Brazilian adherence to sex education in schools is not a free pass to ideological indoctrination

A new Datafolha survey commissioned by two non-governmental education organizations states that 91% of Brazilians agree that abuse sexual abuse of children and adolescents can be prevented by sex education. A majority of 73% think that this subject should be present in schools.

The sample consisted of 2090 people who were interviewed in March of this year. The title of the research is “Ultraconservatism in Education”. Answering whether the school is more prepared than the parents to explain puberty and sexuality, 40% expressed complete agreement, 24% partially agreed. Almost unanimously 91% agree that the school should offer information about venereal diseases and ways to prevent them. As for students learning at school about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies, 93% of respondents agreed.

These numbers are consistent with public opinion polls among Americans. In a survey of 2005 from Pew Research, 78% of respondents were in favor of school teaching about contraceptive methods. In another more recent and comprehensive survey, 48, 1% considered sex education to be “very important” at middle school (11 years ago of age) and 91, 7% at high school (14 The 18 years old). Regarding the topics, the vast majority (between 81,6-97,8%) agrees that puberty, healthy relationships, abstinence, contraceptives, venereal diseases and consent are already addressed at

middle school. Partisan divisions were not very wide, except on the topic of “sexual orientation” at middle school, where the vast majority of Democrats ( ,8%) are in favor while just under half of the Republicans (48,1%) have the same opinion.

In Brazil, sex education focused on family planning and preventing sexually transmitted diseases has been happening for decades in public schools . The generation that today reaches the 40 years old used to learn in school about the “ childcare”, a discipline subordinated to pediatrics that arrived in Brazil at the end of the 19th century. Younger parents, therefore, defend that their children obtain the same knowledge that they acquired at school.

This attitude is not to be confused with an agreement with progressive guidelines such as the introduction of concepts of sexual diversity and the LGBT agenda. A January survey by PoderData, for example, pointed out that support for gay marriage dropped from 48 % for 40% in Brazil. When poorly introduced, these issues can contribute to identity confusions and bad recommendations, such as treating every child who says they want to belong to the opposite sex as “trans”, when most of them resolve without the need for transition.

Is sex education effective? What the Academic Literature Says

A review of 2020 by Eva Goldfarb and Lisa Lieberman, both from the Department of Public Health at Monclair State University, New Jersey, has filtered 73 studies among tens of thousands regarding the state of the art in education sexual intercourse in the last 18 years. The authors suggest that sex education is successful in reducing homophobia, with educational resources such as an invitation to LGBT people to tell their life story. One of the studies, involving 227 Canadian high school students, saw a reduction in the use of homophobic name-calling among them.

Studies in California and the Netherlands indicate that the presence of sex education reduces bullying against LGBT students and that it even improves their mental health, lowering the incidence of suicidal ideation. As for more classic sex education, improvements are observed in perceptions and attitudes towards intimate partner violence — a few studies have used the more rigorous method of randomly assigning students to who took sex education classes or not. Additionally, “this review found strong evidence for the effectiveness of child sexual abuse prevention efforts,” say Eva and Lisa. Children learned about what adult touch is appropriate and what is normal for each stage of their development. They were also instructed not to reproduce incorrect attitudes such as blaming victims for rape.

In a review of 2012 carried out by the Center for Evidence-Based Interventions from the University of Oxford and commissioned by UNESCO the authors found no evidence that sex education increases sexual activity or STDs, a very common concern.

If sex education does not appear to have negative effects on outcomes biological factors such as pregnancy and STDs, would it have positive effects? Here the evidence does not allow a clear conclusion to be drawn. There are few high-quality studies on the subject, as Goldfarb and Lieberman, and UNESCO’s own review point out. A long-term US study found no effect on teenage birth rate when other variables were controlled for, such as religiosity, demographic characteristics, and local policies on abortion. In fact, US states with greater religiosity and conservatism were associated with higher rates of teenage pregnancy, although it is not known for sure whether there is a causal relationship between these beliefs and this outcome.

It is interesting to take into account also what students have to say. In a qualitative study involving several countries, including Brazil, students expressed some dissatisfaction with the way sex education was taught in their schools. Many reported shyness, including on the part of the teachers, and dissatisfaction with the negative emphasis, which was too “scientific” and without much relevance to the real life of the students.

One of the biggest difficulties in the scientific evaluation of the effects of sex education is the tremendous variability both in curriculum topics and in the way they are addressed. Furthermore, and as expected, this topic is particularly sensitive to the influence of conservative and progressive political ideologies, which can have unintended effects. On the conservative side, there is a tendency to reduce sex education to abstinence only, something that studies already cited show not having the expected effect. On the progressive side, we increasingly see the idea of ​​gender as a social construction gaining ground, an unscientific position that goes back to the myth of the blank slate, the long-discredited idea that the human mind and behavior are influenced only by the environment. There are still no studies on the effects that this idea may have in the school context, but it is plausible that it can confuse adolescents whose behavior does not fit the male/female pattern and contribute to the current increase in cases of gender dysphoria probably caused by contagion. social.

Influences on the area

In the United States, three NGOs have published since 2012 the National Sexuality Education Guidelines (NSES), widely adopted in school districts across the country. The second edition of the guidelines was published in 2020. Goldfarb and Lieberman comment that this edition has had, as a notable update, “a prominent focus on social justice and equity, in addition to intersectionality”. What this means is that there is an ideological influence from “critical race theory” — an academic strand that seeks to explain racism in terms of the power relationship between groups and move away from understanding the solution to the issue in equal treatment regardless of race — and other strands of academic identity.

“Social justice” is a well-known term used by several left schools of thought, including communism. “Equity” is a term whose semantics have been modified more recently by the constellation of studies in identity politics. Rather than being synonymous with equality or the same treatment for individuals irrespective of their identity, “equity” in this ideological environment means a pressure for the same results, for example for the proportional representation of groups in different educational and professional environments. This goal can lead to injustices, such as the dismissal of interested and talented people for not being part of “protected” groups.

As for “intersectionality”, a term created by academic Kimberlé Crenshaw to refer to the confluence of oppressions on black women (sexism and racism), belongs to the area known as “critical theory of race”. Kimberlé proposes in an article that the idea of ​​treating people equally as if they were not of different colors, what Americans call “color blindness”, “would not make sense in a society where identifiable groups had been treated differently”. Neil Gotanda, another critical race theorist, calls the integration of blacks into American culture in the post-segregation era “cultural genocide.” John Calmore, of the same vein, asserts that critical race theory “rejects traditional dictates that implore one to write and study as a disinterested observer whose work is supposed to be objective, neutral, and balanced.” Theorists embrace subjectivity and reject the impartiality sought in science.

In a volume edited by Kimberlé entitled “Critical Theory of Race: The Main Texts that Shaped the Movement” , 97), the authors explicitly attack the way in which the racial desegregation of American society was carried out, opting to “recover and revitalize the radical tradition of racial consciousness among African Americans and other people of color.” The idea runs counter to replicated research in psychology that indicates less emphasis on racial identity helps combat racism, as discussed earlier here in Gazeta do Povo .

The fact that recent guidelines in sex education use the vocabulary and ideas of the identity movements and their creators shows that parents, while approving the presence of sex education in schools, must be aware which theoretical basis is used for this. The sex education they remember with nostalgia in their own upbringing may not be as knowledge-based as they think, and may have elements of political radicalism.


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