In his back-to-school speech yesterday, President Obama had this to say about education in general:
But the truth is, an education is about more than getting into a good college or getting a good job when you graduate. It’s about giving each and every one of us the chance to fulfill our promise; to be the best version of ourselves we can be. And part of what that means is treating others the way we want to be treated – with kindness and respect.
I deeply appreciate this sentiment. While I fully and whole-heartedly agree with it on a general level, I want to take a moment to point out its direct and deep implications for sex education.
First, let’s deconstruct Obama’s comments a little bit. A good education might hook someone up with a good college or a good job. In fact, a good education will ideally connect someone with a good job. But that’s not the end-game goal that schools or students should be aiming for. Instead, the goal of a good education is “to be the best version of ourselves we can be.” That’s an amazing, fabulous goal.
Being the best person each individual could possibly be might mean college. It might also mean a lucrative job. But it does mean a fulfilling life, where one can have the necessary items like a house, food, clothing, plus all of the things that really make us happy like time to pursue our creative interests and dreams, friends, family, a spiritual or meditative center, and more. This is the highest and truest aim of a good education.
Now let’s turn to sex education.
A good sex education might delay sexual activity. In fact, a good sex education will ideally delay sexual activity. But that’s not the main purpose of good sex education. The main purpose of sex education is to support lifelong healthy sexuality. We must take the long view here. Sex education should not be designed to keep a student from having sex in high school – that is far too short sighted.
Sex education must be designed to address individuals across their lifespans – to give them tools, skills, knowledge, and strength to understand their bodies, to be both introspective and appropriately communicative about their own desires, respectful about other people’s desires, and both safer and reverent about the entire process.
So: Well said, President. I’ve been a bit disenchanted with you so far, I had higher hopes. But then you come out and hit something like this so firmly on the nail, and I’m starry-eyed all over again.