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Vindication of Sex-Education

October 17, 2006


(picture from http://www.askmen.com)

This post was prompted by an interesting incident in my 11 year old son’s schoolfriend’s life. Though only in the sixth standard, with lots of girls showing interest in him, his parents were dumbfounded when their son actually received three letters(in addition to earlier emails) at their residential address from some girl. Amusing though it was, they actually didn’t know how to deal with the situation. His mother remarked, “ My daughter is almost double my son’s age but I have never had any problems with her. Since when have girls started chasing boys like this and that too at such a young age”.

Incidentally, my son studies in one of those schools which is very particular about preserving Indian culture. It reminded me of an incident at the parent teacher’s meeting a few months ago when a mother complained that she didn’t know what to say when her daughter told her about a senior boy and girl smooching in class.

The funniest incident occurred with my wife, a nursery school teacher when some tiny tot who was also known to some mutual friends actually said ,”She is sexy” on being asked “How is your teacher?” Height of “catch them young” I would say.

One almost feels like going back to school and reminds of that song “Koi lauta de mere bite hue din”

Just a couple of days ago, in the Sunday Times( 15/10/2006), in an article “Orissa teachers coy about talking birds and bees” , Arabinda Mishra says that Teachers in Orissa are reluctant to impart sex education and the dangers of AIDS to their students because they find words like condom, sex and intercourse too unpleasant to discuss in classrooms. Under pressure from the HRD ministry, a chapter on AIDS was introduced as a part of social studies for students of IX and X but the teachers were so uncomfortable discussing it that it was withdrawn. Since then, it has been a tug of war between the teachers and the bureaucrats of the HRD ministry. The Orissa Aids Cell had prepared the chapter in consultation with experts but could not convince the teachers. Orissa has had a spurt in AIDS cases but the teachers found the topic to embarrassing to handle.

A few months ago, there was a similar article in a magazine advising parents on how to go about imparting sex education. It was also somewhat amusing but the fact remains that before imparting an education of this type, the teachers themselves have to be specially oriented if not trained. The teachers however do not seem to be too inclined it seems.

The gates of this impasse can be penetrated by no less a man than Bill Gates himself. Though he has not mentioned the word “sex” anywhere in his book Business@speed of thought, some of the extracts(relevant to online education from the chapter connected learning communities) seem to be written for the current situation:-

“Most teachers have a great love of learning and they will get excited about anything that will help kids learn. What teachers don’t want is to be thrown into something they have not had the opportunity to learn about and be comfortable with”..

This exactly describes the Orissa situation..

Elsewhere, Mr Gates writes, “ An important reengineering principle is that companies should focus on their core competence and outsource everything else. “. Though this book was written a few years back, these days , it is not uncommon to find reports on homework of American kids being outsourced to India. Why then should teachers or for that matter parents take the onus of sex education when it is not their core competence and requires specialized knowledge imparting skills?. Why can’t it be done by the computer to the extent possible? As it is, on line education is all about the best teachers producing the best content and making it accessible to all, not just their classrooms. This is true for all subjects and the added advantage is that the computer can both innstruct and demonstrate and therefore make it more comprehensible.

One more extract from the Book also fits the bill “ One of the most forward looking ideas is to use the PC to offer a variety of ways to learn. About fifty different major theories identify similar attributes. Some people learn by reading, some by listening, some by watching someone else do a task, some by doing the task. Most of us learn from a combination of all these methods. “Any subject can be personalized according to the learning style of the student. What a unique way to know about sex.

It is also given that “ A highly motivated student can learn from different reading materials, where a poorly motivated student needs accessible materials such as a video to learn”. Well, considering the subject matter, I would not be surprised if a majority of students turn out to be poorly motivated. One should also discuss the motivation of the teacher here. Off and on, one gets to hear things like how teachers have not exactly taken a liking to computers and there is resistance to change. Now, if you give them a Hobson’s choice- either teach sex education directly or through computers, I think you can kill two birds with one stone and do away with the resistance to computers problem forever.

