The case for starting sex education in kindergarten
“People often think we are starting right away to talk about sexual intercourse [with kindergartners]. Sexuality is so much more than that. It’s also about self image, developing your own identity, gender roles, and it’s about learning to express yourself, your wishes and your boundaries.” – Ineke van der Vlugt, an expert on youth sexual development for Rutgers WPF, the Dutch sexuality research institute and the organization behind Netherlands sex education curriculum.
Did you know that the Netherlands has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world?
Did you know that the majority of teens in the Netherlands say their first sexual experiences were “wanted” and “fun?”
It could be because by law, all primary school students in the Netherlands must receive some form of “sexuality education.”
It’s not called “sex” education, because the idea is bigger thank that, according to der Vlugt. The idea here is to have open and honest conversations about relationships and love.
A 2008 United Nations report found that comprehensive sex ed allows young people to “explore their attitudes and values, and to practice the decision-making and other life skills they will need to be able to make informed choices about their sexual lives.” (source)
According to the report that was done by PBS news:
“The system allows for flexibility in how it’s taught. But it must address certain core principles – among them, sexual diversity and sexual assertiveness. That means encouraging respect for all sexual preferences and helping students develop skills to protect against sexual coercion, intimidation and abuse. The underlying principle is straightforward: Sexual development is a normal process that all young people experience, and they have the right to frank, trustworthy information on the subject.” (source)
The results of this type of program seem to speak for itself. When it comes to teen sexual health, on average, teenagers in the Netherlands do not have sex at an earlier age compared to other European countries or in the United States.
Also, as mentioned earlier, teen sexual encounters in the Netherlands are “wanted” and fun” whereas in the United states, 66 percent of sexually active teens surveyed said they wished they had waited longer to have sex for the first time.
Another study found that when teens in the Netherlands do actually have sex, approximately 90 percent of them use protection of some form. Teen pregnancy rates in the Netherlands are some of the lowest in world, and so are rates of HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases. (source)
A fairly recent study from Georgetown University shows unintended pregnancies, maternal deaths, and STDs are prevented more often when sex education starts in primary school. (source)
From the video below:
At the St. Jan de Doper school, a group of kindergartners sit in a circle, as their teacher, Marian Jochems, flips through a picture book. The pages contain animals like bears and alligators hugging.
“Why are they hugging?” she asks the class.
“Because they like each other,” one girl answers.
Jochems asks them to think about who they like the most. Several kids say their mom or dad. One girl names her little sister. A few name other children at school.
“How does it feel when that person hugs you?” Jochems asks.
“I feel warm from the inside,” one boy replies. “It’s like there are little butterflies in my stomach.”
“Lessons like this are designed to get kids thinking and talking about the kind of intimacy that feels good and the kind that doesn’t. Other early lessons focus on body awareness.
For example, students draw boys’ and girls’ bodies, tell stories about friends taking a bath together, and discuss who likes doing that and who doesn’t.
By age seven, students are expected to be able to properly name body parts including genitals. They also learn about different types of families, what it means to be a good friend, and that a baby grows in a mother’s womb.” (source)
The Negative Impact Of Sexualization In The Media
“There were societal concerns that sexualization in the media could be having a negative impact on kids. We wanted to show that sexuality also has to do with respect, intimacy, and safety.” – Ineke van der Vlugt
(source of images can be found in this article)
What we see in the media today is quite ridiculous. Whether it’s half clothed, almost completely naked bodies, or disturbing performances, our idea of sex in general has been completely programmed into us. The fact that children have such innocence is what makes them even more susceptible to this kind of programming (which is done deliberately, in my opinion).
We are taught how to think, what to do, and how to live our lives and this includes all aspects of it, including our perception of sex and love.
Then there is the issue of porn, which has dominated the mainstream, as porn websites rank among the top in the world. You can learn more about the problems with porn, as we’ve written about it before.
It’s definitely an issue that can spark an endless debate.
“In the U.S., adults tend to view young people as these bundles of exploding hormones. In the Netherlands, there’s a strong belief that young people can be in love and in relationships.” – Amy Schalet, an American sociologist who was raised in the Netherlands and now studies cultural attitudes towards adolescent sexuality, with a focus on these two countries. (source)