To teach sex truths, two qualifications necessary
You would not think of having your child taught mathematics by one, who, himself, was never properly taught, or who knew only half-truths about mathematics. You might not demand of him a moral qualification, if he possessed the intellectual equipment. But, in the teaching of sex, a moral qualification is even more necessary than the intellectual. But few adults are prepared to tell the story of life to a child, and fewer still are prepared to give additional instruction as the child grows older. For one to do this work successfully two qualifications are absolutely necessary. Parents and teachers must have a moral qualification. They must regard the organs of sex and their functions as pure and sacred. If they have the taint of lasciviousness in their thoughts of the creative function, it would be a dangerous experiment for them to attempt to teach their children about the origin of life, or to give other instruction to those more advanced in years. The misinformation and false education they received in childhood and the consequent mock modesty, are the greatest difficulties in the way of their performing this sacred duty to their children. For this reason the adult classes are as much in need of correct instruction in sex as are the children. Parents and teachers must have a mental qualification. One-fifth of the names referring to the organs of sex, their functions and their abuse, that adults are forced to use when they try to express their thoughts about sex, could not be found in the dictionary, and, one-half of those that could be found in the dictionary would not refer in their meaning, even remotely, to the sexual system. They picked up these words in childhood from ignorant schoolmates and companions whose minds were tainted with debasing thoughts of sex. The use of these vulgar words, in the presence of a boy who has heard them before, suggests to his mind that which is lascivious. Those who would teach these things, to the young or old, should be able to command a chaste, clean, plain, language.
How shall a child be told
One day when our little girls were four and six, wife said, “Husband, I am in trouble about our little girls. They are asking where they were before they were born and how they got into this world. How am I to answer them?” “Tell them the truth,” was my reply. “But, they are not old enough to be told the whole truth,” was her reply. We talked over the problem and arrived at the following solution of the problem: Since I had been a teacher of biology for years, and it was presumed that I was familiar with the stories of life among the plants and animals, it was agreed that I should at once tell them a nice little story about God’s beautiful plan of bringing all the little plants into the world. Six months later I was to tell them the story of life about the oysters and fish. Every six months to a year I was to tell them a more advanced story. As they were girls, wife reserved the right to tell them the last story to be told when they were nine and ten.
These stories were all told in the order given. Our girls are now twelve and fourteen. We have never had an occasion to regret that we have followed this natural method of instructing them. They seem to have no morbid curiosity about questions of sex. They look upon the facts as being natural, sacred and pure. Wife and I can approach them on these subjects without embarrassment to them or us.
When should a child be told?
The average boy should be told all these stories by the time he is eight, not later than nine. The average girl should be told all these stories by the time she is nine, not later than ten. The developing mind of the average child andthe social influences to which he is exposed, demand that he be safeguarded by the whole truth, this early in life. While the girl and boy develop alike until they are ten or eleven, the boy being exposed to vicious companions more than is his sister, he should be told the story of life earlier than she. At the age of seven, boys know more about these things than the girls do at ten and twelve. You had better tell the child the truth at six, than to have him told by the vicious at the age of seven. If a child could understand the story of life at three, and was properly trained afterward, this information could not do him one particle of harm. This statement is either absolutely true, or God is the author of a plan of human increase, the knowledge of which is essentially sinful. Personally, I decline to believe the latter.
If the child has been informed by vicious playmates or servants and his mind has been tainted, the only sane and safe method is to tell him the full truth as quickly as possible, regardless of his age.
If the child has been allowed to grow up to the age of nine or ten, ignorant of the story of life, I would tell him all the stories, beginning with the first story, telling them only a few days apart. Where parents are not prepared to do this, I would advise them to place a suitable book, presenting these stories in a clear, chaste and interesting way, in the hands of the child, saying, “Here is a very interesting little book telling you just what you will be interested in knowing and what I would like for you to understand.”
The ideal way
The ideal way would be to start with the child when he first inquires about his origin, telling him the first story about the plants. Promise to tell him other stories about the oysters, fish, insects, birds, animals and man as he grows older and can understand them. Where a child is naturally very inquisitive and insists on knowing more, I would not hold him off too long for the next story.
How to introduce each new story
I would introduce each new story by reviewing the story of the plants and flowers. There are at least three reasons for this. You can go into all the details of reproduction in the flower without danger of awakening the sex consciousness of the child. It saves going into the detail when you have come to the higher animals and man. The child’s mind usually comprehends more than we give it credit for. If he understands the details of reproduction in the flower, his innocent fancy will fill in the details when he hears the other stories. If he has been so unfortunate as to fall in with bad company at any time and his mind has been tainted with their stories, there is no means you can use in ridding his mind of impurity, quite so effectively, as by telling him the story of life in the flower.
Teaching these truths in the public schools
The violation of the laws of sex is the chief cause of physical, mental and moral degeneracy. The degenerate classes are increasing at an appalling rate. Correct sex-instruction in childhood is the most important and effective step in the solution of this problem. There is a growing conviction among the students of sociology that sex-hygiene should be taught in the public schools. There are some teachers in all departments of school work, who, in morals at least, are not fitted for this delicate work. At present, an extremely few have the educational qualification for this delicate work. When teachers are required to take a course of training in these subjects, there will still be but few who are possessed of the natural talent for effectively and wisely presenting these subjects to children of the different grades.
Already colleges and universities and even a few high schools have begun to teach sex hygiene in a limited scientific way. This work will first be introduced into the high school work and later, gradually be introduced into the lower grades. Definite instruction will not be given, for many years at least, and possibly never, to boys under eight, and girls under ten or eleven. If this statement is true, it will be seen that the schools will have left the first and most important part of this training to be done in the home. The teaching of morals in the public school can never be substituted for the teaching of morals in the home. The present great awakening on these subjects will shortly result in three-fourths of the parents teaching these truths in their homes. Since one-fourth of the children do not get any moral instruction in the home and they do not go to Sunday school or church, the public school is the only place where they can be given moral training for citizenship.
How this can be done
In my opinion, the safest and most effective method of dealing with these questions in the public schools, for the present at least, would be for the school boards in two or three counties to select and employ a gentleman and a lady lecturer, having natural gifts, moral and educational qualifications, whose duty it shall be to lecture to all the boys and girls; the male lecturer, lecturing to the boys and the lady lecturer, lecturing to the girls. All other teachers should be required to be sufficiently versed in these matters to enable them to solve any individual problems that may arise in their social relations to the pupils in school.