These progressive times call for proactive parenting, according to the received yuppie wisdom. In the eyes of some zealous moms and dads, this means teaching the kids about s-e-x before they're old enough to spell it.
According to this approach, toddlers should learn words like "vulva" at the same time they learn "ears" and "toes," benign-sounding myths about storks and seeds constitute harmful misinformation, and any child who can ask about how he or she was created is old enough for a truthful answer.
Oh, come on. You don't explain how gravity works, why the radio emits sounds, or why light rays refract through a glass lens -- not when the questioner wears velcro shoes and carries a Bambi lunchbox. Surely there's no moral imperative to launch into an twenty-minute discourse on topics that would raise a blush in the average 20-year-old.
The general cultural environment has become so vulgar, the early-approach advocates say, that sex education has become a race: parents must reach children before other forces - from misinformed playground confidantes to pubescent-looking models posed in their skivvies - do. "We need to get there first," said Deborah M. Roffman, a sex educator and the author of "But How'd I Get in There in the First Place? Talking to Your Young Child About Sex."
It all depends on where "there" is. If it's talking about foreplay when the young pupil in question associates "play" with a jungle gym, I'd say not to go there. It's simply not worth the trip. It's unnecessary. It's an attempt to avert an imagined crisis that probably won't happen anyway. Unless your child is watching late-night pay-per-view television when you're not around, you don't need to worry about pop culture getting there first.
I can respond to Ms. Roffman with some degree of authority, to allay her fears. She was my Sex Ed teacher. It was about 10 years ago, at a teensy religious school in Baltimore, and I could swear that none of us kids had ever heard any of those strange-sounding words before. If she hadn't come along to "get there first," nobody else would have gotten there for at least another five years.
"It's a fun time at dinner now," [a mother who conducts sex-ed sessions with her kids at home] said, gesturing at her two small boys. "We have The Talk every single night."
Well, okay. As long as the lady's enjoying herself. I just hope she lets the kids get away to run around, play soccer and arrange toy trucks on the living room floor -- all that primitive pre-Sex-Ed-enlightenment stuff -- every now and then.
Crossposted with my other libertarian blog. <--- shameless plug here