THE EDITOR: At present there are prominent people in influential international organisations who advocate comprehensive sex education in schools. This approach distances itself from ways of educating about sexuality that are adopted in traditional families and religious communities, claiming to be based solely on scientific evidence. Can scientific evidence, however, provide the proper basis for education in sexuality? This is an important question that needs to be considered, because the basis for proper education in sexuality should rather be the dignity of the human person.
The dignity of the human person is a spiritual value that transcends material things, time and space. Spiritual values have three characteristics that differentiate them from scientific hypotheses. They are universal, immutable and obligatory.
Universal means that they apply to every human being without exception. When we speak of human dignity, we understand that we should respect the dignity of every human being, regardless of the circumstances of that person.
Immutable refers to something that does not change. It is the same in the past, the present and the future. The intrinsic worth and radical equality of every person is a human good that does not change. In making this affirmation, we are not saying that the dignity of every human being is always respected, but rather that it should be because it is something owed to a person from the very fact of being human.
Spiritual values are grasped by the intellect as something good that brings about human fulfilment and so they ought to be done. Thus, they appear as obligatory. Respect for the dignity of the human person is one of the most important and fundamental of such values.
It ought to be recognised that scientific propositions or hypotheses do not fulfil any of these criteria. Evidence-based theories are limited by the nature, scope and span of the evidence they use and cannot be proposed as universal.
Furthermore, scientific propositions are always contextual because they rely on assumptions and models that can later be adjusted to cater for new evidence. Theories are also constrained by the sophistication of instruments available. As better instruments become available, new theories can be elaborated and tested.
It can neither be affirmed that evidence-based propositions can be immutable. A hypothesis can and ought to change when there is new evidence that it does not accurately predict or account for. Finally, science does not pretend to oblige. It provides models that can help in moral decision-making, but these models are not themselves benchmarks for right and wrong. Only spiritual goods can ultimately be the reference for right and wrong and the most fundamental of these is the equal dignity of every person.
If we would like to have a solid foundation for education in sexuality that crosses boundaries of race, culture and religious persuasion, an evidence-based approach falls short. A fruitful dialogue between stakeholders in sexuality education ought to build on the universal acknowledgment of the dignity of the human person.
A noteworthy programme that is rooted in such spiritual values is the Alive to the World programme founded by Christine Vollmer, president of the international organisation Alliance for the Family (www.alivetotheworld.com). It considers sexuality from a broader perspective as all that a person needs to know and the habits they need to cultivate to form stable, wholesome and fulfilling relationships in friendships and in marriage. The task of transmitting values and virtues begins in the womb and continues into adulthood.
Alive to the World is a series of resources that have been translated into eight languages and is present in over 22 countries. It has been shown to be very impactful in addressing social ills in the area of sexuality and in other areas as well such as bullying, violence and work ethic.
In TT, the Alive to the World representative is the NGO called Communities Alive or CA for short (www.caettt.com). It is working with many schools and parents, helping them to build character in the next generation.