Page 2, 17th March 1944

17th March 1944
Page 2
Page 2, 17th March 1944 — SEX EDUCATION The Whole Subject Reviewed

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Organisations: King's College
People: John Cahill
Locations: Birmingham, Surrey, Newcastle


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SEX EDUCATION The Whole Subject Reviewed

S1R,-DI. Cahill is upset because son-le people contend that there is a subject called " sex." There is. he says, no such thing as " sex education," but there is a theology of sex and a physiology of sex, etc. On the same grounds (bete is no such thing as medical) education. He Was annoyed at the types of talks given to some girls, probably because he has not bothered to stody a syllabus of " sex education." From his remarks I imagine that the subject of the lee tures was " Social Hygiene." He seems to have completely missed the reason why "• sex eaucation snould be given to ynung people 100' only children). Yet he realises that our children are to-day in danger of -corruption. I agree that it is high time we stifled can our ideas on this subject Sex .education will not, of course, itTduce the devil to pack up his cases and leave us alone; neither will religious instruction either for that matter. So what! (if I may use that expression), Sex education can be divided up into two sections: (a) education to young people (14-16 years old),; and (b) education to older people (17 years upwards). It is with the latter group that I am more interested in at present. If the editor will allow me, I will expound my views, based on some fair experience, on section (b). Without going too deeply into the matter at present, let me base my justification for the following account of sex education on an enquiry made by members of the Birmingham region of the Y.C.W., as reported in THk CATHOLIC HERALD (December 10, 1943), where it was stated that young workers look upon marriage merely as a " convenient institution whereby sex pleasures could be indulged in legally."

The percentage of answers given in i questionnaire to over 450 unmarried gills, mostly between the ages of 18 and 22, was as follows: Did you first learn about sex from: (a) Parents .. • .. 48.1

(b) Teachers .. 6.9

(c) Youth Leaders .. .. 0.94 (d) Clergymen .. 0.62 (e) Army, etc., instructors .. 11.6 (0 Other adults .: 17.2 (g) Books, papers, etc. .. .. 26.5 (h) Cinema .. 0.62 (i) From people your own age (at school) .. .. 44.3

The weakness of these kind of questionnaires is obvious, but still it is one of the few methods of obtaining information as to what young people think about the subject. The figures speak for themselves: but they certainly do not show that there is any innocence on sex matters among young people. We can note that the three chief sources of enlightenment are from parents, from people their own age. and from books, etc. More than half learn about sex from sources other than their parents. Even if we grant that all these parents have instructed properly and know what to instruct in, there is still a real danger that a majority of young people arc picking up scraps of sex knowledge here. there and everywhere. In nine cases out of ten such knowledge will be faulty or give a wrong impression of sex. In other words, very many young people arc growing up with a distorted view of sex, its nature. its implications and

its uses. *

Can we wonder then that morals are loose. that sexual immorality is rife among young people, that venereal diseases are on the increase? Pope Pius XII, in his recent Christmas allocution, says: " The people have had to witness a new and incalculable perfection of the means and arts of destruction while, at the sante time. they see an interior decadence which, starting from the weakening and deviation of a moral sense, is hurtling ever downward towards the state where every human sentiment is crushed and the light of reason is eclipsed, so that the Words of Wisdom are fulfilled. ' they Were all bound'together with one chain of darkness.' " I humbly venture to suggest that the wrong use of sex directly due to ignorance of its proper function has contributed towards this moral decadence which is gripping the world so tightly to-day.

Another question given in the questionnaire referred to above was : When you first learnt about sex tvere you (a) Shocked . „ „ 8.8 (b) Disgusted .. .. 7.3

