The Facts of Life
by Willie and Elaine Oliver
My child is in middle school at our local public school and has just brought home the permission slip I have to sign for her to participate in the sexuality education curriculum at school. I noticed that abstinence is just one of the alternatives taught in the program. What can I do to help my daughter make the right choice? —Brenda, East Orange, New Jersey
Teaching values is one of the most difficult tasks faced by every public school system. Because the state runs public schools, the state, by law, cannot teach morality. Every attempt to deal with issues based on Christian values falls short of what might be considered ideal for a person of faith who believes in God and the Bible.
Deciding to allow your child to participate in the sexuality education curriculum at her middle school is truly a personal decision that you must arrive at after examining the materials and much prayer. Among the questions you may want to ask yourself before making the decision are:
1. Are they teaching information my child needs to know, or are they teaching information my child should not know?
2. Will my child be harmed by going through the material? Or will I do more harm by not allowing her to go through the material?
3. Should I allow my child to participate in the classes and back off from being involved in the process, or should I allow my child to participate and share with her my beliefs about these issues based on what God says in the Bible?
The truth is, as long as your child is in public school, she is probably learning ideas and gaining knowledge about the world with which you do not agree. This is also the case if your child attends a private school or a church school. It follows, then, that parental involvement is the only safeguard.
Ellen White, a prominent Christian writer, suggests that the most important work of parents is to help develop the characters of their children based on the principles found in the Word of God. So that no one would doubt the level of importance she is talking about White wrote: “The character building of your children is of more importance than the cultivation of your farms, more essential than the building of houses to live in, or of prosecuting any manner of business or trade” (Child Guidance, p. 169).
Whether you allow your child to participate or not in the sexuality education curriculum of her middle school, this is a teachable moment you cannot afford to pass up. After all, one of the responsibilities of parenting is to share with our children God’s wonderful plan for sexuality in their lives. Of course, this means that you should know what you believe, and why you believe it, so that when you share your ideas with your child you will do so with conviction.
We believe that the education of children is first and foremost the responsibility of parents. Regardless of where your child goes to school, you should remain closely involved with her and the system of education of which she is a part. We also pray you will trust God to give you wisdom to stay close to Him, and daily share your values with your child.
Ellen G. White, Child Guidance, Review and Herald Publishing Association: Wash. D.C., 1954.
Willie Oliver, PhD, CFLE, an ordained minister and family sociologist, is director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Elaine Oliver, MA, CFLE, an educator and counseling psychologist, is associate director for the Department of Family Ministries at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Address your questions to them at family.adventist.org.