Literatus: Understanding secular ‘sexuality education’

Zosimo T. Literatus

LAST week, this column introduced the Unesco definition of “sexuality education,” which is “an age-appropriate, culturally relevant approach to teaching about sex and relationships by providing scientifically accurate, realistic, non-judgmental information.”

Now let us explore the phrases we singled out last week from this definition.

The first term is “age-appropriate.”

Since the focus of “sexuality education” is teenagers, the implied age group ranges from those 15 to 19. However, in August, the Department of Education (DepEd) indicated that “sex education” may be included in the basic education curriculum (below 15) as a separate subject. What does sex have to do with elementary school children? Is it age-appropriate at this level?

The second phrase, “culturally relevant,” must be considered closely because the Christian religion is an integral part of our Filipino culture, and any talk of school-based “sex education” always finds theological aspects excluded from the discussion. I cannot see such a “sex education” even culturally relevant. I tend to agree if DepEd will include “theology of the body” in their curriculum. Otherwise, this phrase is simply a nice-sounding and decorative concept.

The third phrase is “about sex,” which is horrendous in implication because children from primary to senior high will be taught about the sexual act. Children who are kept innocent for their commitment to chastity will be forced to listen to this “education” because the school requires it. It is as if teaching those children not interested about it for religious reasons simply because educators believe they should. In a sense, teaching it in school is even a form of coercion and violates freedom of religion unless such subject is optional and will have no impact on the pupil’s academic standing like catechism.

The fourth phrase, “relationship,” will refer inevitably to social and psychological perspectives of relationship, shunning out the theological perspective of human relationships, violating once again the “culturally relevant” assertion. Moreover, the “education” will be unenlightened with religious ethics, which psychosocial disciplines cannot compensate effectively.

The fifth phrase, “scientifically accurate,” must be understood with a grain of salt because the age selection alone is difficult to ascertain scientifically. In statistics, which is the foundation of the scientific method, there are always outliers in every population. These outliers (e.g. educated Christian children who value their chastity) will be forced to listen to the “scientific” platitude of “sex,” which does not interest them at their age in the first place.

Last, the “realistic” and “non-judgmental” terms are closely related. Who will determine which perspective is realistic: the theological perspective of the human person and sexuality, or the materialistic perspective of “sex” from medical, psychological, and sociological disciplines? Either way, becoming judgmental will be inevitable because the educators end up judging theological perspectives as “unrealistic.”