to kids as young as five - is central, fundamental and essential to being able to show respect to others. Showing respect to others, once learned, once accepted and once practised and developed in school from the age of five onwards - is far more likely to lead to a healthy attitude to sexual partners (when the times for such arrives) and to the ability to deal with pornography than any explicit lessons on the subject.
And that's what this is all about.
It's depressing to hear so many parents, grandparents and media commentators so muddled about what actually goes on - and what principles underpin - good SRE in schools. And - yes - depressing too that those so-called professional communicators - teachers and headteachers - seem unable to offer the reassurance society needs.
So, here for what it's worth, is my two' pennorth:
- You can't just 'leave it to parents' as many parents just don't bother.
- You have to equip children with age-approproate information about the world about them. And that includes the adult bits.
- And if schools aren't about giving children the skills and attitudes necessary to forge and sustain mutually rewarding, long-lasting and appropriate relationships with other members of the human race then they should be closed down forthwith.
Oh, and one more thing.
If you don't like knowledge, try ignorance.