McCain Uses Age Appropriate Sex Ed to Attack Obama

In a wild distortion of what age-appropriate sex education is, the McCain campaign is attacking Barack Obama in a new television ad primarily airing on Fox stations in key Midwest battleground states of Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Predictable attack? Absolutely, especially given that people watching sexual and reproductive health closely saw it coming, as evidenced by this June 13 post. For those who won’t read the link, here is information about a study conducted on age-appropriate sex-ed:

One study of elementary school-age sexuality education, performed at two
Catholic schools in Canada, examined curricula designed for grades K-2,
grades 3 and 4, and grades 5 and 6, each with specific
age-appropriate content. I grant you that Canada is a bit more open
than we are, but the fact this study was conducted in Catholic schools
was most fascinating.

It’s time people in the U.S. ask: if the rest of
the world can figure this out — why can’t we? Why when it comes to sex
do we allow narrow political agendas to blind us to reality? Which
candidates, at all levels of government, will bring our policies more
inline with reality?

According to the study, the "emphasis is on defining child sexual abuse in a way that is meaningful
to children and how to say ‘no’ to activities or instances of physical
touching that are inappropriate and make children feel uncomfortable.
The program also addresses what constitutes appropriate physical
touching so that the children will not become confused or anxious." According to the study findings,

  • Participation in the program significantly increased students’ level of
    knowledge of inappropriate touching and slightly increased their
    knowledge of appropriate touching.
  • Parents of participating children reported no negative reactions to the
    program on the part their children, such as an increase in the
    children’s nightmares or discomfort with affection from family members.


The issue of age-appropriate sex ed was also discussed at the You Tube debate during the primaries where candidates Edwards and Obama both clearly discussed the fact that it is important to teach young kids about "wrong touching" in case adult relatives, teachers or clergy prey upon them.

Famed comprehensive sex ed crusader Shelby Knox, from Texas said this after describing the failed abstinence-only-until-marriage policies she encountered growing up

So, now that we’ve covered what sex education should not be, what would
a perfect curriculum look like? Knox sees a sex-ed utopia as an ongoing
process. "A good comprehensive sex-ed curriculum would begin in
kindergarten with age-appropriate information and expand each year to
include more topics, such as puberty, abstinence, relationships skills,
contraception and safer sex methods," she says.


In fact, 25 states are refusing federal abstinence-only-until-marriage monies because of the well documented failures, and because they see the importance of age appropriate comprehensive sexuality education.

The problem of course is when these successful programs get used by politicians as attack weapons, the facts of what study after study demonstrates is really best for children is lost. Leading scientists, public health experts, teachers, and parents agree that we must take a different approach to sex ed. The fact that 25 Governors are rejecting federal dollars in hard times is lost. The fact that there are real threats to young children from authority figures, is lost.

All to score cheap political points and add fuel to the flames of the Culture Wars that have created partisan gridlock.

It doesn’t matter what party or candidate abuses facts like this, especially when it is children who potentially suffer.

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  • invalid-0

    ABC News’ Teddy Davis and Lindsey Ellerson Report: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told Planned Parenthood Tuesday that sex education for kindergarteners, as long as it is “age-appropriate,” is “the right thing to do.”

    This is so ridiculous I am not going to devote more than one paragraph to this. Let me just say to Obama two things. First, age appropriate sex education to a kindergartener is NO sex education. These children are too young to have any realization of what we would be teaching them about sex. In today’s world children are already growing up too fast, we don’t need to further this by teaching them about sex at such a young age. And secondly, If I as a parent want to teach my kindergarden ageed child about sex, I will do it. I don’t need you to do it for me.

  • scott-swenson

    Name calling? The post clearly says that where age appropriate sex ed is concerned, it is about protecting young people from pedophiles. If you want to argue that’s a bad thing, go right ahead. Please make sure to see the study referenced in the post, done in Catholic schools.

    Be the change you seek,

    Scott Swenson, Editor

  • invalid-0

    In addition, parents had the option to OPT OUT of this program. Perhaps you would prefer for kindergarteners and older children to be ignorant of pedophiles and other predators?
    If you’ve seen this video ad, they make Obama out to look like a predator himself. This is disgusting. Why doesn’t McCain just stick to the issues: Lowering taxes for the wealthy; health care bank accounts; continuing the fighting in Iraq, starting a war in Iran and another in Russia; further squandering of civil liberties in the name of protecting freedom; outlawing abortion; making higher education out of reach for the poor and middle class; taking away money from public education and giving it to private enterprise; giving more lease deals to oil companies who may or may not choose to drill and whose drilling would keep us 97% still dependent on Middle Eastern oil, etc.. etc.. Why pick on the other candidates? Let’s choose who we want to follow by what they’ll do for us or against us and who they are, not by slinging mud.

  • heather-corinna

    As someone who taught ECE and Kindergarten for years, I’d seriously have to wonder what parents would NOT want teachers talking to children about appropriate and inappropriate touch, and how to disclose abuses, particularly in the world we live in.


