Creationism Ed is to Sex Ed as . . .
Maybe not. As I understand the debate, those parents who argue for open discussion of creationism (I reject its nom de guerre, intelligent design, as a hollow tactical gesture and thus misleading, as I've yet to encounter a non-Christian who argues that ID, as such, has a place in the science curricullum of public schools) base their argument on two general principles:
1. They are entitled to have their personal belief systems, which they hope their children will share, reinforced in school in an appropriate context rather than undermined by a differing account of the origin of life.
2. Creationism, as a competing account of the origin of life, belongs beside evolution in the science curricullum.
Now, as any regular readers know, I reject this position to the extent the "competing scientific account" goes no further than evolution's wrong 'cause it says so in the Bible. Whatever else that may be, it isn't science, and in science as in other areas of learning at a younger age, it's the patterns of thought as much as their objects that are the focus of education. To make such a statement in the context of a science class, and thus at least tacitly suggest that such an account is scientific, is to undermine the enterprise of instructing children in rigorous enquiry in the tradition of the scientific method. I express no opinion as to whether creation may be taught in public classrooms where the general subject matter is history, theology, or philosophy. But while robust, scientific, peer-reviewed critiques of Darwin have their places in science classrooms, when taught in light of those qualities, that's not what most parents are seeking, no matter what they call it. They want their faiths reified, they want to pound the lectern against Darwin without doing the hard work of falsifying evolution by scientific methods, and this is inappropriate for reasons constitutional, epistemological, pedagogical, and philosophical.
But now parallel the above beliefs with a more liberal "faith" regarding the value of sexual education (involving, in particular, honest discussions of pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and all legally available methods of birth control):
1. Public schools are where people develop into young citizens, and as such they are entitled to learn of all matters, good and ill, that bear on their citizenship (a premise that Christians appear to agree on; it's implicit in their urgency on the creationism issue).
2. It is a matter of fact that most kids will become sexually active during their teen years, like it or not, and to the extent I cannot prevent this, I at least believe that it's necessary to ensure that to the extent they do this they must do so from a position of information. Even if I am not a parent, this matter, as one affecting public health, is important to me.
3. On such an important matter, I am entitled to have my convictions reinforced in school, as a further gesture toward ensuring that children understand the tremendous importance of this matter and behave responsibly.
The above is very sketchy, very reductive, and intended only to set up the following thought experiment:
While parents seek to have creationism taught in the (science) classroom based upon their claimed right to have their convictions reinforced at school, manifesting their belief that it's not enough to instil principles of faith outside of school but that their children's godliness requires never being exposed to any competing account of life's origin without immediate strident opposition, so do other parents seek to have (full and candid; perhaps encouraging abstinence, but not turning a blind eye to its widespread eschewal by children) sexual education taught in schools for the same reason, to have what they deem important reinforced in the classroom.
And yet many, probably most Christians pursue the former but adamantly oppose the latter. The question is: on what authority? This is an invitation to discussion; I'm open to the possibility that I've committed some sort of logical misstep, but at the moment the two seem clearly similar to me. Especially if, as one reader has suggested, to be non-Christian is to hold with the faith of Secular Humanism. If that is true (I still think it is not), then my progressive views of sex ed are a product of my "faith," and I should be entitled to have sex ed taught in schools for precisely the same reasons parents seek to have creationism taught in schools.