Argument, counter-argument, and counter counter-argument against sex education (as contained in the RH bill)
by Mark Lian, Philosophy Teacher. Reposting with permission.
ARGUMENT AGAINST SEX EDUCATION
“Informing young people about sex will lead them to try it.” (this is a common argument by those against sex education).
“Informing young people about stealing and its evil does not necessarily lead them to try it.” (this is not so common a reply to that argument, i got this from a thread).
LONG ANSWER: The counter argument is using an argument by analogy. An argument by analogy is a legitimate way of arguing a case and is a very persuasive argument but it is also susceptible to facile reasoning that gives more value to the workings of the imagination than to thought. For this reason, one must be very careful in using such an argument and of evaluating such an argument in others.
The essential elements (form and substance) in an argument by analogy is that, first, the form of the two arguments (the original and the counter) should be the same while, second, the content must be substantially similar in aspects. With this in mind, let us examine the counter argument or argument by analogy presented above.
First, regarding the form: it goes like…”informing them about an act (here i am thinking of stealing in general and sex in general) leads them to trying it. Now, the form used by the counter-argument is the same with the original or the argument against sex education. This means that the counter-argument is a true argument by analogy, that is, it passes the requirement of proper form. The question now is whether it is a correct one, meaning whether it passes the second essential element in an argument by analogy, the requirement of proper substance.
Second, regarding proper substance. Is sex similar to stealing? In the sense that they are acts, yes. In the sense that they are bad, no. Stealing is BAD IN ITSELF while sex is NOT bad in itself but only when done in a disordered way as in extra-marital sex, premarital sex, homosexual sex, etc. In the sense, that they (stealing and sex) equally present a temptation to a child, no. Now we see that the two arguments are similar in their contents on one respect only, that is about ‘acts’. But this respect is not significant enough to prove the point of the counter-argument. Moreover, the last two respects of ‘bad’ and ‘equal temptation’ (this will be expounded in the next paragraph), which are the truly significant respects that the counter-argument needs are what are, in fact, missing in it. For this reason the counter-argument or the argument by analogy presented above fails.
Regarding the difference between sex and stealing in terms of badness. Since stealing is bad in itself, and when it is taught in class as something to be avoided, the tendency for the students is to avoid it considering that we have in ourselves the primordial command or ‘synderesis’ to ‘do good and avoid evil’ (which does not necessarily mean that all people always comply to this universal command.). But when we are speaking of sex, it becomes a different matter. Since sex is not bad in itself but only becomes bad when misused (as in premarital sex, extra-marital sex, homosexual acts, etc.), teaching young people about it cannot include the injunction of avoiding it (as sex, simply speaking) in CATEGORICAL terms for doing so might mislead them into thinking that sex is bad (which is a wrong way to think about sex). But if this is the case, the tendency would be to avoid talking all together about the evil of misplaced and misused sex UNLESS the educator is prepared to explain to young people the meaning of the difference between ‘married love sex’ and ‘unmarried pleasure sex’. However, when the educator is able, supposedly able, to explain the meaning of the cited difference to his young students who are also supposedly able to understand it then sex education in schools (especially when they teach artificial contraception) would reveal its ugly head of decontextualizing and miscontextualizing sex, meaning sex outside of true spousal love– a decontextualization and miscontextualization that puts pleasure above commitment and morality. Now, considering what is said above, the most probable thing that would happen then is that sex education would encourage young people to experience sex rather than avoid it.
Regarding the difference between sex and stealing in terms of ‘equal temptation’. The difference lies on two points: first point follows from what is said earlier about the difference between sex and stealing in terms of badness. If stealing is bad in itself and is taught to be avoided because it is bad, then it would present a lesser temptation to young people; in fact, the opposite of temptation would happen since we have this ‘synderesis’ or the natural aversion for evil (stealing then is seen as evil and should be avoided) and the natural desire for what is good. Now since sex is not bad in itself, its teaching it to young people by the school is susceptible to various misrepresentations and misunderstandings. This means that because ‘objectivity’ is required in teaching a school subject the students would tend to consider sex as a neutral ground or something outside morality and from that stance of ‘neutrality’ or ‘objectivity’ the DOOR IS OPEN – I am not saying that the students will necessarily enter– to considering sex as a ‘must-have’ or at least as a ‘nice-to-have’. This also means that because teachers do have their own subjective opinions about sex, they will most probably be giving different and even opposing signals about the value and meaning of sex— I just pray that there are no ill-intentioned teachers in this regard). In the context then of confusion at least and misinterpretation at most, the students who were given sex education having no sure guide for their actions (they are not specifically taught that premarital sex is very wrong, very evil) regarding the matter would tend NOT to reject premarital, extra-marital, homosexual sex as disordered human acts or immoral behavior. Therefore, having premarital sex would be, according to the minds of these confused and misinformed students, excusable actions thereby increasing these acts’ tempting power.
The second point with regards to the difference between sex and stealing in terms of ‘equal temptation’ is that of the PRESENCE of a universal and natural human passion for procreation manifested in the sexual act (being rational creatures we ought to regulate these acts according to reason) and the ABSENCE of a universal and natural human passion for stealing. If and when stealing is taught in class as something to be avoided because it is bad, the students’ passion would not be aroused. But if you teach children in their relatively innocent state about sex, even though you will tell them to avoid it because they are still young, you have thereby unwittingly or wittingly aroused their passions and therefore increase the temptations to engage in it.
A correct and realistic conception of the nature and state of man, especially that of the children, can truly help in deciding whether sex education must be had in our schools. With the points i have given above, i think ‘sex education’ in our schools would only make the matter worse, it will just aggravate the problem (unwanted pregnancies) it is trying to solve.
SHORT ANSWER: Stealing is not a universal human passion, therefore it is improbable that a teaching about it and about its evil can arouse someone to try it; on the other hand, because sex is based on a universal human passion, therefore teaching young children about it (especially in the context of school education where most teachers have no time if not intention of ministering to the souls of individual students) puts them at risk of arousing their sexual passion too early or simply wrongly.
Some people might replace ‘stealing’ with ‘eating’ in their counter-argument. Again, while eating is a universal human desire, it is not really passion in the sense that sexual passions are. In this significant difference the revised counter-argument would still fail.