Written by Richard A. Panzer, Ph.D.
In a recent CNN Beliefs Blog, Kerry Egan, a hospice chaplain described her experiences listening to people who were dying. She writes that “they talk about the love they felt, and the love they gave. Often they talk about love they did not receive, or the love they did not know how to offer, the love they withheld, or maybe never felt for the ones they should have loved unconditionally.”
Many years earlier, during her training as a chaplain, a professor mocked the “shallowness” of her approach to ministering the dying by just listening to them talk about their families.
But, I think we all know that family relationships, whether good or not so good, are the core dramas in our lives. As Egan puts it, “We don’t live our lives in our heads… We live our lives in our families… this is where we find meaning.”
Given this truth, it is sad what passes for “family life education” today in America, where discussions about families, sexual intimacy and the emotional commitments which should be the foundation for them, are often notoriously lacking. Instead we have discussions about how to have so-called “safe sex” and precious few about “loving, committed sex.”
It’s true that these issues are not always easy to talk about. Many educators have been convinced that it is more “professional,” or at least factual, to talk about the technology of latex than these most personal of decisions. However, the results of this avoidance of talking about intimate commitments are devastating.
Four out of ten children born in America today have no committed father. Millions are condemned to lives of poverty with mothers struggling as the sole provider and parent. We talk about human rights in this country—how about the right of a child to have the love, support and protection of BOTH parents?
In 2009-2010, the U.S. Congress cut funding for educational programs for youth that had in-depth discussions of the benefits of delaying sex until one is ready to make a monogamous commitment, as in faithful marriage, here in the U.S. and diverted the funds towards programs that seldom mention monogamous commitments and marriage.
Some opponents of the funding asserted that the discussion of the positive value of sex and childbearing within marriage in public school education programs “stigmatizes” African-American and Latino youth, “who are more likely to come from single-parent homes and to become single parents themselves” and especially African-American youth who live in “communities (where) marriage rates are significantly lower than in Caucasian and Hispanic communities.”
A curious position since the decline in marriage has contributed to the feminization of poverty and has led to millions of children growing up poor. It would be interesting to poll inner-city minority mothers as to whether they believe that discussions of marriage should be censored in their children’s health classes, especially when those very children often remain trapped in generational poverty.
In several states, education that mentions the benefits of marriage and of saving sex for monogamous, lifelong relationships has been banned and defunded.
A few years ago, when faced with a monstrous fiscal crisis in New Jersey, then-NJ Governor Jon Corzine rejected millions in federal Title V funding for programs that largely benefited urban minority youth. His policy advisor Janellen Duffy explained that the governor objected to the discussion of marriage in these programs for youth ages 11-14, since it showed “insensitivity towards children of single parents.”
The governor took this position even though the NJ Core Curriculum Content Standards require that students understand that “premarital relations may produce problems that with which an adolescent may be unable to cope” and that students be able to “describe the important characteristics of a spouse or life partner and describe factors to consider when contemplating a lifetime commitment such as marriage.” (italics added for emphasis)
Other states also silenced classroom discussions of marriage. Guest speakers who encourage youth to wait until marriage were banned in the Los Angeles Unified Public Schools, in violation of the district’s own reference guide, which requires that outside speakers “stress the importance of abstaining from sexual intercourse until ready for marriage and committed relationships.”
What does it say about a society that censors discourse with its youth about committed relationships and marriage, but inundates them with information about how to have sex with anyone they are attracted to, as long as it is “protected”?
 U.S. Sen. Orin Hatch slipped an amendment funding for Title V abstinence funding given to the states back into the Health Care Reform Act of 2010, so some funding has been restored, although nowhere near the level before 2010.
 “Review of Comprehensive Sex Education Curricula,” Administration for Children and Families, Department of Health and Human Services, May 2007.
 Kay, Julie and Jackson, Ashley, “Sex, Lies and Stereotypes: How Abstinence-Only Programs Harm Women and Girls,” Legal Momentum, New York, 2008.
 Panzer, R.A. and Mosack, M.A. (2009) The War in Intimacy: how agenda-driven sex education sabotages committed relationships and our nation’s health. Center for Relationship Intelligence, Westwood, NJ, 212-3.
 NJ Model Family Life Education Curriculum Outline, Grade 8.
 NJ Core Curriculum Standards for Family Life Education 2.4.12 A. Relationships.
 Los Angeles Unified School District Reference Guide, December 6, 2006, issued by Rene Gonzalez, Assistant Superintendent Student Health and Human Services, p. 3.