Parents, You Are the First Educators
The practice of decency and modesty in speech, action and dress is very important for creating an atmosphere suitable for the growth of chastity, but this must be well motivated by respect for one’s own body and the dignity of others. Parents, as we have said, should be watchful so that certain immoral fashions and attitudes do not violate the integrity of the home, especially through misuse of the mass media.
─ The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, The Pontifical Council for the Family, no. 56
Progressives and LGBT activists are in an uproar over a bill that was just passed in Florida, which they have dubbed – rather disingenuously – the “don’t say gay” bill.
The actual title of the legislation is the Parental Rights in Education bill. As the title suggests, the bill aims to ensure that parents hold the cards in terms of what their children are taught about sex at the earliest ages.
In brief, the bill states that children in kindergarten through grade three are not given classroom instruction on topics such as sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill also requires that parents be informed about changes in services related to their child’s physical or psychological health.
As the bill’s co-sponsor, Rep. Joe Harding, made clear, this latter provision is designed to prevent the growing number of cases where school staff are introducing or asking children about such topics as sexual orientation or gender identity, and then encouraging the children to keep those conversations secret from their parents. As I have written recently, there have been cases where parents have only found out that their child now identifies as “transgender” long after school staff knew, in some cases because a staff member had actively encouraged the child.
“We have a choice to empower parents in Florida or we have a choice to empower school districts. I’m asking you to side with the side of parents in Florida,” Rep. Harding said.
Early in the debate, opponents of the bill hit upon the strategy of labeling it the “don’t say gay” bill, arguing (falsely) that the bill would ban the word “gay” from the classroom. Practically every mainstream news outlet in the country cynically ran with this hysterical propaganda. In recent days liberal legislators and activists have engaged in truly childish antics, such as chanting “We say gay!” during legislative hearings.
Fortunately, their efforts have not paid off. Last Tuesday the bill passed the Florida Senate in a 22-17 vote. As the bill had already handily passed the state House in late February in a 69-47 vote, it will now be sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature. Given that Gov. DeSantis has signaled his support for the legislation, its passage into law seems to be a fait accompli.
Graphic Sex-Ed Camps
If there is any doubt that such legislation is very much needed, it should be put to rest by news recently making the rounds about the growing trend of sex-ed camps aimed at kids.
As Live Action reports, one online camp that was aimed at teens included explicit “education” about masturbation, BDSM, transgenderism, abortion, and even (it boggles the mind) having sex while using illegal drugs.
Here are the titles of some of the presentations from this camp: “Sex with ME — Self pleasure,” “Sexy Trans Sex Ed,” “Self-Managed Abortion Info Share,” “Reproductive Health: The Basics,” “Sex on Drugs,” “The 3 P’s: Pee, Poop, and Pleasure,” and “Contraceptive Options.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the individuals leading the camp, Tanya Turner, calls herself a witch. Her passion seems to be for encouraging children, starting with toddlers, to masturbate. “Masturbation is really healthy and I recommend it to people of all ages,” she said. “All ages. As soon as my nephews could talk, they were doing that.”
Among information provided to teens during the camp was info from the World Health Organization (WHO) about how to perform a self-abortion by ordering abortion drugs and administering them at home. Besides the horrific fact that teens are being taught how to go about killing their unborn children, also troubling is the heedlessness towards the health of the teens themselves, given everything we know about the dangers and trauma involved in DIY medical abortions.
Another sex-ed camp, the “Spring Break Sex-Ed Camp,” was supposed to be held March 14-17 at libraries in the city of Austin. Organizers of this camp planned to pay teenagers $100 to attend (why on earth, one wonders, are adults luring teens to hear about sex with cash payments?). That camp, however, has now been cancelled after a backlash.
Meanwhile, Not the Bee reports on another sex-ed summer camp in Indianapolis, this one aimed at children in grades 3-5. Children in those grades are only eight to ten years old.
After showing disturbing screenshots from the organizer’s social media feed, Not the Bee notes, “This is being hosted by an individual who thinks that kids should be learning ‘non-binary’ vocabulary, taught how to wear a condom, and be ‘responsibly’ introduced to pornography.”
The site adds, “This lady is a literal groomer.”
Comprehensive Sex-Ed As Grooming
That last remark is worth focusing on.
Perhaps the strangest thing about these camps is that apparently there are parents who think it a good idea to use spring break or summer vacation for a camp that’s all about having adult strangers talk to their children in graphic detail about sex. Whatever happened to good old-fashioned camps, where kids learned to canoe, fish, play sports, and generally enjoy their friends and their childhood?
