Sex Ed’S Failure Rate

What if public-school instruction focused not on reproductive “plumbing” but on care and respect?

With apologies to all its politically correct proponents, the teaching of “safe sex” does not work. Evidence suggests condoms fail 15 percent of the time (would you use a parachute with a similar failure rate?), and premarital pregnancies usually increase in schools where condoms are available.

In fact, there is not any conclusive evidence that teenagers who receive sex education are less likely to get pregnant, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe that is why a former president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals said it might be a good idea for public educators to get completely out of the sex-education business.

I share his sentiment, but not his solution. Like it or not, kids need instruction as hormones rage and mores slip. But instead of sex education, I propose our schools begin teaching love education.

Sociologist Pitirim Sorokin foresaw this need to educate young people about love rather than sex. He contended that if we pursued the latter instead of the former, we would end up with an overly “sensate society.” Are you listening, Madonna fans?

Sorokin was so committed to his belief that love education was the answer that he set up the Institute of Altruistic Love at Harvard, where he chaired the sociology department. He envisioned a curriculum that would teach children and teenagers how to love rather than use each other for selfish pleasure.

One of his disciples, and one of my teachers, James Bossard, concurred with Sorokin’s assessment. “Sex education,” he said, “should not be a curriculum that provides youngsters with information about the plumbing of reproduction, but instead, should teach them how to care and respect one another in the context of romantic relationships.” Bossard said that when people cared for each other, exploitation for ego gratification would be greatly reduced, and the problems related to teen sex would fade dramatically.

Love does not need a condom

A curriculum based on love rather than sex would work and, therefore, belongs in our public schools. With sex ed, we show them how to do it, then we warn them not to do it—but we tell them if they decide to do it, to be careful, because it could kill them, make them sick, or produce an unwanted baby. Talk about confusion!

Love as a positive value is something about which secular humanists and Christians agree. For example, Erich Fromm, a neo-Freudian Marxist psychoanalyst, says things about what love is and how it is created that are just about identical to what Christians teach on the subject. And most of what M. Scott Peck says about love would be compatible with the nonreligious and religious alike. Educators could put together a course of study to help young people see each other as “sacred persons” (even my secular friends like the term) and not simply as instruments for pleasure.

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True love results in right action. While love education will not completely solve the problems related to teen sex, it will move us in the right direction.

Christians have rightly insisted on teaching abstinence, and in an age of AIDS, scaring teens about sexual activity has produced dramatic results. But if we want to do more than scare them, we must show them “a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:30).

That is what love education is all about.

By Tony Campolo, Eastern College.

Homosexuals In Uniform?

When I called Sen. Sam Nunn’s office early in December to ascertain his position on Presidentelect Clinton’s announced intention to rescind the exclusion of avowed homosexuals from military service, I was stunned by an aide’s response: not about the views of the Georgia Democrat—he remains staunchly opposed to any change in policy. But I did not expect the aide to report several calls from military chaplains—all urging the senator to support the Presidentelect’s proposal!

This incident should serve as a wake-up call to traditional Christians. Chaplains tend to be conservative, but it appears that a distinct minority with liberal social views is making its voice heard on Capitol Hill. The rest of us in the Chaplains Corps—and the civilian faithful in various denominations—need to witness on this vital issue now. There still may be time to deter the President from a tragic decision that would adversely affect the moral and spiritual health of both the armed forces and the American commonwealth.

Targeting the sin

Let’s be clear about what is and what is not at stake in this controversy. Homosexual practice is wrong, and it is not homophobic to say so. No faithful Christian, or any advocate of virtue, should acquiesce on this issue just because discussion of it is couched in the twisted terminology of “gay rights.” Nor should we shy away from a principled defense of biblical morality in the public square, where all citizens are assured of an opportunity to forge a moral consensus on such issues.

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While homosexuals as persons have both natural and civil rights, no serious ethicist could say that their “objective disorder” (as the Vactican has twice described it) has any. A public rejection of demands to protect homosexual behavior as the moral equivalent of heterosexual marital relations must not be grounded in an unreasonable fear of homosexual persons. Instead, it must be based on an affirmation of the traditional virtues associated with chastity, matrimonial love, and genuine compassion for others. Loving the homosexual as a person does not preclude our being truthful about homosexual behavior.

Nor is the issue one of equal rights or unfairness or discrimination or bigotry. Advocates of “tolerance” for practicing homosexuals in the military and society at large are generally disingenuous in this appeal: It really cloaks what amounts to a political validation of an unnatural, unhealthy, and ungodly lifestyle.

Endorsing indecency

The issue, then, really boils down to two uncomfortable but essential questions: what is it that homosexuals do, and ought society to provide any public sanction for this practice?

This is a bit like the abortion issue: most people who insist on legally protecting the so-called procedure consider discussing what actually happens during an abortion distasteful, even downright revolting. Similarly, the present issue is not safe versus unsafe sex, but rather decent versus indecent. Sodomy, no matter how it is legitimized, is still a filthy practice at odds with human anatomy. Do these practices merit the support and endorsement an executive order would bestow upon them?

Others have successfully argued that homosexuals in uniform will have a debilitating effect on the mission of the armed forces and on the morale of any soldier who has ever taken a shower or slept in close quarters with his buddies. Such pragmatic considerations ought to deter any reasonable person from changing present military policy.

But the bottom line for Christians remains the clearly expressed will of God in Holy Scripture. The hermeneutical acrobatics performed by revisionist biblical scholars with political agendas notwithstanding, the texts that address homosexuality are plain in their meaning. The chief sin of Sodom was sodomy, not inhospitality, and the church has always taught this truth, beginning with Jude 7.

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With an assurance grounded in the Word of God and a deep concern for the moral and spiritual health of our armed forces and society, American Christians can and must witness to the principalities and powers in Washington, D.C. We dare not remain silent while the Pentagon becomes a general headquarters for a Sodom on the Potomac.

By Alexander F. C. Webster, Orthodox priest, research fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and assistant division chaplain of the Twenty-ninth Infantry Division (Light) of the Virginia Anny National Guard.

Rev. Rogers’S Neighborhood

Even if your latest diet has been successful, it has probably been a while since you have worried seriously about going down the bathtub drain. Seek out a young child, however, and you will find that the drain issue ranks way ahead of the national deficit on the list of problems facing his or her world.

For nearly a quarter of a century now, Fred (“Mr.”) Rogers has dedicated his life and ministry to meeting the world’s most innocent people where they are. He has identified their fears and needs; he has addressed those fears in language they can understand. Because of Mr. Rogers, countless numbers of children know they can’t go down the drain. (Currently, eight million households watch his message of affirmation each week.)

Some may call this Presbyterian minister’s messages simplistic. I call them simple. And urgent. What a better place the world would be if children—and their parents, for that matter—would truly believe that they are important, that they matter. What if we all would behave in ways that affirm that people, regardless of color, appearance, or physical or mental disability, are equally special?

Mr. Rogers, we congratulate you in this, your twenty-fifth season, and thank you for bringing comfort and hope to lives wherein despair is epidemic. Truly, you are special, too.

By Randy Frame.

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