Pulling Back the Veil on Comprehensive Sex Education

Comprehensive sex education

Recently, a teacher in Philadelphia made waves when he posted a series of tweets about how uncomfortable he was teaching through distance learning this fall.  His concern was that he would not be able to have honest conversations with his students about issues like gender and sexuality, knowing that the children’s parents might overhear.  He said that he operated on a “what is said here, stays here” premise within his classroom.  Personally, I feel that if a teacher is not comfortable with the content of a conversation with a student being overheard by their parents, then they probably shouldn’t be having the conversation in the first place. 

This reminded me of an article that I read a few years ago.  A school district was planning to implement a new sexual education curriculum and it was available at a meeting for parents to peruse.  Only one parent showed up, and she was appalled when she read it.  She took photos and posted them to the internet so other parents would be aware.  The curriculum, which was intended for middle-schoolers, gave explicit instructions on how to perform every sexual act imaginable, along with crude illustrations and jokes, which made light of the whole subject.  While researching this, I found numerous articles about today’s sexual education and reservations that parents have about it, from California1, Washington State2, Scotland3, Canada4, and South Africa5, among others.

When I was in school, sexual education included learning the basic scientific facts of reproduction, the risks involved, and how to avoid disease.  I also remember our teacher explaining to us how serious a responsibility it was to become sexually active and how it was not something to rush into before one was ready or to allow oneself to be pushed into.  However, in recent years, the United Nations has been encouraging countries to adopt something called “Comprehensive Sexual Education,” which focuses more on the pleasure aspect and appears to encourage sexual activity in minors.

If the material presented to children in school, by teachers whom they are taught to respect, makes it seem as if sex is not something to be taken seriously, that is likely to affect their attitude about it.  They may even feel like a “prude” if someone pressures them to engage in sexual behaviors that they don’t want to.  Besides the negative emotional consequences that a child may experience as a result of early sexual activity, it could also open children up to exploitation.  Kim Wendt, co-founder of Informed Parents of Washington, told The Christian Post that Seattle-area police officers who have worked in the human trafficking division, after viewing content in the CSE curriculum in her state, say the material mirrors how traffickers groom their child victims to enter the sex trade2. In Canada, there was a scandal over the development of their CSE curriculum, because it was overseen by a deputy education minister who was later convicted on charges of creating and possessing child pornography and counseling another person to commit sexual assault on a child4.  

As a Christian, I want my children to have a biblical view of this subject, and I believe the responsibility of having these conversations should fall on the parents.  Teaching the basic biology in school is one thing, but indoctrinating children into a worldly view while putting them at risk of abuse is another.  I am grateful that I am homeschooling my two school-aged children, so that I can introduce this subject in the way that I deem best.

Having already raised two children to adulthood, I do not believe that there is a specific age at which all children need to learn about sex.  They are individuals and will begin to ask questions at different ages.  The only aspect of it that I make a point to instill in my children at a young age is that there are parts of their bodies that are private and that other people should not touch, and that they should tell me if anyone does.  Aside from that, I do not push information on them that they aren’t already expressing curiosity about.

When your child begins to ask questions, there are many book series out there by Christian publishers that give varying degrees of information, depending on the age of the child.

With the recent pandemic, many parents are now choosing homeschooling, and for some, it is only temporary.   There are also homeschoolers who enroll their children in school when they reach a certain grade.  This is a good time for them to take this into consideration.  If you are planning on sending your children to public school at some point:

  1. Look into what sex ed curriculum your school district is using and address any concerns you may have about it with the principal.  Some have links to their curriculum online, where you can view what is going to be covered and at what grades. 
  2. If it does not meet your standards, find out if you can request that your child opt-out of the class.
  3. Make sure that your child has a solid grounding in the biblical view of sex first, in an age-appropriate manner.   
  4. Teach your children why you believe what you believe.  I attended a Christian elementary school and was taught many things from a biblical viewpoint that, when I entered public high school, were challenged, and I had no rebuttal to.  I try to prepare my children for the things that they will hear from the world and explain that they are not part of God’s plan.

Shortly after I was born again, I heard a sermon in which the pastor explained that God is not trying to be a bully or ruin anyone’s fun by putting limits on our sexuality.  He, as our Creator, designed it a certain way, as a good thing, and Satan tries to distort it into something wrong.  When we go outside of God’s will, we experience hurt that He never intended, so God’s limits are for our protection.  He specifically pointed out how the Bible describes the sex act as “becoming one” (Mark 10:7-8) with another person and how this explains why, when a relationship ends, the pain of that can feel like losing one of your own limbs.  As a young woman who had experienced that hurt myself, it finally all made sense to me, and I was able to begin the process of surrendering this area of my life to God.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, the stakes are even greater.  With online predators who target children, pornography available at the click of a mouse, and human trafficking as a growing problem, it is more important than ever that our children are grounded in the Truth, what behavior is of God and what is not, so that no one is able to take advantage of them or lead them astray.

