On August 13th., parent’s from the Fremont California school district are gathering in an effort to devise a plan to remove a sex education book from the curriculum. The petitioning parents claim that the Fremont community’s cultural values were ignored when Fremont Unified School District Board Members voted to approve 9th grade Health text, “Your Health Today.” The petition says that the book, which teaches about masturbation, sex toys, sexual fantasies, fetish and bondage, exposes youth to extremely inappropriate material for 13 and 14 year-old youth.
The Fremont parents’ petition takes place several months after the Burdette family filed a claim against the San Diego Unified School District. The family is seeking damages in excess of $1 million after their 14 year-old son, Matthew Burdette, took his life when a video of him allegedly masturbating in his high school, went viral. The shame Mathew Burdette felt over the incident lead to him losing friends. His suicide note claimed this was the reason that he ended his life.
The ghost of Burdette looms a decade after former Surgeon General, Dr. Joycelyn Elders, was forced to resign for suggesting on World Aids Day in 1994 that we teach masturbation as a healthy alternative to sex. It is no wonder that the United States suffers higher rates of STDs and teen pregnancies than any other modern nation. The Florida Department of Health reported that AIDS-related illnesses are the 7th leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15–19.
The best way to protect our children is to talk openly and without shame about sex. If one person had said to poor Matthew that touching himself for pleasure was fine, that we all do it, that it’s really no big deal, maybe this lonely, scared, and tortured young man would likely still be with us today. We should be applauding and supporting the teachers in Fremont who agreed to replace an outdated ten-year-old textbook, with a new one. Instead the petition to remove the book has already gathered thousands of signatures from parent’s that want go back to the old book thinking that it is adequate. But we continue to fail when it comes to taking sex education seriously.
Let’s consider the death of Matthew Burdette before we decide to go pulling books on sex education from the curriculum. The many jokes about sex and masturbation are a testament to our inability to take something that makes us uncomfortable, seriously. But the sex education of kids today is a serious matter. Especially, in a world where the Internet is exposing our kids to sex whether we like it or not. If we fail to use Matthew’s suicide as an opportunity to talk candidly and without shame about erotic self pleasure, sex, fantasy, sex toys – things kids will come to discover anyway, and likely from less educated sources – we will continue to live in a world where a child would choose suicide over being caught masturbating. And that’s not funny at all.
Written by Nicholas Tana