In Our Opinion: In an imperfect world, sex ed arms children with knowledge

The campaign against a state Senate Bill that would require comprehensive sexual education in schools is a disturbing mixture of 1950s narrow-mindedness and new millennium social media misinformation.

Cynical politicians and backwards-thinking people saw a bill that mixes the terms “sexual” and “schools” as an opportunity to score political points or gain attention by fomenting big-government fears, religious worries and misogyny.

If passed, Referendum 90 would allow the bill to take effect, thereby requiring public schools to provide comprehensive sex education for all students except those excused at the request of their parents.

The most important part of the curriculum is instruction for young children about “good touch, bad touch” and teenagers about recognizing and resisting coercive and abusive behaviors, as well as the meaning of consent.

In other words, girls will be taught that their bodies are their own and that they have the right to say “no.”

It may seem strange that people in the law-and-justice community are supporting an education bill. But they understand that the most powerful way to stop child molesters and rapists is to arm young people with knowledge. Children cannot get help if something bad is happening to them if they don’t understand it is bad.

One might argue that it’s the parents’ role to talk to kids about these sensitive issues, which would be perfectly reasonable in a perfect world. But anyone who understands reality knows that doesn’t happen in many families.

As the Seattle Times reported, it’s not uncommon for young school children being taught about “good touch, bad touch” to speak up and tell their teacher they experience unwanted touching. Anyone who regularly reads through felony court records could testify to the heartbreaking realities of the horrors that happen to children in even small, tight-knit communities.

Of course, there are many other aspects of sex education that are important. As lawmakers, educators and the media have explained ad nauseam, the curriculum established by the bill is completely age appropriate. In fact, educators on Whidbey and across the state have explained that it doesn’t change how the subject is currently being taught. The bill formalizes the curriculum to ensure its quality across the state and that children don’t get left behind in the future.

In the age of internet and social media, it’s unlikely that kids will learn much of anything about the mechanics of sex in health class that they don’t already know. Not that they ever did.

What they will learn are the more vital lessons: Children have rights; it’s not their fault if they are victimized; they shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality; the facts about puberty; and the medical, economic and even legal implications of their choices.