05 October 2006

Shoot the birds, smash the bees!

Yesterday the Argentine Senate passed a law that dictates compulsory sex education to be taught in all schools, public and private, from the initial level (5-year-olds and up). It seems ridiculous that this was not implemented yet and that it had to be debated at all, and it is ridiculous, if you forget the constant meddling of the Catholic Church in public affairs in Argentina.

The main point of contention was, always, that the parents should have a say in what their children are taught, lest the state imposes some sort of twisted sex ideology (like, I don't know, "sex is bad if not for reproduction") on those poor, highly malleable minds. The real function of this criticism is that, once you get the parents some room to get to decide on contents, those parents (who aren't teachers or experts in sex education, and who have been fed Catholic misinformation and prejudice about sex since birth) will conduct the lobbying themselves, while the hierarchs of the Church look at the battle from above without exposing themselves as the bunch of narrow-minded sex-obsessed anti-erotic bigots they are.

It must be noted, of course, that the Church did not support the parents back when Catholic doctrine was taught in public schools regardless of the parents' religious persuassion, and children of Jews and other religious minorities were (at most) given the option to leave during religion class. The Church also resented the lawmakers (most of whom were incidentally Catholic and/or parents) who took away from it the privilege of indoctrinating children, when Law 1420 of General Common Education was passed in 1884, and didn't mind the right of parents to decide on the education of their children when religious education was allowed back into the classroom on several occasions (e.g. during the last dictatorship).

Sex education laws have been passed already in provincial jurisdictions. In Santa Fe there's been one since the first administration of Governor Inarticulate Mummy 14 years ago, but as many other things in this province, it basically lies there without being applied because public officials are busy inventing longer, more appropriately bureaucratic names for their offices.

The current national law is both broad and shallow in scope. It says that the national government has to provide basic content, but the implementation will be gradual and subject to the communities' "socio-cultural reality" and "respecting the convictions of their members". That bit half-guts it from the beginning..., but let's hope.


  1. Anonymous15:33

    I really take no side on this as I think the schools should be sticking to producing individuals with the tools to function on a basic level in daily life (able to read, perform arithmetic, and write). Forming "whole" individuals is not the job of a grossly underpaid teacher. That is primarily the parents job.

    However, saying that the Church's influence on what people think about sex is the problem (blaming one institution) and then saying government should influence what people think (just another institution) makes no sense to me. What is gained by teaching this to children unless it's part of a health class on how human reproduction works?

    What happened to to each his own?

  2. This is an old post but the message holds. Dear Anonymous, I think (like you do) that the school should give individuals basic tools for everyday life. That clearly includes knowing what's going on with their bodies, and how to deal with it. Just as children are taught about digestion, flu and vaccines, they should be taught about pregnancy, STDs and condoms. No big deal, not necessarily graphic detail.

    The difference between the Church and the state is that the state must strive to contain all views and balance them with an eye on public good, while the Church supports and (when possible) imposes a single view on everyone, sometimes when that view is plainly harmful (i.e. preaching that using contraception is evil). And then the state has no business telling people how to go about their private lives, but the Church assumes that's their solemn right and obligation.

    "To each his own" is a nice principle, but the Church has never believed in it.


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