“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” – Matthew 18:6

“Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 10:14

  1. Mary Margaret Olohan, “Here Are the Details on California’s Sex Education,” Daily Caller News Foundation, July 8, 2019
  2. Brandon Showalter, “Parents Push Back Against Wash State Sex Ed Bill; Gov Expected to Sign,” The Christian Post, March 10, 2020
  3. Dorothy Cummings McLean, “Scots Protest New Sex- Ex Curriculum that Forces Children to Endorse Sexual Choices of Adults,” LifeSiteNews, September 16, 2019
  4. Joe Warmington, “Liberals Can’t Deny Levin’s Role with Sex-Ed Curriculum,” Toronto Sun, March 3, 2015
  5. Tom Head, “Controversial Sex Education Curriculum Faces Parliamentary Review,” The South African, October 31, 2019

Fine Gardening Magazine Article

sweet potato slips

My sweet potato slips made it into Fine Gardening™ magazine!

It’s a funny story.  Last year, I started my slips before Christmas and ended up with about fifty by the time I was able to transplant them to my garden.  I plant mine in containers, and I didn’t have enough room for all of them.  I have a neighbor who has an amazing garden, so I asked her if she’d like them.  She responded that she had enough of her own, but she wondered if she could borrow mine to take some photos of them.  It turns out that she works for Fine Gardening™ magazine and was taking photos for an article on growing sweet potatoes.  She said my slips were more “photogenic” than hers, so I lent them to her for the afternoon.

You can read the article here.  If you are interested in growing your own sweet potatoes, it has a lot of helpful information.

I purposely started my slips a little later this year, and ironically, spring got an early start here.  Today, I transferred my first two slips to the pots where they will stay until the threat of frost has passed for certain and I can transplant them outdoors.

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I’m excited to get gardening!

The Case for JoJo

Have you heard of JoJo Siwa?  I was vaguely aware of her, having seen her merchandise in Target.  My daughter has some of her signature hair bows.  However, last October, when I took my daughter to the store for a Halloween costume, she found this:

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This is where our true introduction to JoJo began.

My daughter planned to wear this to her Halloween dance class.  Her teacher expects them to try and emulate their character, so we took to JoJo’s YouTube channel for inspiration.  It didn’t take long before my daughter declared, “I love her!”

JoJo is a sixteen-year-old girl from Nebraska who appeared on Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition at age 9.  From there, she joined the cast of Dance Moms during 2015 – 2016.  She now has a contract with Nickelodeon, where she makes guest appearances on various shows, has her own cartoon, and they market seemingly endless merchandise with her face and name attached.  Somewhere along the way, she started a YouTube channel, which currently boasts 10.6 million subscribers.  She also makes music videos which are targeted at her main audience – little girls.

In 2019, she embarked on an international tour – JoJo Siwa D.R.E.A.M. the Tour, where she performed to mostly sold-out audiences, earning a reported $27 million.  While on tour, she was also recognized as the youngest person ever to headline at London’s O2 Arena.  Shortly afterwards, it was announced that Nickelodeon had added 50 more dates for 2020.

After my daughter became one of her fans, I noticed a trend in people’s responses to her name.  Some people say, “My daughter likes her, too,” but a surprising amount of people say, “Ugh, JoJo” with a roll of their eyes.  I find that response strange.  I get that we all have different personalities and therefore, will be drawn to different people, including celebrities.  Why would someone criticize a child, though?

When I first watched some of her videos with my daughter, she reminded me of one of my own childhood favorites:

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Punky Brewster (played by Soleil Moon Frye) was a spunky ‘80s television character who wore multi-colored clothes, had a raspy voice, and as she got older, rocked a side ponytail.  They have some traits in common.  My impression of JoJo is that she is a cute, talented, outgoing teenage girl who is full of joy.

Her content is marketed towards children, so her YouTube and music videos are family friendly.  In fact, she has made a promise to her audience to keep her content that way.  She encourages her fans to work hard, be true to themselves, treat others with kindness, and rather than fight back against their detractors, to simply brush criticism off and keep reaching for your goals.  Why would anyone have a problem with that?

