Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness In A Sex Ed Class

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. ~Deuteronomy 5:20, The Nineth Commandment
I last wrote about the separation of Church and State eight months ago, and I wondered then whether Singapore would see a similar 'intrusion' of faith into the public space as what's happening in the States and to a less extent Australia. It now looks like this might indeed happening, but probably few people are aware of it. So it started with this person who posted a thread at the SPUG forums on what he experienced at a 'brain-washing' sex education workshop in school. I thought at first it's just one of those interesting ad-hoc workshops that are organised for students in junior college and secondary schools. But as I continued reading, I was quite shocked to find that these types of workshops were organised by religious groups such as a local affiliation of James Dobson's Focus On The Family. Did the Ministry know about the background of these groups? Maybe not. There's not one mention of religious affiliation at Focus' local website. It's not unreasonable for the folks at the Ministry of Education to not know what their activities are if they don't follow US politics. But there's more; it became apparent that some of the ideas presented at the workshops such as those conducted by the Catholic group Family Life Society, were quite disturbing. Among other things, students learnt that condoms are not effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases because the size of the virus is smaller than the holes in the material used to manufacture condoms. It took me 10 seconds to go to Columbia Uni's Ask Alice service to verify this claim. The thing they taught in the workshop was absolute hogwash. I was furious to later find that this sort of misinformation had been around since 2003 when the Vatican said basically the same thing, which was later condemned by UNAids. The FDA has more information about condoms. Was this an honest mistake? How could they lie to people about such things? I couldn't believe it! But then I remembered, if it's possible to adopt and market the same 'faith-based' community way of thinking that the political right wingers have so successfully done in the US, it's not that unreasonable for this fiasco to have occurred in Singapore! If you have one (inaccurate) research paper that talks about the size of virus molecules, it can easily be used to justify the argument despite the objections of health-care professionals. I'm thinking the rationale might work like this: Hey, we have this paper that tell us that condoms don't work in preventing STDs. We know that some doctors oppose this, but I think we should go ahead and promote this idea because we don't allow the use of condoms anyway. Yes, we might be misleading people, but it's all in the name of doing God's good work. And ultimately, we're saving lives if we scare people enough. Now, if this is indeed the rationale for gross misinformation to appear in the workshop, we really have an urgent and serious problem on our hands. The issue is far bigger than the original objection of faith-based groups teaching secular topics in public schools because it's become a matter of life and death. Why? Because this issue is really about trust. Who should young people turn to for accurate information on sexuality? We hope their teachers and folks who conduct sex ed workshops are their first source of information. Here's the rub: what happens when these young people later learn they have been misled and lied to, and have not been given objective information? You would lose their trust, probably immediately. Young people are not stupid. They'll eventually know whether their mentors are honest with them or not. I can easily imagine the following scenario. A young woman drops her blouse before a young, keen, male person. He's considering whether to take the next step. He remembers what his sex ed educator told him, and how some parts of the lesson are just not true. He says to himself, 'If his information about the virus molecule size is not correct, maybe other things he told us isn't really true too. He did tell us that the only 100% way of preventing STD is abstinence. Oh what the heck, I think he's just exaggerating, these guys always have a religious agenda, I don't trust him at all. What are the chances of getting infected after just one time? Screw it...' This guy gets infected with the HIV virus as a result. Too bad the misleading person who did the workshop happened to be right about the abstinence thing. Anyway, I'd present the lesson this way: condoms are effective against STDs (except for use during anal sex). However, there are such things as failure rates due to operator and manufacturing error. Therefore, to be 100% safe, practise abstinence. If that's not an appropriate choice, know the risks of condom use; the risks can be very high if they aren't used properly... More from, and Han who has scanned pages from the materials used at the workshop. It's quite unbelievable...


Agagooga said...

"And the woman [Rahab] took the two men and hid them and said thus: There came men unto me, but I wist not whence they were; and it came to pass about the time of shutting of the gate, when it was dark that the men went out; whither the men went I wot not; pursue after them quickly, for ye shall overtake them. But she had brought them up to the roof of the house and hid them with the stalks of flax."

