Why sex ed can’t help but increase kids’ exposure to risky behaviours
June 10, 2015 (Postmedia) -- Some years ago, when the American motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson celebrated the 100th birthday of Milwaukee’s illustrious “hog,” the eminent columnist George F. Will quoted with approval the manufacturer’s saying that motorcycling means freedom, adventure and individual expression. “As does America,” Will added, although by then, “as America used to do, once,” might have been more accurate.
Having been an avid biker myself, I agree with the sentiment, even if the Harley mystique leaves me cold. Though a triumph in styling — Harleys look and sound spectacular — I always regarded the venerable hog as a sound effect masquerading as a motorcycle.
Be that as it may, summer is here. For many weeks now, motorcycles have been emerging from their winter hibernation and last Sunday, some parents and children rallied at Queen’s Park in Toronto to protest Ontario’s new curriculum for sex education.
The topics may appear unrelated, but they are not.
Motorcycling often reminds me of another blood sport: sex. More precisely, rider education reminds me of sex education. The preoccupations of road warriors and sexual explorers overlap in several ways. Both, for instance, need to be concerned with safety.
We know that sex, like motorcycling, can be dangerous. To reduce this danger, we turn to education. We look to schools to reduce sexual as well as driving casualties. Are we succeeding? It should be easy to say yes or no — but in fact it’s not. Behind every answer revealed by statistics, there’s another, contradictory answer concealed by the same numbers.
Not surprisingly, highway safety is enhanced by driver education. American states that embarked on educational programs for motorcyclists, such as Maryland, found that they could cut highway fatalities for riders nearly by half.
To the dismay of safety experts, however, another discovery soon followed: though death and injury among motorcycle riders was reduced, the absolute number of casualties relative to the population actually increased in states that had rider-education programs.
The reason turned out to be simple: the same school or community programs that enhanced the skills of motorcyclists also increased the popularity of motorcycles as a mode of transportation or sport. As a result, more people started to ride and naturally more people got hurt.
This discovery sparked a debate among legislators and experts. Some states cancelled their safety programs for motorcyclists, arguing that it was better to have two deaths per thousand riders annually for 10,000 riders than to have 1.1 deaths per thousand for 20,000 riders.
From an actuary’s point of view, there’s no profit in halving the risk of an activity if it doubles the exposure. And if the risk isn’t even reduced by a factor equal to the increase in exposure, the net result must be a loss.
Does the actuary’s argument make sense? Certainly, provided that safety is our only value. After all, 22 victims per year is 10 per cent more than 20 victims, even if the first figure represents a 45 per cent reduction in the relative death rate.
But suppose that safety isn’t our only item of value. Suppose we have additional values, such as freedom and exploration, as noted by the maker of America’s classic motorcycle or columnist George F. Will. Then, obviously, victory goes to whatever helps us explore more safely. For motorcyclists (or for pilots, scuba divers, mountaineers, etc.), this means more education in their craft or sport.
This being true for rider education, what about sex? Doesn’t sex education in schools increase the risk of unwanted or teenage pregnancies? Doesn’t it increase the risk of abused children, abortion, prostitution, drug abuse, venereal disease, welfare syndrome and crime?
The short answer is yes, it does. In terms of absolute numbers, sex education can’t help but increase sexual participation among young people and any increase in participation can’t help but increase exposure to the risks of the same activity. The more condoms in school, the more sex; the more sex, the more cases of AIDS.
Ah, but doesn’t sex education reduce the risk for those who’d be sexually active in any event? Again, the short answer is yes. There are no statistics to compare “fatalities,” as it were, between trained and untrained lovers as there are between trained and untrained motorcyclists, but the numbers would probably show a similar trend. The more training, the fewer mishaps — that is, if you’re riding anyway.
The more education, the fewer mishaps – but the more education, the more exploration. In absolute figures, this means many more mishaps. So is sex education worth it?
That’s a matter of values, and that’s why sex education has been compulsory in Sweden, where values belong to the state, since 1956. And that’s why we in Canada ought to leave sex education to parents, just as the protesters in Queen’s Park suggested last Sunday. To parents, not to pressure groups with their own agendas. To parents, not to school boards, “experts,” bureaucrats or politicians.
Find a full listing of LifeSiteNews' coverage of the Ontario government's explicit sex-ed program here.
Reprinted with permission from Postmedia.