As I pondered this, I looked at some of the criticism.  Recently, she purchased a $3.4 million mansion in California to live in with her mother, father and brother.  Afterwards, I saw a lot of online comments that easily could be chalked up to plain old jealousy.  Someone devoted a whole article to bemoaning the current state of the world, where materialism and greed can be so embodied in a trend like JoJo.  Personally, I’ve never had a mansion and probably never will, but it doesn’t bother me if someone who has made an honest living can afford to do so.  If you’ve ever watched her YouTube videos, though, you’d see that she engages in random acts of generosity to strangers.

Another common criticism is of the tight ponytail she wears.  It’s her head!  She should wear her hair however she likes.

Some people say that she’s loud and obnoxious.  I would say that God designed her to be a performer.  She’s confident, which is necessary to succeed in the entertainment industry.  She has a big personality, which is a bonus, too, especially on a platform like YouTube, where you are basically a one-person show.  Even her loud voice may have been by design – God knew she’d been onstage one day in front of thousands of screaming children, after all.

The criticism that really bothers me, though, is that she should “act her age”.  First of all, her main audience is children.  She dresses, dances, and sings lyrics that any little girl can emulate, and a parent can feel comfortable with.  I read one article where a father complained about the horrible experience of taking his daughters to a JoJo concert.  He said that she told the audience to scream, talked about candy, his girls loved it, and he didn’t understand why.  Well, he isn’t supposed to understand.  It’s not designed to entertain him!  Why can’t kids just have their own entertainment?  I remember in the early ‘90s, when I was raising my oldest child, how it became cool to criticize Barney the dinosaur.  My toddler loved Barney and had a stuffed version that she was holding when we went to the store one day.  An adult looked straight at her and declared, “I hate Barney!”  I’m still angry about that.  Let kids be kids and have their own shows that they enjoy.  It’s not about you.

The darker side of that is what I suspect people really mean when they say that she should “act her age.”  There’s been a string of teenage entertainers who, when they reached JoJo’s age, were suddenly expected to transition from cute child stars to sex symbols.  For some of those girls, it led to a spike in fame, but eventually ended in a downward spiral in their lives and careers.  That shouldn’t be a surprise.  A sixteen-year-old is still a child emotionally, regardless if their body is maturing.  Dressing them up like an adult and treating them like an object is taking advantage of them, using them as a commodity to be devoured instead of celebrating them for who they are inside, with all their God-created uniqueness and inner beauty.  True maturity isn’t flaunting your goods for the world.  Taking responsibility for oneself and working hard are real marks of maturity, and these are traits that JoJo possesses.  She is involved intricately in every aspect of her career, to a level that other young stars usually aren’t.  She’s learning what it really means to be a grown-up.

One day, while reading the Hans Christian Anderson tale, “The Snow Queen,” to my children, these passages from the story stood out to me:

“One day he (an evil goblin) was in a very good humour, for he had made a mirror that had this peculiarity: everything good and beautiful that was reflected in it shrank into almost nothing, while all that was worthless and ugly was magnified and looked even worse than before.  The most lovely landscapes looked like boiled spinach and the nicest people looked hideous.”

“Then the mirror trembled so much that it slipped out of their hands and fell to earth, where it shattered into a hundred million billion splinters, or perhaps even more.  That caused a greater misfortune than before, for some of the splinters were no bigger than a grain of sand and were scattered all over the world.  Whenever they flew into anyone’s eye, they stuck there and made the person see everything distorted, for every fragment had retained the same power as the whole mirror.”

Often, I feel like that is the world we are living in today.  I read a profile of another famous teenager in a magazine recently.  I was disappointed and a bit disturbed by the picture the reporter was trying to paint of her.  He talked about her frequent use of profanity and disrespect for her parents, as though he was creating a character that is very edgy and cool.  I would have focused the piece on her talent, independent spirit, and how she has overcome adversity instead.  It seemed like he was reducing her down to a set of the “right” traits to meet the public’s approval in the mocking atmosphere that we currently live in.

Part of what I think children respond to in JoJo is that she’s genuine.  She’s just herself, unapologetically.  She doesn’t put on airs of being something that she’s not to impress people.  Meanwhile, she encourages children to be true to themselves as well.

I think that the criticism she receives is really a reflection of what is wrong with the world today, instead of her.  Except, in addition to the good things looking hideous to people, the negative things are held up as beautiful.  Like the hero in “The Snow Queen,” who has the splinter of glass in his eye that prevents him from seeing true beauty, we are disgusted by truth and joy.

JoJo’s been given a unique opportunity to influence a whole generation of young girls.  I, for one, am glad that the messages she is sending to them are positive.  My daughter’s favorite Christmas present this year was tickets to the D.R.E.A.M. Tour, which we’ll be attending in May, ready to cheer her on.