Bad education

You know what distresses me? I mean, other than the price of Dermalogica products, the situation in Syria and people to whom the words “please” and “thank you” are alien concepts?

Well, this. (If you can’t access it, it’s a Telegraph article about the government’s proposals to drop sex and relationship education from the curriculum for 11-13 year olds – under which, information on sexual health, contraception, hormones and adolescence would not be taught.)

These proposals do make you wonder if Education Secretary Michael Gove has ever actually been to a school – and I feel now would be the time to slip this in here. Thanks to the Boy for showing that to me. Mind you, Mr Gove also once claimed that if young people did well academically, they were less likely to “indulge in risky behaviours” – which made sense, until he used it as a basis for the suggestion that sex education lessons would no longer be needed. “They’re bright and high-achievers so they won’t be having sex” is one of the most bollocks assumptions I’ve ever heard someone make. No, no, no – if they’re bright, and over the age of 16, and reasonably mature and responsible, then I bloody well hope they’re having some sex.

I have a theory, and it goes thus: if you start educating people early – about anything, really – it becomes normal to them. Standard, everyday, unremarkable. Not a big deal. And as far as sex is concerned, if you teach age-appropriate material throughout the academic life, the chances are you’re going to end up with a bunch of well-informed, clued-up, sensible, confident teenagers. Who can talk about sex without getting embarrassed, who feel secure and can communicate well within relationships, and who don’t feel judged when they have problems or questions. And all this is a bad thing because…?

I suppose one could quite reasonably argue that it should be left to parents to decide how and when their children learn about sex and relationships. But that would put some kids at a huge disadvantage – there would be the nice, liberal parents that fixed a grin on their nervous faces and got The Conversation started, but there would equally be parents that bottled it and neglected to broach the subject at all. The children of the “bottlers” would have to pick up their info elsewhere – like the internet, or the school playground. Which are, as we know, completely reliable and accurate channels of information… The easiest way to screw up your children is to not address the issues that matter to them – to ignore their worries, either through fear or embarrassment, and to make them feel they can’t confide in you. That is precisely how you drive them away, thus leaving them even more vulnerable than they were before. So let’s not do that, yeah?

The other line some people like to take on this is the hysterical, “think of the children!” one: “if we teach them these things when they’re young, they’ll start doing it sooner!” Have these people MET any children? Here’s a scenario I may or may not have plucked from the air: an eleven year old hears the term “blow job”. He or she asks their best mate what it means. The best mate does their best to explain using their own limited knowledge. The eleven year old thinks “Ew!! That sounds GROSS.” End of story. (For a few years, anyway.)

There are also the statistics, though – Britain has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in Europe (or has had; it’s fallen in recent years), and sex and relationship education is neither comprehensive nor compulsory, while the often-used example of the Netherlands has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world, and educates its youngsters from an early age. In short – people BENEFIT from being taught about sex and relationships from a young age, so it would be nice if the government made curriculum decisions that didn’t fly in the face of all the actual evidence.

Maybe a small part of it comes down to that British squeamishness surrounding talking about “feelings”. But when matters of health and self-esteem are at stake, we need to lose that squeamishness and get some practice in talking about the tricky stuff. Whether the issue in question is sex, mental health or bereavement – there are so many things that can be incredibly hard to talk about – every time someone says “no, we’re not going to discuss that”, or only talks about whatever-it-is in hushed, conspiratorial tones, they’re taking a huge step backwards. Back to a time when personal things – things that still affected everybody, mind – weren’t spoken of at all and people went half-mad with repression and anxiety that they weren’t “normal”.

Because that’s the risk taken when the opportunities for safe, open discussion, and asking questions, are removed. Knowledge, as we all know, is power. Information – the correct information – is confidence. If we make sure that younger generations have all the facts and feel free to ask questions, they will be confident in making their own, well-informed decisions. Why would anyone NOT want that?

This song’s rather fun.
And I’m back obsessing over Brontide again, because I saw them last Wednesday and it was wonderful. With their white-hot riffs and dapper drummer* who knows how to pound seven fucks out of his kit, they wouldn’t know “boring” if it punched all three of them in the face. Here, have some of this.

*We met him afterwards, and I was able to rectify the impression I made when I saw him on the Tube a few weeks ago. I may have lost what little cool I had when I spotted him at Finsbury Park station, and blurted out “AreyouWilliamBowerman? MyboyfriendandIarehugefansofBrontide!” He took it well, though, and when we chatted to him on Wednesday, he was absolutely lovely. Well, the Boy chatted, while I stood there and tried to decide which one to propose marriage to first. I must have a thing for drummers.

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