Don’t expect U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) to vote in favor of sexuality education anytime soon. He told a radio show that he’s convinced it’s not necessary because “mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody.”
Even if that is true—and no cavewoman ever sat around a campfire discussing menstruation with other young women—it doesn’t mean that it was the ideal situation or that we should continue that way. There are a lot of things mankind existed without for a very long time that many of us are grateful for today. It’s 98 degrees and humid outside as I write this, so air conditioning is the first example that comes to my mind.
But that may be a bad analogy, so let’s talk instead about education. Mankind existed without formal education in math for a long time, but we would never suggest it’s OK to send our kids out in the world without knowing how to multiply. Mankind existed without medical schools for a long time, but I’m pleased that my kids’ pediatrician not only went to one but is required to get continually re-certified so he knows the latest information about how to diagnose and treat the ear infections both my girls saw him for last week. (According to him, there were new diagnosis guidelines out between the initial visit and the follow-up.) Mankind also existed for a long time without anyone taking an electrical engineering class, but as I sit here typing on my tiny little computer and think about sharing this article with people I’ve never met via the internet, I’m pretty glad for the people who pioneered that field.
Just because mankind existed and continued to procreate—which is where I think Gohmert was really going—without sex education does not mean it’s not better with it.
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Gohmert’s logic, however, does not end with “We were able to make generations of babies without anyone telling us how to do it.” His real argument is that we don’t have to teach sex ed because kids just learn it. As he said on the radio:
You don’t have to force this sexuality stuff into their life at such a point. It was never intended to be that way. They’ll find out soon enough.
He’s right. Kids will undoubtedly hear about sex from friends, family, or cable television. But I’m pretty sure that most parents are actively trying to avoid this form of “education,” which tends to be incomplete at best and grossly inaccurate at worst.
I can’t speak for what it was like during much of mankind’s reign on this planet, but right now, in the country that Gohmert helps govern, we continue to have high rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy. Just because we didn’t teach sex education 200 years ago or even 20 years ago does not mean we shouldn’t teach it today.