Daniel Thwaites, Contributor
The outrage at the health and family life education 'curriculum guide' had a legitimate basis. The guide had content that crossed the line from giving children important information and teaching tolerance, which are good ideas, to basically giving suggestions for risky behaviour. It was targeted at teachers for students in grades seven to nine.
One set of questions I saw had to do with whether the student had more than one partner in the last month. Another one invited the student to imagine himself as the only 'straight' person in a world where everyone else is a homosexual. That's over the line.
I'm reasonably liberal and tolerant when it comes to these matters. However, I have two children falling squarely into the age group covered by these 'guides' and I would definitely not appreciate any teacher having a discussion with them like that. No, sah! Dat cyaaan't gwaaan! I'm not THAT liberal or THAT tolerant.
There's sometimes a thin line between giving information and introducing unwelcome ideas. For instance, I'm convinced that the drug-education programmes in some United States schools equip students to find and get a high off almost anything. There's no need to do that in the family-life education class.
Experts tell us that some students in these grades are already sexually active. In fact, this debate has brought out some interesting statistics, including that the mean age for the onset of sexual activity is 12 years old for boys and 15 years for girls. Generally, the studies tell us that the kids are not wasting time.
This being the case, I'd say that the overall aim of getting information to the children shouldn't be lost in the uproar about content and tone of this offending guide. I suppose we're permitted some hypocrisy when it comes to these matters, but not too much.
Imagine a reasonably intelligent and inquisitive 13-year-old picking up the newspapers, or reading them online, this past week. Let's not even talk about what's on cable television or readily available on the Internet. Also, let's glide over the fact that Jamaica has developed an incredibly aggressive sexualised culture.
Older people say there was a time when a reasonably good-looking woman could walk down the road without being propositioned constantly. Those days are long gone. Nowadays, no woman can make it past half-dozen young men without being asked for sex by at least one. Not unless you're a garden troll or a ratbat.
Roughly nine months ago, Mr Holness' electoral decisions had ruined my Christmas plans and placed me at a street dance downtown. Older women were instructing younger ones, and even some very young girls (children), how to 'wine it', while Mavado was belting out specific instructions:
Yuh nuh see de ting tun up ina yah,
Gyal a wine it like a propellah,
Brace it, Brace it up, pon dah sump'm yah!
It same one damage up Jennifer.
A few acrobatic and athletic older women did a move called, I believe, the '6:30', where they bend over like the hands on the clock. That was taken as a challenge to some others who did what can only be described as a '12:30' positioning, where one leg went up in the air, held aloft by a hand. There wasn't much clothing to begin with. And all of this was actively imitated by the kids.
This isn't some teacher's guide or textbook instructing the children. The health and family life education curriculum, even when suitably constructed, is like a New Orleans levee while Hurricane Katrina is passing through.
Furthermore, my observation was that the true socio-sexual crisis in Jamaica has to do with predatory men taking advantage of children and young adults. At the time, we were in the midst of another quarterly homo-scare, and so one gentleman, the sire of some 16 children from about 15 different (mostly) young women, wanted to let me know that the country was becoming Sodom and Gomorrah because of the homosexuals. This is intolerable hypocrisy.
Back to our hypothetical 13-year-old! She would have seen in The Gleaner that 27-year-old Ronald Oates was arrested for, among other things, allegedly attempting to blackmail more than two dozen victims into paying him money to avoid their risqué pictures being published on his Jamaican Girls Exposed website. As a part-time investigative journalist, I quickly discovered that the website had been disabled.
This website was reportedly publishing pictures that the girls took of themselves. So he wasn't so much a pornographer as an unwelcome publicist for the pornography people were already making.
ROYALS ON PARADE
Also in the papers: our royal family, at least until the government effectuates its republican plans, has been showing skin. First, it was Harry. He was so happy after his visit to Jamaica that, months later, he went off to Las Vegas and unleashed his junk on the entire world. Can you imagine? His granny had to wake up and see her lineage in the newspapers. Harry's scandal was barely over before there was the publication of photos of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, in the buff.
More news? Monica Lewinsky now has a tell-all (blow-by-blow) book deal worth US$12 million. Bill Clinton got US$15 million for his book.
I suppose the question isn't whether or not we're going to be hypocritical about sex, since we all are, and we all have been and will continue to be. The question is what kind of hypocrites we will choose to be. Will it be to protect the children, or to protect the adults? If we choose to limit and restrict what youngsters see, that may be somewhat hypocritical, but so what? It's a tolerable hypocrisy. The intolerable hypocrisy is to leave the children exposed by ignorance and to predators.
We don't want to take 12-year-olds and assault them with every possibility and perversion. I think of La Rochefoucauld's observation that "hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue". It's a useful insight. My granny, an enormously perceptive woman, put it even better when she would simply say, "Ah nuh everyting good fi eat good fi talk."
Daniel Thwaites is a partner of Thwaites, Lundgren & D'Arcy in Westchester and Bronx counties in New York. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.