SEXUAL INSTRUCTION FOR THE YOUNG
[continued from yesterday]
When the question is asked point blank whether children should be taught at least the chief facts of the sexual life, the answer is hard to give.
Nearly everybody's instinct shrinks from saying, "Yes." All right-minded parents and teachers feel a reticence in speaking to children on a matter which from its very nature is so private. Yet, on the other hand, nearly everybody's reason declares that children should have such instruction.
The great majority of young girls who go wrong do so simply out of ignorance of the tendencies, dangers, and responsibilities of the sexual life. Moral depravity in boys, too, arises chiefly from the fact that they acquire their first information from older boys already depraved. What must parents do in the face of this dilemma?
A universal healthy instinct counsels silence, whilst a universal healthy reason counsels speech. Evidently there must be a compromise. And the compromise is this: there must be speech, but it must be reticent and discreet.
The mind and the senses, the brain and the nerves, are so related to each other that they act and react on each other. So intimate and organic is this relationship that conversation or reading about sexual matters tends to excite the sexual functions.
Even though the conversation and the reading may be justified and done with a right intention, it is, nevertheless, fraught with certain dangers. It emphasizes images in the imagination which may become temptations to sin, when the brain is tired or the mind off its guard.
There can therefore be only one reason for enlightening children with sexual knowledge.
There can be only one reason for adults discussing sexual topics amongst themselves.
There can be only one reason for the writing of this and similar chapters.
And the reason is necessity.
In 1905 a conference on the subject was held at Mannheim. An almost unanimous vote declared that the chief laws of sex should be taught to boys in the higher classes of secondary schools. But the widest diversity of opinion was expressed as to the manner in which the instruction should be given; and also as to the extent of the matter; nor yet was there any unanimity as to who should give the instruction.
In Germany experiments have actually been made. But the result has not been satisfactory to the Catholic conscience. Complaints have been raised both as to the information given and the way of giving it. Indeed, very little reflection is wanted to show that, in a matter so personal and private, class instruction is not the desirable thing.
The first principle that may be laid down with safety is that the duty of giving the first instruction in these matters belongs to the parents of the children. Even in the more general parts of education the school is but a supplement to the family.
The school-teacher is only supposed to do what the parents cannot efficiently do themselves. But the parent can teach the laws of sex, and ought to be able to do so even more efficiently than the school-teacher. Moreover, the teacher has a right to presuppose such knowledge if in the course of his lessons questions involving sexual laws should incidentally arise...
From Marriage and Parenthood, The Catholic Ideal
By the Rev. Thomas J. Gerrard
Author of "Cords of Adam," "The Wayfarer's Vision," ETC.
Copyright, 1911, by Joseph F. Wagner, New York.