I was disturbed last week to come across this story:
In Yunnan schools this year, teachers are being trained with a sex education curriculum created by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family. The agreement with the Yunnan ministry of education is a milestone for Focus on the Family, which has struggled for four years to make inroads on abstinence in China.
It is also the result of a narrow confluence of interests: Evangelical Christian groups want an entree into China. And Chinese authorities, despite the country’s official atheism, want help with controlling population growth and managing the society’s rapidly shifting values.
You might think that sex education in China needs all the help it can get — and you’re almost right. This, however, is a firm step in the wrong direction.
First of all, there’s significant evidence that abstinence education doesn’t work. Kids who are taught abstinence are just as likely to have premarital sex as everyone else. And, of course, since they haven’t been taught about sexual health or how to properly use condoms and other forms of protection, when they do have sex, it’s more likely to end badly.
Moreover, Focus on the Family is a religious group, and their form of sex education is likely to also include some homophobia if their founder, James Dobson, is any indication. In Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide, he wrote:
“[The homosexual] agenda includes teaching pro-homosexual [sic] concepts in the public schools, redefining the family to represent “any circle of people who love each other,” approval of homosexual adoption, legitimizing same-sex marriage, and securing special rights for those who identify themselves as gay. Those ideas must be opposed, even though to do so is to expose oneself to the charge of being “homophobic.”
He has also suggested that gays and lesbians are intentionally trying to destroy marriage, and that same-sex families with children are unstable. He also opposes civil unions. And luckily for those studying the “science” that’s included in Focus on the Family’s sex ed curriculum, the group has also been charged with intentionally misrepresenting scientific data for its own purposes:
Judith Stacey, a sociologist at New York University, said her work was manipulated in an attempt to show gays and lesbians do not make good parents.
“This is a direct misrepresentation of the research,” she said.
(And here’s some more evidence of that.)
So why the hell is China letting these guys anywhere near their official sex ed curriculum? I have no idea, but it’s a terrible plan. Sex ed should be based in science — especially in an atheist country — and theirs is not, period. It’s based in an extremely narrow interpretation of a several-thousand-year-old book.
Li Yinhe, China’s foremost sexologist, agrees with me. In a recent blog post, she wrote:
In my point of view, this is a huge step backward. As the Chinese Minstry of Education and people in sex ed circles is pulling together and pushing forward an appropriate sex ed curricula, preparing to teach children about sex using scientific knowledge and promoting the correct attitude about sex, [Yunnan officials and Focus on the Family] are suddenly promoting an anti-sex, ascetic abstinence program. This will become a milestone for China’s step backward in terms of sexual values and sex education. It’s a huge victory for American sexual conservatives, and a huge loss for people everywhere who are open-minded about sex.
Amen. Not to mention that letting these guys in (and giving them official government acceptance, what were you thinking, Yunnan?) paves the way for other Christian fundamentalists, like this asshole and these bigger assholes.
Of course, people are free to do (and believe) whatever they want when it comes to sex. However, in China as everywhere, children should be taught about their bodies and their options based on the latest science, not based on the way some people interpret one book that’s meaningful for one particular religion. Especially given that probably 99% of the kids in Yunnan have never read the Bible and don’t know much about Christianity generally.
I know the government wants “help with controlling population growth and managing the society’s rapidly shifting values,” but abstinence-only education isn’t going to help with the population growth issue. In fact, it’s probably going to hurt (especially since Focus on the Family is pro-life). And I’m fairly sure this is not the direction the government wants China’s values “shifting” towards.
I do realize my opinion isn’t the only one out there, though ((It is, however, the correct one.)). What do you think about this?
(Also tangentially related: this post on OkCupid’s statistical analysis blog is fascinating for many reasons, but scroll down to the end to check out what they learned about the correlation between religion and writing ability. The short version is that they found religious people to be better writers when they were half-assed about their religious beliefs, and they found atheists who were very committed to their atheism to be better writers than fundamentalists from any religion. Agnostics are next. Protestant fundamentalists like our friends at Focus on the Family, sadly, rank dead last. Color me shocked.)