It’s bad enough that these children are being robbed of the opportunity to enjoy the sort of innocent fun that we all had as children, and instead are being dragged into the dark and complicated world of a very disturbed brand of adult sexuality. However, what’s worse is that there are very real concerns that these kids are being used to fuel the sexual kicks and fantasies of disturbed adults.
Imagine for an instant if the Catholic Church was offering such camps. It would make the national headlines with people accusing the Church of being “perverted,” “sick,” or “disgusting.” Many of the same LGBT activists running these camps, or the journalists that defend them, would be wringing their hands about how the Church is “grooming” children for sexual abuse.
Well, why is it any different when other adults who seem to have a bizarre fixation on sex spend all day talking to young kids, in graphic detail, about sex? It isn’t!
“Grooming” involves breaking down a person’s normal and healthy sexual boundaries, in order to get them to engage in sexual behaviors that benefit the exploiter. Adults who sexually abuse children, for instance, will often first introduce them to pornography. The goal is to pique the curiosity of their victims and to convince them that engaging in sexual behaviors is perfectly “normal.” Then the abuse begins in earnest.
There is simply no conceivable reason why children and teenagers need to know all the details about having sex while using drugs, BDSM, bizarre transgender practices, and all the minute ins-and-outs of contraception, abortion, and pornography. However, there are clearly adults who feel a curiously strong urge to teach them about these things. That should set off every alarm bell in the head of any loving parent, as well as any rational adult with a moral compass.
Parents, Take Charge of Sex-Ed
Unfortunately, parents who are striving to raise their children to have a healthy understanding of sexuality face enormous challenges in today’s culture.
As the Pontifical Council for the Family noted in the opening section of The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, it used to be the case that “the general culture was permeated by respect for fundamental values and hence served to protect and maintain them” (no. 1). Even if the family failed to provide sex education, in many cases children still naturally absorbed positive and healthy ideas about family and sexuality. Such ideas – e.g., that sex should be kept for marriage, or that children are a positive good – were simply in the cultural water.
Now, however, everything is different. Not only are movies, music, and social media aimed at children often filled with sexual innuendo and subtle or not-so-subtle jabs at marriage and the family, but also there are activists who have learned that they can practically get away with murder, so long as they claim to be engaged in “sex education.”
There is absolutely no excuse, as parents, for allowing these people within a hundred miles of your children. As the Vatican has stated, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with sex-ed in school, so long as it is grounded in a true moral worldview, is presented in an age-appropriate way, and parents are proactively kept in the loop and given the choice to opt their children out if preferred.
However, it is a grave mistake simply to outsource sex-ed to third parties, even if that third party is the most faithful Catholic teacher in the world. Education – including sex education – begins in the home. Whatever happens in school (with your knowledge and permission) should be, at most, intended to augment, not replace, an ongoing conversation between parents and child.
As the Vatican laments in The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, “In many cases parents have given up their duty in this field or agreed to delegate it to others, because of the difficulty and their own lack of preparation” (no. 1).
No matter how well you might control the flow of media into your house, we live in an age where your children are bound, one way or another, to encounter ideas or content that would have shocked our parents and grandparents. Rather than waiting for that to happen, get out ahead and start open, age-appropriate conversations with your children, arming them with the tools they need to detect problematic materials, and the confidence and trust to approach you with questions and concerns when they do.
“The Church has always affirmed that parents have the duty and the right to be the first and the principal educators of their children,” note the authors of The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality, and this because “having given and welcomed life in an atmosphere of love, parents are rich in an educative potential which no one else possesses” (no. 5).
They add: “The normal and fundamental method [of sex education] … is personal dialogue between parents and their children, that is, individual formation within the family circle. In fact there is no substitute for a dialogue of trust and openness between parents and their children, a dialogue which respects not only their stages of development but also the young persons as individuals” (no. 129).
It is encouraging to see Florida taking proactive measures to protect parental rights, and to defend our children from the ideologues who would steal their innocence. Let us pray that other states follow their example.
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Father Shenan J. Boquet was ordained in 1993 and is a priest of the Houma-Thibodaux Roman Catholic Diocese in Louisiana, his home state, where he served before joining HLI as its President in August 2011. Father Boquet earned a BA from Saint Joseph Seminary College, a Master of Divinity (MDiv) from Notre Dame Seminary Graduate School of Theology, a Certification Program in Health Care Ethics from the National Catholic Bioethics Center, and a Master of Science in Bioethics (MSBe) from the University of Mary in Bismarck. In 2018, Father Boquet was awarded an honorary visiting professorship by the Benedict XVI Catholic University in Trujillo, Peru. He is available for interviews and bookings on behalf of HLI by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.