China has made a critical move to help reform its abysmal sex education system by introducing a surprisingly progressive curriculum for primary school students, and some parents aren’t happy about it at all.
In this new curriculum which has been introduced in a handful of schools around the country, students in Grade 2 learn about gender equality, and that whatever their ambition in life may be, they can excel at it. Women can make great police officers and even astronauts, and men can be outstanding nurses and kindergarten teachers:
They are also taught how life is conceived and how babies are made with the help of some pictures:
“Daddy and mommy love each other” –> “Daddy’s penis enters mommy’s vagina” –> “Daddy’s sperm enters mommy’s uterus”
In the section on inappropriate touching, students are made aware that this can come not just from strangers, but also from relatives and people they know. Furthermore, sexual predators can be male, or female. From the Grade 2 textbooks:
In the picture above, an uncle tells her niece, “Hong, you’ve grown to become so beautiful. Uncle has bought you a singlet. Do you want to take off your t-shirt so I can help you put on your new singlet?” The girl responds, “Thanks Uncle. I can put on my own clothes and don’t need your help. Dad is in the kitchen making lunch and I need to go help him.” In the picture below, an aunt tells her nephew, “Jun, you’ve grown so tall now. Take down your pants so Auntie can see if your penis has also grown longer.” The boy responds, “No, I’m going home now,” and decides he will tell his parents when he sees them.
Students are taught that they should inform their parents if anyone attempts to touch them inappropriately:
“Daddy, mommy, Uncle Wang our neighbor just tried to touch my buttocks, and I said NO,” the little girl says to praise from her parents.
“Daddy, mommy, just now an uncle wanted to touch my penis, and I said NO,” says the little boy. “If he does this, we will call the police,” mom replies.
Students learn that some people want to be with members of the opposite sex and some want to be with members of the same sex, and that’s all okay:
From a Grade 4 textbook
From a Grade 5 textbook: “Love is a beautiful thing”
Sexual abuse does not necessarily involve inappropriate touching. Here’s an example from a Grade 5 textbook:
Woman at a photo studio has just taken identity card pictures, and is now offering to help take nude shots for the kids. They refuse her advances and make a quick exit.
In Grade 5, students are taught about sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, and that condoms are the best way to reduce the spread of these infections. Through the accompanying graphics, both straight and gay students are reminded about the importance of using condoms if they should ever decide to engage in sexual intercourse:
More on sexual minorities in Grade 6:
“A minority of people experience attraction to members of the same sex.”
And of course, people aren’t just necessarily gay or straight. They could be bisexual too:
“Did you guys hear about the celebrity that came out as bisexual?” exclaims a girl. Her classmate responds, “Didn’t Teacher tell us? Some people like both spicy and sweet. There’s nothing to be shocked about.”
In the lesson on marriage, students are taught that some people choose to be single and others choose to be married. Whatever you choose in life, that’s your right and you deserve to be respected for it:
Students learn that people of all sexual orientations deserve to be treated equally just as everyone else:
A young woman informs her family that her company has asked her to resign because she is gay. Her highly supportive family stands by her and says she needs to fight to be treated equally.
They’re also taught that people of different sexual orientations can all lead intimate and deeply fulfilling romantic lives. Students are made aware that in some countries, same-sex marriage is legal, although in China, same-sex marriages are not “currently” allowed to be registered:
In the picture below, a man remarks how wonderful it is to return home to the delicious dinner prepared by his husband everyday after work.
Not only do people of different sexual orientations choose to get married, they have the right to become parents, students learn:
The accompanying images show gay and lesbian couples in committed relationships caring for their children.
The textbooks became the topic of national debate over the weekend after a mother of a Grade 2 kid in Hangzhou posted screenshots of her son’s textbook onto her Weibo account, wondering aloud if these are “fake textbooks.”
“Is it reasonable for a textbook to be compiled like this? I myself blush just looking at,” the mother wrote.
Some Weibo users have agreed with the mother’s assessment, believing that the information and images in the books could damage their young children psychologically. “The picture showing the man and woman having sex is absolutely unacceptable!” wrote one netizen.
However, others have applauded the new sex education teaching materials, calling the change long overdue. “Giving our children more knowledge about sex will help them better protect themselves in the future,” one Weibo user argued. “Finally, sex education in China has caught up with the rest of the world!” exclaimed another.
A post written by a doctor applauding the textbooks has also gone viral online. “Abortion ads are now everywhere, and if the adults are now saying these textbooks have gone too far, it can only be said that their own sexuality education has been a big failure,” says the doctor. “Sexuality education protects children from sexual abuse, and it can only be effective if we go straight to the point and do not hide anything. Those who say the textbooks have gone too far mistake ignorance for purity.”
The textbooks have the support of Chinese state media. On Weibo, China’s nationalistic tabloid the Global Times writes: “The children of China now have a sexuality education curriculum that we can be proud of, and yet everyone is giving it a thumbsdown.” Meanwhile, on its Weibo page, People’s Daily argues that the images in the textbooks should not be seen from the perspective of an adult, but from the pure perspective of a child.
Chinese LGBT groups have also applauded the new curriculum, and an article written by a lesbian organization titled, “China, finally you recognize homosexuality” has been widely shared online.
Responding to the controversy, the book’s publisher, The Beijing Normal University Publishing Group, has issued a statement emphasizing that the materials underwent “strict scrutiny” before publication.
For years, China’s youth have suffered under the state’s awful sex education system. While an increasing number of Chinese young people are now having sex, many lack knowledge about safe sex, which has led to a rise in sexually transmitted disease infections including HIV. Many young people don’t know to use contraception, and use abortion instead. A survey last year found that 10% of female Chinese college students admitted to having at least one abortion.
Last year, a Chinese middle school sex education textbook also ignited national debate, not by having inclusive text or realistic images, but because of the fact that it labeled girls who have sex before marriage as “degenerates.”
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