Fully Alive and Other 'Family Life' Programs

Catherine Fournier

Domestic-Church.Com - Reviews - Fully Alive Programs

Any review of a particular sex education or family life program would not be useful to all of Domestic-Church.Com's readers (your school or parish will just say 'oh, well, we're not using that program, ours is different), so instead we offer an 'overview' of sex education, with some recommendations on how to approach the topic.

There seem to be two divergent schools of thought when it comes to teaching children about human sexuality. Several 'programs' and 'approaches' try to occupy some strange shifting middle ground, but in actual fact there are only two positions.

One is: 'Let's be honest. Sex is a natural instinct. It feels good, and everyone's going to do it sooner or later. If we teach children openly about sex and sexuality, then they will avoid early pregnancy, unhealthy relationships, sexually transmitted diseases and the other tragedies that keep young people from realising their full human potential.' School based sex education programs tend to follow this school of thought. It is the 'popular' position of our governments, many school boards, the secular media, liberal social action groups, and some parents.

These sex-education programs have a fundamental flaw that reveals both their weakness and danger. They divorce Love from Procreation. They 'link it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure.' (Familiaris Consortio, John Paul II). God has told us that He is Love. Sex-ed programs are in fact, attempting to divorce God from Procreation. But God created Procreation as part of the human body 'in His image.' It can be misused, twisted, and abused, but Procreation is still God's creation. The two can't be separated. This internal contradiction doesn't just weaken any teaching made to the children, it leaves them with no teaching at all. In the absence of any definite teaching, but the presence of a great deal of information, children and young people fall into experimentation, and tragedy, the very things the sex-ed program claimed to be trying to avoid.

The diametrically opposed attitude says: ' Human sexuality is an integral part of human creation. "In this extremely delicate matter, if, all things considered, some private instruction is found necessary and opportune, for those [ie: parents] who hold from God the commission to teach and who have the grace of state, every precaution must be taken...Such is our misery and inclination to sin, that often in the very things considered to be remedies against sin, we find occasions for and inducements to sin itself. Hence it is of the highest importance that a good father, while discussing with his son a matter so delicate, should be well on his guard and not descend to details...otherwise it may happen that instead of extinguishing this fire, he unwittingly stirs or kindles it in the simple and tender heart of the child." (Rappresentanti in Terra, No. 67, Pope Pius XI on Sex Education, 1929)' This is the position of orthodox Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims and other religions in the world. Some schools, parishes, and media respect this attitude and present programs and materials to complement and support the parent's role.

This one-on-one education approaches the subject with the necessary gentleness and delicacy. It links Love and Procreation even before a word is spoken. 'Those who conceived you, who love you, will teach you.' The sharing of day-to-day family life in times of joy and times of difficulty are the best teachers of love and life to a child. But many parents feel unequal to the task, or don't attempt it, or think they have failed because their child commits a sin. Again, some young people fall into tragedy and away from the Church, the very things their parents were trying to avoid.

As I mentioned, many programs and their promoters try to occupy the middle ground. They say, 'Well, yes, this is a Catholic (or whatever) school and we certainly support the role of the parents. But so many parents don't teach their children, or are not qualified to handle such delicate material properly. We will teach the children everything they need to know about human sexuality - so that they can survive in our complex diverse society - but we will stress chastity and abstinence.' This is the popular position in disguise. Stressing chastity and abstinence still presents the other material to the children. Discussing diversity of social behaviours and sexuality together suggests that different choices and solutions may all be equally aceptable.

Other programs and positions call themselves 'Chastity Education.' They set out to reach children, teens, and young adults on their own ground, using their own language. They focus on the beauty of God's design and the special place that sexuality has within sacramental marriage. Without going into sexual details, they outline some of the problems, heartache and tragedies that result from early sexuality. They present chastity and abstinence as the right and only choice. This is orthodoxy with a popular coating. It still runs the risk of piquing a young person's curiousity and awakening 'this fire...in the simple and tender heart of the child.'

For all the discussion of the merits of one position, and the success of the other, parents must still teach their children. Parents must teach their children about all kinds of things - to safely cross the street, to read, to determine if someone is trustworthy or not, to plan one's future and choose a vocation, and about procreation, sexuality, chastity, modesty and a host of other delicate matters. They alone know their child, know its heart, know how to teach and when to listen. Parents must decide, using their own informed conscience and the grace of their married state (a powerful resource!), how and what they will teach their child and to who and when they will turn to outside sources for assistance.

