Being just 21 years old, I well remember my secondary school education. I often walk past the school I went to, bilateral (operating grammar and comprehensive systems simultaneously) and located in the north of Kent.
Thinking about school brings back many great memories. I was one of those children who loved going to school. I enjoyed quite a number of subjects, though was only good at a select few, and forged a group of close friends, with whom I am still in frequent contact today.
This week I was again reminded of secondary school by an interesting study linking state initiatives with teenage pregnancy published in the Journal of Health Economics and reported on by ‘The Times’. It highlighted the findings of David Paton and Liam Wright, of the universities of Nottingham and Sheffield respectively, who concluded (the emphasis is mine):
“There are arguments to suggest that the impact [of the cuts] on teenage pregnancy may be not as bad as feared and, indeed, that spending on projects relating to teenage pregnancy may even be counterproductive. Put simply, birth control will reduce the risk of pregnancy for sex acts which would have occurred anyway. But [it] may increase the risk among teenagers who are induced by easier access to birth control either to start having sex or to have sex more frequently.’
Can anybody seriously claim that they are surprised by these findings? If they are, they have not been following events too closely. A similar study, published thirteen years ago by the Family Education Trust, found that areas of the country experiencing high teenage pregnancy rates also played host to the most teenage pregnancy projects.
So, it seems, the more we talk to teenagers about sex, normalise the process and illustrate how it can be had more safely, the more they will do it. And this conclusion took the work of distinguished professors to reach? It is not rocket science.
The main problem with, for instance, sex education has always been that it further chips away at the sanctity of sex; something I have always argued against removing. Sex is, by its very nature, a powerful and private thing, and can come with quite horrid, unforeseen consequences if not engaged in appropriately or at the right time.
Sex education implies that excessive experimentation is inevitable, which it shouldn’t necessarily have to be, and that by introducing it at school, teenagers will effectively be taught how to channel their sexual desires.
These desires may be natural, but extortionate levels of transmitted diseases, abortions and teenage pregnancies are not. They are the result of a 1960s cultural and sexual revolution that promoted the ideals of individualism over those of a social conscience and restraint.
Cultural change isn’t easily changed or reversed, but schools have proven to be an incompetent and inappropriate source of direction for students susceptible to the problems of sex. It should always have been the duty of parents to talk to their children about sexual health and etiquette. Those who avoid this are bad parents.
I remember distinctly, too, how uncomfortable it made students who were more restrained and quiet, a little shier and less eager to talk about such things. Many of my old classmates did not find the experience to be anything other than embarrassing and uncomfortable.
I now appreciate the concerns that they had and wish I had been of clear enough mind to raise the issue whilst at school. Sex education is grotesque, gimmicky nonsense that has, like most government initiatives, proven to counter-productive. It ought to be removed from the school curriculum in the next parliament.