The children can also ask the uncomfortable questions on line and get their answers. With the way broadband services are improving, why a multi-media sex education initiative has not been taken surprises me. Such a move can live up to that saying in Hindi “Saap bhi mar jaaye or laathi bhi na toote” . Why not? Especially for those who find it too difficult to handle. It can also be a combo strategy- the computer can give the basic orientation and certain doubts cleared by parents/teachers.

I had read in a book how a father, on failing repeatedly to get his son to wash his hands before eating finally took him to one of his doctor friends. The doctor briefed the child on what germs were, gave a display under a microscope and topped it up by showing a video film showing explicitly what could happen if he didn’t wash his hands. Thereafter, the child never had to be told to wash hands. Another doctor had told me similarly that to prevent people from smoking, they should be shown video films of lung cancer patients and apprised of other problems they could face with advancing age when health becomes more and more precious. This is the “Without, danger, you cannot go beyond danger” that I have advocated in my earlier posts.One cannot have a wishy-washy,ambiguous, half hearted approach to AIDS(or other adverse effects of pre-marital sex) . It must be significantly scary to create an impact.

There are many who feel that teaching sex education at a young age in school is both awkward and undesirable as it may prove counterproductive. Many others are of the view that such an education is not in accordance with our culture. Such issues are best addressed by an expert.For those inclined to know more,let us have it from the horse’s mouth. These are two best articles by renowned sexologist, Dr Prakash kothari.They address AIDS, awkwardness of parents and teachers, influence of television etc among other things and vindicate the introduction of sex education among students:-

Sex education for adolescents stressed

Birds, Bees and Relatives

Today)17/10/2006), it has come in the papers how children are becoming more violent because of influence of Television. Whether it is sex or violence, one has to follow Osho’s philosophy “ To remove darkness, one has to bring light into the room and not take darkness out of a room”. The right knowledge has simply got to be introduced in the right manner and spread as fast as possible. .

The fact that “Child is the father of man” applies now more to sex than anything else can be proved by this joke:-

The teacher at the beginning of the class says: “OK kids, we are going to talk about sexual education today. First we’ll talk about how the human reproduction goes on…” Immediately, little Johnny raises his hand, and desperately tries to get the teacher’s attention. But the teacher, knowing how little Johnny is about these things, goes on… “… First, a man a woman have to be in love… ” But little Johny keeps his hand up, waving it up and down, and from one side to the other one. The teacher ignores him..”..They have to be very much in love because…” But now little Johnny even starts making noise with his feet, so the teacher decides to acknowledge him: ” OK, little Johnny. What do you want to say.” Little Johnny then stands up, and says: “I just wanted to ask. Those of us who have already f****d, can we leave?

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47 comments

  1. Hi Hiren..!

    This is a very important and necessary post, especially for the Indian Society, which still looks upon the very word ‘SEX’ as taboo. There is no proper sex education in most of the schools, and I was lucky to have had a comprehensive learning programme for Sex Education, by a very competent teacher, most sincerely.

    When children do not learn at a young age, then the realization of something that they have no knowledge of, during adolescence could become a major catastrophe. Many parents or teachers do not realize this. I believe sex education should start at home, so that children know that it is normal and know the restrictions.

    In a country like India, where AIDS, as an epidemic is becoming more rampant by the day, this issue is of great seriousness. If the amount of importance, the government is giving to spreading AIDS awareness, is given to SEX education in schools equally, I personally believe better results could be obtained.

    A most thought provoking post, with those quotes from Bill Gates`s book, perfectly matching the idea..!
    This is one post, I wish all parents in India read..

    Keep Writing.

    With Best Regards,
    Srijith Unni.


