by Scott Masson. March 31, 2015.
At least since Plato, philosophers have argued that parents are naturally unfit to educate their children. In an ideal state, philosopher-kings such as he ought to usurp their role. Plato had no children. But the enlightened Rousseau, whose ideas ground modern educational theory, was so enamoured with the idea of the state’s responsibility in administering social justice, and in absolving himself of parental responsibility, that he placed the five children he conceived out of wedlock in state orphanages.
In his 1935 BBC radio debate with another statist educator, philosopher Bertrand Russell, G.K. Chesterton wryly retorted what every reasonable person recognizes. The immoral example of exceptional men like Rousseau proves the rule: Parents are by nature best positioned to bring up their children. They don’t raise themselves.
The intervention of the Second World War and the rise of Communism briefly settled the matter. Yet the brief success of the ideologues that shared Russell’s conviction in the interim led a nascent UN to push back. In its 1959 Rights of the Child, parents were declared to have primary responsibility in educating their children. The declaration was meant to set a hedge of protection for families against the totalitarian impulse of philosopher-kings.
Chesterton might well have called the findings of Cambridge anthropologist J.D. Unwin to his aid. Unwin’s monumental 1934 work Sex and Culture studied 80 primitive tribes and six known civilizations over 5,000 years of history. It strongly correlated the success of a civilization to the degree of sexual restraint it observed: ”Any human society is free to choose either to display great energy or to enjoy sexual freedom; the evidence is that it cannot do both for more than one generation.”
The life or death of a civilization, which is at stake in the Christian teaching of natural sexual monogamy — a moral conviction and social institution that Unwin observed was common to all flourishing cultures — would have been a powerful argument in favour of teaching that monogamy was essential to the health of the individual and to creating a more just society.
Of course, Chesterton did not make that appeal, largely because he and Russell did not debate the sexual education of children. Theirs was the age-old question of which adults, which individuals capable of moral responsibility, were fit to do the task of creating a just society. Was it parents in the natural family unit, or the experts, the philosopher-kings?
This brings us to the Ontario sexual education curriculum, whose convictions on human sexual health are not liberating but deleterious. Once again, the debate lies between parental and state jurisdiction in creating a just society. But at the heart of the Ontario sex-ed curriculum is buried the perverse claim that children raise themselves.
This is explicit from the very outset of the curriculum, which commences with the teaching of consent to six-year-olds. To teach children what consent means, even in the rudimentary terms the premier gives of “reading facial expressions and emotions,” is to assume that they have the capacity for moral responsibility to exercise it. This is why the legal age of consent is connected to the moral responsibility of adults. Indeed it must be if a just society is the outcome of education.
By six, the human eye has not even fully developed.
The intent of the word, consent, is expressive, to be understood in the cultural Marxist terms of autonomous sexual freedom, and even sexual identity. They are the terms of men from Herbert Marcuse to Michel Foucault, the favourites of the philosopher-kings of our day, whose autonomy is declared precisely against the natural family.
The critics of this curriculum are right because it is nothing other than an experiment on their children by the children of the sexual revolution. Without any consideration for love or marriage — there is nary a mention of either in this infamous 244 page document — it speaks of sex in the anodyne consumerist terms of choice, of sex without moral, religious or societal consequences.
It is the teaching not of a just society, but of a perverted individualism that separates children not only from the values of the parents that bore, love and nurture them, but the idea that they too will one day be responsible for children when this government and its philosopher-kings lie on the ash heap of history.
It must not be imposed on the only people whose consent is required, the parents of children in Ontario.
Scott Masson is associate professor of English Literature at Tyndale University College, Toronto.