Vermont’s August 2021 “Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education” was created by the Vermont Sexual Health Stakeholders Group. One would think the most important stakeholders in this subject area were parents and children. However, parents are mostly excluded from knowing what is happening to their children.
The Essential Topics guide includes “Best Practices for Abstinence and SDM Teaching” (p. 12). “SDM” means “Sexual decision-making,” which children are taught they have the “right” to make at any age.
The “best practices for abstinence” reveals that Vermont schools eschew abstinence and other “value-based shaming” about sex, instead encouraging kids to choose how they “feel” about having sex: “Vows of abstinence break far more often than condoms” (p. 15), and children must be taught about all aspects of sexual activity to equip them once they decide to no longer abstain.
While abstinence-only education may be incomplete, that does not mean that the opposite extreme must be embraced — but it is. Vermont’s students are taught that retaining one’s virginity is bad and stigmatizing:
There are many reasons to avoid the concept of virginity. … It is important to remember that virginity has never been enforced equally: cisgender women and girls have always been the focus of the virginity movement and have typically been the people harmed by the enforcement of expectations of virginity. It is also important to recognize that there are different racial stereotypes and experiences of virginity: white women’s virginity has been highly valued historically, while that of BIPOC girls is often undervalued or ignored entirely by a cultural and historical narrative that that paints them as always sexually willing.” (p.13)
The countries with the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world possess strong social constructs about teen pregnancy, especially North and South Korea: “Although there is a support system in both countries for pregnant teens, social acceptance of such is next to none.”
Vermont children, however, are encouraged to embrace sexual liberation. A new construct is being inculcated in which there is no shame or taboo, virginity is a “child’s personal value” and sexual promiscuity and deviance do not “reflect” on character.
The belief of the Essential Topics in Sexual Health Education guide is expansive sex education of young children will drop teen pregnancy rates, as in the Netherlands. Teachers are instructed to “help youth identify their own values around sexual activity, including abstinence” (p.14). Abstinence restricts true biological liberty, the guide instructs: “Research suggests that it is important for instruction to frame teen sex as normative, rather than pathological. … Lessons should provide information to support students in choosing for themselves when it is the right time to participate in sexual behavior. (p.12).
But by definition, children are not able to “manage health and emotional outcomes,” and their parents are responsible for the consequences when children in their homes become pregnant or infected with STDs.
Essential topics teaches about values. But rather than have children learn their values from parents or faith traditions, the school will teach them how to think: “Help youth identify their own values around sexual activity, including abstinence. Different people have different values about what is right or wrong. Values clarification activities give young people the freedom to truly think about their own values, what feels right, and how to act in accordance with those values.” (p. 14)
This sex instruction about values undermines family and parental values, teaching kids instead to follow “what feels right” and “what’s right for them.”
Defining goals is part of the healthy decision-making process and helping young people identify and navigate their own goals for sexual activity can help them make decisions that are right for them. Important message: Pleasure can be the goal. (p. 15)
Once upon a time, it was considered the province of parent “stakeholders” to instruct their children about values, sexual mores and the risks of doing what “feels good” versus delayed gratification and accountability for consequences. Clearly, Vermont’s public schools have stepped between parents and children in deciding how to morally equip children “for their own good,” including what and when to teach them about sex and abstinence.
Redefining abstinence has consequences for children and their parents. Perhaps the appropriate age for such institutional reconditioning of young children’s minds should be more fully considered.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2022. All rights reserved.