New York Times Oct 18 2011
Observers can quarrel about the extent to which what is being mandated is an effect, or a contributing cause, of the sexualization of children in our society at younger ages. But no one can plausibly claim that teaching middle-schoolers about mutual masturbation is “neutral” between competing views of morality; the idea of “value free” sex education was exploded as a myth long ago. The effect of such lessons is as much to promote a certain sexual ideology among the young as it is to protect their health. But beyond rival moral visions, the new policy raises a deeper issue: Should the government force parents — at least those not rich enough to afford private schooling — to send their children to classes that may contradict their moral and religious values on matters of intimacy and personal conduct?
Liberals and conservatives alike should say no. Such policies violate parents’ rights, whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or of no religion at all. To see why, we need to think carefully about the parent-child relationship that gives rise to the duties that parental rights serve and protect. Parents are responsible for bringing new people into the world, bound to them by blood and, ordinarily, deep feeling. These people are incapable of developing their uniquely human capacities on their own, giving parents an obligation to their children and to society to help them reach maturity — one that requires attending not only to children’s physical and emotional needs, but their intellectual and moral growth as well.
…True, the state needs to protect children from abuse and neglect. It is also true that the state has a legitimate interest in reducing teenage pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. But it is not abuse or neglect to protect the innocence of preteenage children or to teach one’s children more conservative, as opposed to more liberal, moral values. Nor is it wrong or unreasonable to limit the state’s control over what one’s children learn and think about sensitive issues of morality. On the contrary, that is just what is required if parents are to fulfill their duties and exercise their legitimate rights.