"Was not Rahab, the harlot, justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?."

"And the king of Egypt called for the midwives, and said unto them, Why have ye done this thing, and have saved the men-children alive? And the midwives said unto Pharaoh, Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are lively, and are delivered ere the midwives come in unto them. Therefore God dealt well with the midwives."

1 Kg.22:21-22
"And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him .. I will go forth and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him and prevail also; go forth and do so."

2 Kg.8:10
"And Elisha said unto him, go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die."

2 Cor.12:16
"Being crafty, I caught you with guile."

jeffyen said...

Is this homework reading for this weekend?!

Kelvin Wong said...

Actually, FOTF in singapore used to have the same "About us" as the one the US, so I don't think that the Ministries and the govt. are THAT unaware of them. Further more FOTF is very much involved in American politics. However, I went back recently and the cleaned up ALL references to Christianity. I suspect the reason why they got their foot into the door is:-
- We have a high ratio of fundamentalist Christians in parliament.
- There are no alternative organisations to provide "pro-family" programmes.

jeffyen said...

I think it's not a problem if a lot of folks in Parliament are fundamentalist [insert label here]. Folks should be allowed to believe what they want to believe. But if they bring their faith into the public arena or introduce policies that aren't secular, then this is what I'm worried about...

trisha said...

I popped by here from Mr Wang's blogroll and realised we're both disturbed about the same topic. I just posted a similar reflection about this at my blog.

As a teacher and a parent myself, I find this a hot potato! Schools are walking a tight rope in this area and I don't have an easy solution either. But I'm glad someone has raised the issue and I'm all for more open and considered discussion on this by schools, parents, and students.

beautifulseed said...

I guess all that these organizations wanted to do was to impress it upon the young that sometimes it is better not to play with fire. I don't think that they meant to bring in extra agenda into the picture but because of their source, it was inevitable.

It is true that Condoms are not 100% effective and that rhythm methods aren't all that easy to apply. I should know. Trust me.

Sometimes no sex is better than playing with fire... The trepidation, the cold sweat... the shit you go through if you are pregnant.

I am a single mum and I can tell you the journey's been a real rough one.

So I'd rather someone tell me straight on not to experiment than to do it and then hit the sorta jackpot U dun wanna hit.

And then you have to contend with the other taboo agenda... Abortion.

I am glad I did not abort. I know people who have who've lived to regret it. One of them had no right to make the decision because she was below the legal age and although she did not want to abort, she was forced to at 5 months preggie. They literally murder the kid in the womb and then have her give birth to it. She could not forget how her daugther looked when she came out and it haunts her till today.

I do admit (with pride nonetheless) that I am Christian and I sadly made a huge mistake and realised that two wrongs would not make it right. And I am glad i thought that way when I made my final decision because this kid of mine is a great blessing.

Regardless of faith, I don't think teens should take part in premarital sex because of the stress and all the crap it puts you through. And regardless of faith, I am against abortion because how can a mother kill her own child and call herself a human.

That's my 2 cents worth.

And then again, talking to the younger ones about this kinda issues is like telling a toddler not to stick a pea up her nose because despite what you say, that curious bundle is just gonna do exactly what you say not to do and stick a pea up her nose anyway.

Choose the easy way of learning by listenign to those who have experienced the bad or go through the school of hard knocks to feel it for yourself. Your journey, your decision, your right and your call.

We were given free will. Let them say their piece and you decide for yourself, religious issue aside, the right call for yourself.

jeffyen said...

Yes trisha, openness is the way to go! And thanks for sharing beautifulseed. I think we all have the same objective and that is to help young people make the best choice. That objective is easily compromised by wrong factual information, especially something that's medical in nature. I don't think it's 'inevitable' that these things happen, even if the workshop was organised by a 'religious' group. I have attended such things in school too many years ago; the presenter was was quite objective. :)