  2. Parents won’t give sex education. The teachers won’t either. Then who will? In my opinion, the teachers who say “it is uncomfortable to discuss…” should be sacked. If they can’t, the school would have to find someone who wouldn’t feel uncomfortable to impart sex education. I remember in my 10th grade, we had a chapter on reproduction in our biology class and whenever the teacher mentioned the word sex, everyone would start giggling. How immature. And teens and pre teens who think they’re all that and act mature, they just piss me off lol. Its the parents fault. Though I wouldn’t mind if a kindergarten kid says the “s word”. Sounds funny.

    The parents need to grow responsible in this department as well. They can’t wholly rely on the school to impart sex education. Oh well, we can ramble on forever on this subject, can’t we? As this comment shows… Good joke, and great post man.


  3. I remember sitting in a sex education class when I was in 8th grade. Ours was a Convent School. Its was an all-girls school and all our teachers were females. So it wasn’t that embarrassing for me.

    I think the teachers need to “grow up”. Its ridiculous for them to behave in this manner. I guess they place a higher premium on not talking about it than about children learning the importance of safe sex. India will soon become the next Africa if this situation doesn’t change.

    Great post!


  4. Hiren, a very relevant post, well-written one too. What elders, especially parents and teachers, need to understand is that TIMES ARE CHANGING, that is, if they haven’t already.

    I have a 13-year-old son and I can understand very well understand the situation referred to the post. And, my wife and I have had our own similar experiences with our son.

    The biggest mistake elders make is that they try to look at the present situation through the prism of their own olden days, little realising that the context are so vastly different.

    Children see things in much different ways than elders used to see or still see. That difference is brought about by many things, one of them being the exposure the kids have had during their upbringing. And, that exposure is so different.

    When kids talk of kissing, sex, gay, lesbian, pregnancy, delivery etc etc, what elders should do is NOT TO OVERREACT. Listen out to the kids calmly. The worst thing to say is to ask them to shut up.

    If certain points need to be clarified, do it. The trick is never to tell a lie but not always necessarily the full truth. Sex education is definitely a must, there’s no doubt about it. Often there’sn’t any need to go out of the way to tell children anything. If their questions are satisfactorily answered that itself is half the education.


  5. Enjoyed this post. I can understand parents being shy about enlightening their wards about ‘sex’. But we know that the system has failed them when teachers refuse to approach the topic. This perhaps also points to gaps in teacher education and societal attitudes to ‘sex’ and ‘sexual health.’


  6. nice read,Hiren..quite illustrative!!
    Most often parents feel shy or embarrassed to discuss sex with their children.Whenever the parents have been able to break the mindset and talk openly with their children to share their knowledge about sex education, children not only listen to them, but also follow their advice and resort to them to sort out their feelings on the subject.


  7. […] A desi blogger, with insight-full articles on daily life in India. Here are two posts I liked. Sex Education the above quote is from this post and Are bloggers failed journalists?. A good reply to a dumb rant that found its way to a national MSM. […]


  8. hmmm.. very true.. parents should talk to kids abt sex..


  9. Good post. There is an increased need for sex education because:
    1. Kids find about it in different type of media (movies, books, etc) and a lot of what they read is not exactly reality; they will develop a lot of misconceptions
    2. Sex education will help them to be more careful if they do desire to experiment (we can pretend that it does not happen, but with point 1 above, it will happen)


  10. Ahh, the old sex-ed argument. My views might strike you as weird, but here they are:
    1) I’ve never had a sex-ed class in school that helped. I don’t think I’ve “developed misocnceptions”. That’s bullshit.
    2) I have, however, had several long talks with my parents on the subject. We were frank about it, and even had a nice laugh over the anatomical details of the act. That helped.
    3) Frankly, I wouldn’t treat something a teacher told me with much respect. They’re not even competent in their OWN subject; how can we expect them to handle something like sex-ed? I would much rather have the talk with my parents, who I respect and who I’m comfortable with.
    4) In the same vein: parents can tailor the content of their talk as and how it suits their family conditions: how conservative they are, and so on. This is something teachers can’t do, and don’t have the imagination to be capable of doing.

