Here’s this week’s Media Mix about a feud between the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Adachi Ward over the latter’s implementation of a sex education course in one of its public junior high schools. As mentioned in the article, Adachi is one of Tokyo’s poorer wards in the sense that it has the highest percentage of students receiving public assistance of some kind. And since it’s generally acknowledged that teen pregnancy perpetuates the cycle of poverty, the school in question felt it was important to teach children as early as possible about intercourse and childbirth, not to mention contraception. Tokyo objected for the usual small-minded reasons, saying that such knowledge would encourage sexual activity, though, based on the kind of reactions that appeared in the media, objections to Adachi Ward’s program sounded mostly visceral–squeamishness at the prospect that children would be learning about sex at all.
The Adachi board of education’s reasoning goes deeper than simply trying to stall the cycle of poverty. In an article that appeared last year in the Mainichi Shimbun, the director of an organization of midwives who advise teens about sex pointed out that when girls become pregnant they usually already have “other problems,” such as domestic abuse, and thus pregnancy is a good indicator to schools of these other problems, which are usually associated with low income households. However, in most cases, schools prefer that the pregnant teen disappear, and so they encourage the girl to drop out. In the same article, a school nurse from Mie Prefecture despairs about the negligent attitude toward sex in public schools, saying that knowledge about contraception and having children is a human right in today’s society. If the purpose of public schools is to prepare young people for their futures as members of society, then sex education is integral to their development. What that means is that children should understand what they’re getting into when then have sexual relations, but if they do become pregnant then the school has an obligation to help them graduate with as little trouble as possible. If it’s proper for a school to make up for material want in the student’s home life by providing meals or other resources, then it’s also proper for the school to address students’ sexual activities, including pregnancy. In that regard, sex education is both a practical and a moral issue.