Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sexual Education: Parent's Responsibility

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The final part of my three-part series answering the question:
Who has the responsibility to teach sexual education?
My final answer: the parents.

It will come as no surprise to my friends, acquaintances, and regular readers--really, anyone who knows me at all--that I believe parents have the ultimate responsibility when it comes to a child's sexual education, as with all other aspects of a child's life. No one in the child's life is so uniquely situated as the parents, to influence them so heavily throughout all life stages.

Psalm 127 speaks of what a blessing children are to their parents. "Children are a heritage from the LORD," the psalmist remarks in verse 3. And as with all other gifts from God, we are called to be good stewards. Scripture is rife with instructions for parents, beginning as early as the creation of man and woman with the command to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28). Proverbs 22:6 urges parents to "train up a child in the way he should go," and the epistles encourage fathers not to "provoke [their] children" (Colossians 3:21 and Ephesians 6:4). Clearly, according to both Scripture and reason, parents ought to educate their children.

Of course, many will argue that by sending their children to church and school, they are teaching them sexual education; to an extent, I have to agree. Ensuring that your child is in a sufficient sexual education course at school is a perfectly acceptable alternative to teaching all the content in the home, and provided that your congregation is covering sexuality and rightly dividing Law and Gospel when doing so, there is nothing wrong with parents "outsourcing" that aspect of sexual education, either.

My concern with this perspective, however, is that many parents naturally assume that the sexual education provided in the church and school is sufficient. In many schools and congregations, this is not true. A friend of mine once told me that in school, he received nothing on sexual education beyond an explanation of the changes in puberty, and the only supplement to this education he received at home was a book. His parents never explained the issues of sexuality that were not covered in school, and he had no one with whom to discuss his questions.

While that friend grew up without a horribly distorted view of sexuality, his parents--to whom I mean no disrespect--clearly missed part of their responsibility. With such little parental guidance, he could have received his sexual "education" from friends, television, or even pornography. Being aware of the content taught in his sexual education at school would have allowed these parents to better supplement it with discussion and targeted resources.

Most parents also assume that their church is covering the issue of sexual morality sufficiently. In many congregations, though, sexuality is a taboo, or issues are taught with a "that's wrong and don't ask questions" framework. To teach sexuality well, congregations should encourage questions, address what is being addressed by the culture, and offer Gospel as well as Law. This can be done in Sunday school, Bible study, youth ministry, or even directly from the pulpit. If it is not being done in the congregation, or not being done comprehensively, parents need to address these issue from home or find a source to do it for them.

Parents can't just assume that schools are teaching sexual education well; nor can we assume that churches are addressing sexuality fully and correctly. We need to be involved in our children's lives and education, aware of what is being taught and supplementing or correcting where needed. To those parents that are already doing so, I applaud you, and to those that were unaware of this need, I encourage you, don't let strangers dictate your child's sexual philosophy.

What are your thoughts? How much responsibility do parents have to teach sexual education? Are most parents, churches, and schools doing enough, or does the system need revamped--and if so, how?

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