    In the end, I think the one thing to realise is that sex is not unnatural or evil or bad or dirty. It’s a pure act, an act of love, an act that we as a species are born to do. It’s one of the best parts of life. That needs to be realised and that realisation needs to be communicated.


  11. Isn’t it a gospel truth that even though we are exposed to ‘change’ more often than any other experience in life, we never quite get used to it? we stiffly resist it like a spoonful of loathsome medicine.Be it change for the better, or for the worse. ‘sex education’ demands such ‘change’, and so is the resistance. i think ur suggestion to introduce a computer-based-learning holds a ground. but that goes well for the urban and well-to-do schools, what abt the others, where such lack of knowledge makes the spread of the pandemic more obvious. so, the teachers must take the initiative to impart the knowledge. may be they need to be sent to some orientation courses first 🙂 but that’s ok. teaching about teaching; the metaTeaching is perfectly acceptable.

    btw, thanks for another great post. how u manage to do that when u have a 11 yrs old son to deal with at home?? LOL. share some tips on that too. sply to us guys, who are about to step into the ‘M’ life!!


  12. 1. I think Gates overstayed his welcome in this post. May be you should have written a separate post reviewing the book.

    2. Little Johnny funny as ever, haven’t heard that before.

    But i found these tangential to the core idea of the post.


  13. Sex ed is a must in schools. Cos some kids find out abt it the harder way only cos they DIDNT KNOW BEFORE.

    Keshi.


  14. Sex education should be made compulsory at any cost. The more sex education and access to contraception the better. Ignorance generates embarrassment and creates an environment where kids and young adults can be more easily pressured into having sex and get nasty diseases. If we are really concern about reducing HIV cases in India; then we should honestly start proper sex education in our schools. Even I would welcome if government introduce any new ACT about this sex education.

    Talk to Kids today about “SEX” for their healthy tomorrow.


  15. i think wats more important is to impart the education in the right age, the age shdn’t be too less to get confused n go in the other way.so 9 n 10 are ofcourse the most suitable ages b cos all of us would have known abt sex till then even if not completely.we had a class on human reproduction in biology n our teacher kept saying us to take it in a broad sense n its science.she also used the very appropriate words. so i guess it all depends on the teacher n how does she tackle.


  16. @srijith-Thanks for your kind remarks. I agree completely with you about spreading AIDS awareness.
    @Slim- All teachers do not have the same communicating ability or comfort level
    @Ruhi- India will indeed become the next Africa if something drastic is not done about it.
    @Pradeep-Children have to be dealt with patiently all right.
    @Nilesh- I agree totally
    @Gangadhar- A lot depends upon the communicating ability of the parent.
    @Links- Thanks and thanks for the other links on your site.
    @Anu- Right you are
    @Ashish- Better to find it through the right than the wrong way.
    @surfryder-Sooner or later, computer will spread everywhere-inevitable. About “M” life, live and learn.
    @Giri- I did that deliberately becasue that is what editors don’t let you do when you write for their magazines. The basic idea was to promote sex through on line education and who better than Mr Gates, a strong votary of online education in any subject. I don’t thing that what I have written is tangential at all to the core idea. Read the chapter connected learning communities if you don’t believe me.
    @Keshi- Experience is a hard taskmaster. It takes the test first, gives lesson afterwords- one cannot afford in this context
    @Ek Awaaz- Its not just about introducing acts like the one for child labor introduced recently. Its about fructifying them practically.
    @Maverick- You are bang on target about age. Also, what they exactly teach in my view.


  17. @Hiren

    i am totally agree with Maverick comments, but reason I said about Act is becuase teachers try to avoid these talk, Pupils in school are too shy to talk openly parent dont want to talk for some reason. We Indians got habbit that till we dont get any sort of Law we wont do it properly. It is sad part.