Of all the 'positions', 'programs' and 'approaches', there is little support for this position. Everyone insists that their method and philosophy is the only correct and moral one. Everyone condemns the others. Some schools and parishes actively obstruct the parent's ability to guide the moral education of their children in these matters. It takes a sturdy and determined parent to stand against this storm of opinion and discern for themselves; what the real issues are, and how their family is going to resolve them.

There are some important points to remember.

First: You, as the parents, have the God-given responsibility and obligation to guide and direct the education of your child. You are the primary educators. The school will not 'answer to God' for the state of your child's soul, you will. The teacher will not take your child in if he abuses drugs, or she gets pregnant and wants to keep the child, or is too irresponsible to hold a job, you will. As primary educators, you have the duty and right to review any material before it is taught to your child, and you have the right to withdraw your child from any class you deem inappropriate for your child. In school districts where sex education has been classified compulsory, you have the duty and right to withdraw your child from the school.

Second: The Church has taught for centuries about the sex education of children. The Second Vatican Council insisted that the family has the primary duty and function to educate children about sex; and that, in addition, they be always prudent. Pius XII described a truly effective sex education as one that is always implicit in nature, and teaches children only what they need to know for their personal conduct and relationships. Familiaris Consortio (by John Paul II) encourages parents to 'give their children a clear and delicate sex education. Faced with a culture that largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something commonplace, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure, parents must aim firmly at a training in the area of sex that is truly and fully personal: for sexuality is an enrichment of the whole person - body, emotions and soul - and it manifests its inmost meaning in leading the person to the gift of self in love.(37)' Most, if not all, school based sex education programs fail to follow these criteria.

Third: In order to follow the Church's teachings on sex education for children; chastity, purity in behaviour and deportment, modesty in speech and dress, charity towards others, abstinence before marriage, and openness to new life within marriage, must be taught by example as well as by words. What we do, even when we think the children do not see, speaks far louder than what we say.

A Few Interesting Discussions and Sources of Information About Sex Ed:

From The Failure of Sex Education by Barbara Dafoe Whitehead published in the Atlantic Monthly, October, 1994.

'Sex education in the schools is not new, of course, but never before has it attempted to expose children to so much so soon. Comprehensive sex education includes much more than a movie about menstruation and a class or two in human reproduction. It begins in kindergarten and continues into high school. It sweeps across disciplines, taking up the biology of reproduction, the psychology of relationships, the sociology of the family, and the sexology of masturbation and massage. It seeks not simply to reduce health risks to teenagers but also to build self esteem, prevent sexual abuse, promote respect for all kinds of families, and make little boys more nurturing and little girls more assertive. As Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, explains, comprehensive sex education is not just about giving children a "plumbing lesson."'

HLI's Chastity And Sex Education

Human Life International's Position Statement on Sex Education:

Sex-ed cannot be taught without "values." Given the separation of church and state, public schools cannot teach sex ed in a religious context. Educating the young about sexuality is the supreme right and primary duty of parents, who may seek the help of educational institutions approved by them and under their control.

Opting out of Sex Education Classes
By Michael Jacques An impassioned review and rejection of a local sex-ed program with useful statistics.

'What messages are West Allis Schools conveying to children when they preach ideal success rates, rather than the actual in use failure rates of contraceptives? The Schools are in essence giving these kids a false sense of security. They are teaching them that they can choose to have sex outside of marriage.
West Allis Schools believe in teaching 15-16 year old children State Confidentiality laws so that all the children will understand that they do not have to deal with their own parents. It seems that our Schools have no problem undermining the parents.
West Allis Schools promote masturbation in their sixth grade health class. They promote dating for 11-12 year old children in their sixth grade health. According to the research children who start dating at 12-13 years of age are about four times more likely to become sexually promiscuous than children who wait to start dating until they are 16-17 years old.
West Allis Schools start teaching the genitalia information in mixed company starting in sixth grade and each year there after. Teaching sex education in mixed company has a strong tendency to break down the children's natural modesty. This in turn has a strong tendency to contribute to sexual experimentation among our youth.
West Allis Schools do not believe they can teach about the mental, emotional, psychological and family relational damage that inevitably occurs with premarital and extramarital sexual relations. I guess they consider this too narrow-minded.'

The Cukerski Family Apostolate: A pro-life Site

Keeping It Catholic: A Catholic Homeschooling Site

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