(c) Glad to know the truth 85.5 (d) Not interested 6.1

(e) Would lather not have known 1.1

These answers are very illuminating indeed, for they tell us that the vast majority of girls at any rate are glad to know the truth about sex, from which we can infer that these girls really want to know enough about the subject to enable them to use sex properly and healthily. For their own good they want to know what sex is all about and why everything in connection with it is so mysterious when it obviously affects everyone they know. There is, in fact, among young people to-day a very great demand for a factual and frank, but scientific, account of sei, its meaning, uses and social implications. This demand is insistent and must sooner or later be met. As a lecturer on such topics I have been forcibly struck by the gratitude of numbers of girls of ages 17-22, who have told me how badly in need they were of proper Information about such matters. Many of them had little concrete knowledge of the subject, and many more had a garbled and twisted knowledge of this most intimate and important relationship between man and woman. For instance. the other day I overheard one woman telling another that the national bread influenced the sex of the unborn child. Beliefs such as the,ee are common and do not say much for our state of educational advancement. It is not sufficiently realised that sex experience does not necessarily bring with it real knowledge of sex. A prostitute is experienced, but we can scarcely say that she has a heal-thy view of the impulse. A short time ago a naval chaplain told me that he had just met a young man with a family who otherwise seemed intelligent enough but who had no idea of his part in the production of his children. Ilow can you expect a person like this to appreciate the social importance of good sex behaviour? The tempo or life is so fast nowadays that the true meaning of sex is apt to be overlooked and forgotten. To Very many young people it means a form of pleasure only with burdens that are to be avoided at all costs. As I have already indicated. venereal diseases are increasing alarmingly, our population is in danger of declining in numbers. family life is breaking up. etc. Few people seem to realise that these are due, in large measure, first to a decline in religious values among the population. and secondly to a lack of true knowledge of the place of sex in a highly organised community. A short time ago a young married woman wrote to a provincial paper to say that she was not going to have any children as long as clothing coupons were so difficiolt to obtain. Here is an example of an appalling outlook on life directly due to wrong sex ideas. There is something fundamentally wrong with our sex Ideas when a probably typical product of our educational system can put clothing coupons before the priceless gift of a child,

The time hag come when people must ask themselves questions such as the following and must face squarely up to the answers:

(I) Is sex education necessary considering the state of the world and the changed attitude of women to men and Mtn to women?

(2) Are we to allr`ew our children to grow up with only the dimmest outline of what marriage means and implies?

(3) Are we going to help to make the married life of young people a smooth happy path, not the path of disillusionment of one of the partners (chiefly the female)? .

(4) Are we going to face up to the question of 'the disastrous or unhappy marriage, and help to prevent it by just the right amount of instruction and advice to young people?

(5) Are we going to tackle the problem of incompatibility in marriage?

In other words,, arc we going to admit publicly that many unhappy marriages often ending in divorce or separ a t ion are caused through ignorance of simple sex matters, which experience alone does not necessarily dispel?

16) Finally are We going to strive to re-institute the family and all that it means in our national life?

Or are we going to remain ostrichlike?

Maybe on the way in which we answer these questions and tackle their implications will depend much of our future as a nation, as a counting force in civilisation. Young people themselves know what answers they want. Sex education, while superficially it may seem to shock some people, is really designed to be informative, uplifting and creative, not desnuctive and anti-religious or anti-social. A scientific course of sex instruction. coupled with instruction in the religious aspects of the subject, is a necessary part of future educational programmes. The teaching, properly given, may go a long way towards solving many of the problems of home life, of young people and of marriage to-day.

PHILIP G. FOTHERG1LL. King's College, Newcastle-on-Tyne, 2.

Muddled Thought?

SIR,-Dr. John Cahill exhorts us very commendably to think clearly and then proceeds to bewilder his readers with a heavy smoke screen of muddled thought.

Our particular aim is to learn how to incorporate sex knowledge (education, enlightenment, call it what you will) into a child's life in such a way that the child is unaware that it is being instructed-that is the secret of gOod teaching. Dr. Cahill confuses this with instruction in the physical technique of sex, a subject to he barred absolutely from the unmarried (in fact, such instruction has been forbidden in a Papal Encyclical). To continue from the practical aspect, it is almost impossible to train the present parents into new ways of thinking,. and for that reason class instruction, although by no means ideal, becomes the method of choice for the adolescents who may soon be Parena. Two further points: (1) if Dr. Cahill takes the trouble to develop intimate contact with children he will soon discover that they are devastatingly logical ; (2) the ideal teacher is the Catholic father of a family who also possesses specialised training, e.g., doctors and biologists.

Finally, I am taken to task for the figure of speech. " to the pure, all things are pure "-" What." says Dr. Cahill triumphantly, "even adultery?" The answer is obvious to the intelli, gent !


Sutton, Surrey.

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