  18. Hiren,
    A very frank post on a rather controversial subject! I do not know why Indian societies are so closed and hypocrytical at times. Children would be rather allowed to fend for themselves for something they are mad about to know than provide systematic professional guidance. At least in industry, there is a lot more openness now quite possibly brought upon by globalisation. I think it is not a distant future when Internet and media exposure will remove the veil from the parents and teachers.


  19. “Those of us who have already f****d, can we leave?”–ha ha,a great homily for a happy diwali 🙂 Wish you all a very happy diwali.


  20. It’s amazing that you bring in a totally unrelated book – by Bill Gates, into this post ! That was very interesting though :).


  21. @Apun ka Desh- I do not understand how the book is totally “unrelated”. Please read “connected learning communities” in that book which is all about on-line education which I said should be used for sex.

    I will also answer the posts after my previous answer:-

    @ek awaaz- Because of the nature of the subject, some people shall always feel uncomfortable. This is for them
    @Satish- Let’s hope that the viel gets removed
    @Manish- I too thought that was quite hillarious. Happy Diwali to you too.
    @Apun Ka Desh- Apun ka post is rarely unrelated which I have tried to explain to you above.


  22. Wishing you all a very Happy Diwali….


  23. Given all the dire predictions around AIDS in India, this is so relevant. You touched upon something not many talk about in the open. Looks like did a lot of googling and reading for it. Well done Hiren.


  24. Nice post.Reminds me of the dialogue from Subhas Ghai’s movie Pardes, where one character tells the sati-savtri heroine,”You are citizens of a country that tops the world population,yet you people are shy of sex”.But I guess another one generation down the line,this shyness will go off.But not sure that’s a good thing or bad.


  25. are u by any chance trying to say that sex-education or sex-awareness education shouldnt be given to kinds in school???? if you are then i shall have to open and shut my mouth like a goldfish in utter disgust..

    and that little johhny bit, there are a whole series of LJ one-liners, that are even more blunt than the one in the article, now if that is a case againt sex education, god help us!!!


  26. Hi Hiren,

    An extremely relevant post, not to mention its so well laid out (as usual). I am 23 now; and I remember we had a “chapter” in 9th Standard. Of course, I already knew everything about the birds and the bees well before that; and my sources were..well.. undesirable. So you can imagine how skewed my knowledge of things were.

    The school in which I studies in 9th had all conservative teachers and students alike. The “chapter” was left to the students to study and “ask if u have any doubts”.

    I changed to another school for my 10th; and we had a repeat of the same chapter. This time, the teachers and students alike were more “forward”; and thanks to that, I learned about it the way i should have in the first place. Amid lots of sneering and joking, the point was put through.

    I strongly feel that its the responsibility of parents to put across the facts of life. But this is easier in modern, urban India; not in rural places. Thats where the teacher’s role comes in.

    However, it must be kept in mind what is happening in more “liberal” countries, if you know what I mean. We do not want these “cheap” practices to be emulated here,do we?


  27. Whats the need for parents to impart knowledge about sex to children…the raunchy music videos and titillating ads are already doing it, no? But seriously, if parents can’t do it, if teachers feel shy, make audio-visual presentations or have sexologists come for seminars or make it a computer based interactive study….there are so many ways!

    My 4 year old niece described Valentine’s Day as a day when a boy and a girl make love *sigh*


  28. You’ve raised some very fair points, Hiren. Gates proves exactly how much of a true visionary he is, as his earlier work still has relevance today and is not merely restricted to his field of work.

    However, especially in a state like Orissa, education through IT – particularly sex education – may be a little far-fetched at the minute.

    Good work, though.


  29. u hv hit the bulls eye.. our parochial mindsets have led the children to the kitschy form of sex education like porn films and porn magazines.. its high time we shed the inhibitions.. i still remember how as a child, thanks to hindi cinema,i used to think tht trying a mangalsutra itself will bore a child and if not for my girlfriend i wud never hv been knowing tht the semen has to be discharged for a woman to conceive.. i lament at my situation.. i hope it does not happen with the current and the future crop..


