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Sex Education in Chinese Schools
originally posted April 30, 2010

I'm told there is no sex education in Chinese schools, or if it happens it's because of the initiative of an individual teacher.  I took another poll of my students and was surprised to find strong support for the idea.  One class was unanimously in favour.

Sex of course is physically, emotionally, and socially dangerous.  I tell my students that sex is much more dangerous now than it was when I was their age.  Back then you could catch a disease, but the disease could be cured.  Now sex can kill you. 
     It seems to me that ignorance increases any danger.  If, like my dog, you don't know enough to look both ways before crossing the road, doing so is very dangerous.  Once you know how to deal with it, the road becomes pretty safe.  Never completely safe, of course.  There's always the chance that a drunk could swerve and get you while you walk down the sidewalk.  But a lot safer than if you haven't been taught how to minimize the danger.  Knowledge reduces danger for just about anything, yet sex education in schools is still a very controversial issue in many regions of North America.
     My class this week was a chance to introduce the students to some vocabulary they're not likely to have encountered before.  Words like puberty, abstinence, condom, genitals, pedophile, deviants, perverts, predators, menstruation.  I didn't talk about specific practices, fetishes, or even variations.  But I did try to explain the sex education issue and why there is a controversy over it.  Leaving aside those who believe that sex education belongs with the parents, despite the fact that many parents are ignorant or too uptight to accomplish any real education, it comes down to the question of what should be taught, and when. 
     There are those who say that there is no such thing as safe sex, and therefore the only thing to teach children is that sex is bad and dangerous and don't do it.  Abstinence.  The other side believes that trying to stifle one of humanity's strongest drives simply doesn't work, results in things like priests molesting orphans, and that a certain percentage of young people will have sex no matter what they are told.  Thus harm reduction is the only sensible approach - education about contraceptives and condom use. 
     There are those who would delay introducing the topic until just before marriage, those who would introduce it just before or just after puberty, and those, like myself, who believe that sex education in an age appropriate form should begin in kindergarten.
     I'm not out to destroy the innocence of childhood.  But ignorance is not innocence.  The first question a pedophile asks a child is what his or her genitals are called.  If the child doesn't know, or knows only the childish euphemisms such as "wee wee" or "thing", then the predator knows that child has no adult in their life that they talk to about their body.  It marks a child as "safe", a potential victim, and that makes the child more vulnerable.  Three year olds should know where babies come from, how they happen, and what the various body parts involved are called, both technically and in street language.  They should be taught what behavior from an adult is appropriate, and what is not.  They don't need to be frightened of strangers, but they do need to know that they can tell adults anything and be believed.
     Speaking of talking to strangers, the best thing a child can do in a situation where they are lost or confused is to pick a stranger to talk to.  Children have pretty good instincts.  The chances of picking a predator are miniscule, but a child who looks alone and frightened is a target.

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