Information or Education?

Some ten years ago, I accompanied a group of high school students to do a “work camp” in a small town, in the western coast of Marinduque, called Gasan. The young boys who joined the camp repainted the physical structure of the public school and did some repairs. I happened to look at the works they were doing and I entered a classroom that was used by the third year high school students. There were piles of books the students would use for their studies and I browsed through one that they used for the subject “Health and Home Economics”. The book was written in Filipino and printed on newsprint. The author of the book devoted a chapter to pregnancy. I don’t recall the name of the author who I think was a woman. She gave wise pieces of advice to the young people: getting pregnant is best reserved for marriage, marriage must be prepared for, courtship done at the right time in one’s life, dating and choosing one’s spouse requires mature judgment and so forth.

Here we have a case of a school in a small town of a small province of the Philippines giving its students education about love and responsibility eight years before the RH law was passed.

I recalled this experience upon reading Mr. Michael Tan’s column in Inquirer’s February 14 issue. Mr. Tan was advocating the application of the RH Law because in his view “right now most schools are totally silent when it comes to issues of sexuality, and teachers are too scared to talk about it”. Mr. Tan did not present any statistics to support his claim or perception. I myself worked as a chaplain for a girls’ school for seven years and a boys’ school for five years and it is not the case that these schools did not teach its students matters about sexual conduct and ethics, not to mention biology. It is also arguable that if a small school in a small town of a small province of the Philippines is educating its young people about love and life then there could be others who are doing the same. It might be true that there are teachers or schools who are silent about the matter. But it is also usually a fallacy to generalize.

The problem, as I perceive it, is that education about human sexuality is “ambivalent”: it can be the bearer of two values, good and bad. The root of this ambivalence is the nature of human sexuality itself; it is at the same time a physical and natural event but also a personal and spiritual event. And it so happens that the two are united so as to form one reality. If these two components were separated then the so-called “sex education” does not really become education but simply “information”. And as everyone knows, information can be mishandled and can end up in sad and catastrophic consequences. Here we have the negative value of such “education”.

People who know a bit of history know that this is what happened in the “sexual revolution” of the 60s and 70s. Schools started giving their students sex education with the resultant alarming progressions in teen-age pregnancies and abortions despite information about how to avoid pregnancies through contraceptives. What I think will really contribute to the good of the young people is education about love, life and responsibility, an education which will not only give them the “facts of life” but also the entire context within which these facts contribute to human fulfillment and that context is the calling to marriage, true love, chastity and mature responsibility, things those young students in that little town were being taught.

So we must not remain in giving information about facts but rather move in the sphere of educating the youth in virtues. Parents indeed have the primary duty of carrying out this education because of its very personal and intimate nature. Schools can collaborate with parents in this task.

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