Who Shalt Teach Thy Sex Education?


Who Shalt Teach Thy Sex Education?

by , Director of Religious Exploration and Education

I’ve read the bible, but I can’t remember any passage where humans were instructed how to teach their offspring about human sexuality.  So, it is not surprising to me that the whole subject of sex education and children has gone through many changes over history.

So, who shalt teach the children?

Thou shalt teach! Of course, the parents should be educating their youngsters about human sexuality, right?  OK, then maybe the school health class. Of course, it could be always be taught via a book accidentally left on the kitchen table.  Maybe through osmosis, playground chatter, older siblings, cousins, doctors, TV?

How about church?   Church?   Yes, church. We shalt teach!

When I was in third grade, I accidentally heard about how babies came to be while on the playground, in a completely misinformed way.  I don’t blame my parents. They grew up in the 50’s, where, (I heard) thou shalt not speak to your children about sex. They learned the hard way, like when someone came down with a tricky condition called “pregnancy.” They didn’t have any practice talking about sex to kids.

My own kids had it easier, they had me, who tried as best as I awkwardly could, and who also relied on a little help from the school health department and pediatricians.

Your kids need to know so much more these days.  It’s a larger undertaking, because adults have to brush up on what is going on out there. We also need to keep up with what is happening in regard to sexual orientation and gender identity, gender fluidity, consent, internet safety, just to brush the surface.

So, who shalt teach the children?  

I believe that children are at a disadvantage if they do not get the benefit of a full spectrum of comprehensive human sexuality education.  I also believe that parents and caregivers should be the primary educators. I also know, from experience, that parents and caregivers could use a little help.  By help, I mean:  having an additional voice to speak to their children, one of a carefully trained facilitator who teaches facts.  By help, I mean that parents and caregivers need support from another knowledgeable adult, one who has current resources and encourages students to talk to their families about values. By help, I mean parents and caregivers need a community of others like them who are navigating the sometimes-choppy waters of talking sex.   

Where shalt thou find such abundance of help? 

Help is here, in our church and in other organizations who offer OWL (Our Whole Lives). Help could also be found, potentially, in a school system who chooses to offer comprehensive sex education.

I know that the Worcester Public School board has been going back and forth in discussions about what families want for sex education offerings.  They were looking at a model that was more comprehensive than the one they were currently using, and it looked as though, the Michigan Model was put forth as a solution.   It was then scrapped by Mayor Petty on Thursday; pressured by many voices of concern.  There were complaints that, although this plan was better, it still missed the mark in major ways.

There are things that you shan’t hide under a bushel anymore, folks.

Like: consent, LGBTQ inclusivity, and preventing unwanted pregnancy beyond abstinence.  These important topics are not found in many of the public school systems’ sexual education programs.  We can’t leave them out.

Until they are offered, there are a few roads to take to help you teach.  One is for parents and caregivers to become better informed and comfortable discussing these areas, beginning as soon as possible their children’s lives. We have resources to help with that.  In addition, if parents would like an echoing of their voice, support, and partnership; they should seek out a comprehensive sexual education program like OWL (Our Whole Lives.)

I am proud, that as Unitarian Universalists, UUCW offers this curriculum throughout the lifespan to our children, youth and young adults, and adults.  It is a gift.  We have remarkable facilitators who volunteer their time to go through extensive training and to keep up with the pulse of human sexuality insights and discoveries and language.   Thank you to Joe DelGizzi, Ana Gregory, Lynsey Heffernan, Rachel Keyo, Jennifer Moore, Brian Murphy, Mara Pentlarge and Lydia Proulx.

As written in the UUA OWL Program website; OWL provides:

Honest, accurate information about sexuality that changes lives. It dismantles stereotypes and assumptions, builds self-acceptance and self-esteem, fosters healthy relationships, improves decision making, and has the potential to save lives. 

Our Whole Lives recognizes and respects the diversity of participants with respect to biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and disability status. The activities and language used throughout the program have been carefully chosen to be as inclusive as possible of this human diversity.

We have just completed a short session of OWL for our middle school class after recognizing some potential needs because of new students in our midst.   We will run grades 4 and 5 OWL in the spring.  Next year we will run grades 1 and 2 OWL and grades 10-12 OWL.  We are also looking to see if there are any folks who would be interested in becoming a trained facilitator, as there may be more need in offering more classes! I would be thrilled to discuss this with you.

We are here to support our families, our students, and hope that soon, all students in the public school arena will have an opportunity to have the life-changing and life-saving benefit of a comprehensive human sexuality education.

We all have the responsibility of ensuring that our youngest ones grow up with the best, most accurate information out there.  In this day and age, even moreso, perhaps we all shalt support families who need to teach sex ed.

And behold, it was very, very good.

With Love and Peace and Understanding,