Ah, the beauty of middle school.

Social drama and texting.  Girls and P.E. class.  Low man on the totem pole, switching classes, and brand new lunch options.

Plus graduation from a fifth grade puberty discussion to the health class that spans a range of topics including – wait for it – sex education.

Let the good times roll.

Like most public schools out there, the administration sent a permission form home prior to beginning health class, laying out the course curriculum.  I rolled along with the first two – best I remember they had something to do with puberty and healthy lifestyle choices.  It was the third item that stopped me in my tracks.

Abstinence until marriage.

Now before I start getting all sorts of agitated e-mails about personal morals and parenting responsibilities, take a breath.  It’s not that I think sixth graders should be running around having sex, and I don’t object to abstinence.  In and of itself abstinence is a highly personal decision, which means I have no business telling you what you should think about it.  As a matter of fact, I know a number of families teaching their children this is the best way to approach sexual temptation before marriage.

Still…that third course standard gave me pause.  My pen hovered over the permission slip while thoughts pinged around my brain.

It’s hard to argue I have a problem with abstinence seeing as I’m not anxious for either one of my kids to end up in the unwanted pregnancy statistics.  There are plenty of valid arguments in favor of waiting until marriage before entering that particular quagmire since I think we can all agree sex brings its own boatload of issues, so is it wrong to talk about abstinence with the sixth graders?  Absolutely not.

But it does seem rather thin.

Considering we know that middle school students are already engaged in sexual activity and statistics show the high school students certainly are…is sticking our heads in the sand the best course of action?

Note: Before singing the “it’s just the culture, not everyone’s doing it” refrain, keep in mind that a couple of local high school students were caught having sex in the back of a school bus.  This year.  Plus there was some scuttle butt about Valentine’s Day, suckers, and a certain sex act involving the letters B and J.  Yeah.  So there’s that.

Why paint us into a corner like this?  Why not teach abstinence, but at least introduce the concept that there are important precautions to take if a student is thinking about having sex?  Instead of making this an all or nothing scenario – wait until marriage, period – why not open the dialogue?

Good grief, that school is a melting pot of raging hormones.  Believing a teacher can tamp down that fire with a health class lecture is the highest form of hubris.  Believing we can ignore the effects of biology and culture in our educational community is like burying a ticking time bomb and hoping for the best.

We’ve always taken the approach in our home that T-man and Bear make smarter decisions when they’re well informed.  And, just like when they were younger, they let us know when they’re ready to know about something.  We didn’t spout off about sex acts when they were five, and we haven’t launched into details about safe sex now.  But does T-man know we want him to come to us if he’s even thinking about having sex?  Yep, he sure does.

I have to admit it was a pretty surreal experience, getting hung up on signing a permission slip because of an abstinence clause, but I’m rolling with it.  I’ll be interested to see what information is included in health courses for the upper grades.

At the very least, this one inspired T-man to eat more cancer fighting fruits and vegetables.