  30. @Ek awaaz- Happy Diwali to you too.
    @silkboard- Thanks
    @chillabong- Time will tell
    @Jhantu- I meant that it should be given as on line education especially to those uncomfortable.
    @Kiran- The cheap practices cannot be emulated here only by using on line education.
    @Nautilus- I agree with you
    @Enigma- Far fetched maybe but not impossible.
    @Jagan- Thanks for your frankness.


  31. yep i remember once in my 9th grade i sat thru a sex education class…and that was utter boring as the doctor was blabbering crude biology…nothing more…Time is the best sex teacher..which i feel


  32. u rock yaar


  33. Hello Hiren,

    This is a very nice write-up and I like the idea of killing two birds with one stone. Our teachers have to come out of this inhibition as its a question of our society’s future.

    As for those who think that sex education is against our culture, they couldn’t have been more wrong. In addition, diseases like AIDS etc do not look at one’s culture when they kill someone. So the whole culture thing is baseless. Proper Sex education at an appropriate age is the need of the hour.

    To drive the point home with kids, it has to be the teachers, because its a well known fact that parents(even if they try real hard) very rarely are able to affect what kind of persons do their kids become when they grow-up.


  34. I neva had formal sex education coz I bunked all those lectures 😉

    Now when I think about wht will I do if one day my kids ask me about birds and bees..I think I need to read about em before they are born 😉


  35. Hi Hiren

    Hope you keeping well, just came to check any updates…will bounce back…


  36. Good article Hiren. Sex education / awareness is indeed the need of the hour esp for this generation as they seem to be zooming into all things early in life. They need to be taught the pros & cons so that they do take the wrong steps early in life.


  37. I just published my comment. Where did it go???


  38. Oopsy sorry!!


  39. This is so apt. Our teachers and parents simply have to put their embarassment aside and realize that if their children are not going to hear it from them, they’re going to hear it from someone else, and mostly likely they’ll get the wrong idea. Sex education is a sign of the maturity of a society.


  40. This is so apt. Our teachers and parents simply have to put their embarassment aside and realize that if their children are not going to hear it from them, they’re going to hear it from someone else, and mostly likely they’ll get the wrong idea. Sex education is a sign of the maturity of a society.

    Write more! Where have you been?


  41. >>To remove darkness, one has to bring light into the room and not take darkness out of a room

    This summarises the entire article..
    Very well put..


  42. Interesting post.
    I don’t quite understand the taboo they have with talking about sex in Indian schools. Its got to be done and how are kids going to correctly understand what it is if their mentors/teachers are hesitant to talk about it? And rather than get misinformed on the playground, wouldn’t it be better if they obtained the right information from a trusted source? A lot of sex-related problems arise due to the lack of education. People live in an illusion. I don’t think that TV or the web can do justice to someone who doesn’t know what it is at all. A one-to-one talk is required.
    Overall, a very well written post 🙂


  43. Little Johnny aint little anymore…
    Hiren bhai I think itz not the fault of the kids the society itself is changing so fast that kids r just the reflection of the same.I wrote a post about the same 2 years back http://haanji.blogspot.com/2004/09/india-today-reflection-of-india-today.html

    Keep Blogging!


  44. SEx education will come later, sex awareness has to come in first.. YEs, cultures and values make this difficult.

    Every PTM i learn how teachers are facing problems tackling this issue. SOme children who are ignorant about it are loved and those who are aware of it are said to be “HAving attitude problem”.

    Hiren, one thing i feel is why are there no male teachers to teach such topics in the class. My son has a female teacher to teach boilogy, but she is the vice principal. I wondered if authority made any difference in imparitng such education/awareness among young budding kids.

    A confused topic, written very well to bring awareness. Well done!

    thankyou.


  45. http://www.freewebs.com/livestreams123


  46. in my school age i was attending my class a boy came and asked to come for a sex but i refused then i thougt that he has been not matured because if he had been thougt sex education means he will not ask like this………


  47. Very interesting!



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