    When a kid asked me if it was okay for a stranger to come up and touch them — in any given place — I was supposed to say what, exactly?   If not explaining that their bodies are their own and that people have boundaries, and genitals are private, etc. (which is what these programs focus on), then "I can’t talk to you about that, ask your parents, and in the meantime…good luck, kid?" or "I can’t tell you WHY it wasn’t okay for you to be touching Susie in the bathroom, why she is upset you did and none of us can discuss what’s happening right now.  Just don’t do it?"  The hell?  


    And given that in any given school year, appropriate touch and boundaries tend to be things that come up because of children quite innocently but cluelessly going there with each other (anyone with kids knows kids are curious, after all, and simply tend to touch what/who they are curious about and also tend to naturally experiment with pushing all kinds of buttons: no one teaches or tells children to do that), as well as given how many children in the world do experience abuse or inappropriate touch at the hands of adults, I’d be interested in how anyone felt teachers SHOULD respond to those situations if not by talking to children sensitively about it when it happens in the interest of their safety and them having an understanding of their right to have boundaries.

  • ellen-marshall

    Both Obama’s, Swenson’s and a myriad of others’ point is that in a safe and engaged way, it is important to teach children that their bodies are their own (setting them up for a life of being able to stand up for themselves) and that there is touching that can be wrong and harmful.  Why don’t we want kids to know this?  We all sit horrified when we hear of sexual abuses against children – let’s applaud efforts for kids to learn what can help them.

  • invalid-0

    Last year I had the opportunity to debate Bill O’Reilly on whether sex education should begin in kindergarten. I said then, and I’ll repeat now, that I believe in K – 12 sex education. SO do more than 150 national health, medical, religious, and youth serving organizations.

    Sex education in the early primary years sets a foundation for later more indepth education. It includes lessons on taking good care of your body, family roles, treating people with respect, the names of body parts, and sex abuse prevention. It helps children feel good about their bodies, their gender, their families, and gives them age appropriate information. It teaches them “no, go, tell” about sexual abuse — say no, get away, and tell an adult you trust what happened. It supports parent/child communication about these issues.< It DOES NOT include discussions of sexual behaviors or contraceptive methods or other information that would not be age appropriate for five or six year olds. The ad referenced in the article is supposed to scare viewers by conjuring up images of sexually explicit material being presented to five year olds -- nothing could be further from the truth. Rev. Debra Haffner

  • invalid-0

    “First, age appropriate sex education to a kindergartener is NO sex education.”

    I disagree. We have so many adults who prey on children and that person is often a father, boyfriend or other male relative or authority figure (like the local Priest or Youth Minister) and thus someone trusted. Small children need to be taught in an age appropriate way that it is not OK if this is happening, not their fault and about what to do if this should happen or be happening to them.
    I understand that those who are inclined to view small children as desirable sex objects might object to teaching children to protect themselves but cannot imagine why anyone else would. I mean, after all, that’s why caregivers, educational and medical authorities are legally required to report any incidence of suspected abuse. Childhood sexual abuse is hardly a victimless crime but it’s a common one. Thus we teach children about good touching and bad touching because, as you note, they’re too young to have any realization of human sexuality and far too many people fail to protect their children.

  • invalid-0

    McCain is showing his hateful, ugly side again with the suggestion that obama is for sex education for Kindergarden students. He forgot to go into detail to tell the truth. He loves to take things out of Context and twist them with his friend Rove, into a sick reference. It isn’t working McCain it is just makeing us more determined not to listen to you. Talk about what you’re going to do that is worth while and we might be more receptive.

    He can use the term “Putting Lipstick on a Pig”. But now it is taling about Palin. Talk about make a lot out of nothing……..

    As far as I’m concerned I hope he was pointing out that the Republicans are putting Lip Stick on a PIG, Pit Bull, Baracuda, Animal killer, Book Burning Vengiful female!

  • ellen-marshall
  • invalid-0

    As someone who taught ECE and Kindergarten for years, I’d seriously have to wonder what parents would NOT want teachers talking to children about appropriate and inappropriate touch, and how to disclose abuses, particularly in the world we live in.

    Here we see why all this “opt-out” business is a sham. If Ms. Corinna’s mentality is pervasive among public school educators, then as a parent, “opting-out” of sex ed for your child is tantamount to entering yourself in the school’s sex offender database.

  • invalid-0

    father, boyfriend or other male relative or authority figure (like the local Priest or Youth Minister) and thus someone trusted.

    You left out “teacher or school administrator.”

  • heather-corinna

    Oh, for the love of gawd.


    A) I didn’t teach in the public sector, b) I left teaching in-classroom ten years ago, before — in my area of Chicago, in any of the places I taught — we ever heard a parent voice that they wanted anything BUT us absolutely talking to their children about these issues, before working to protect children was something else the right seized on as one more possible way to manipulate and c)… "school sex offender database?"  In Montessori and other alternative schools?  Right.


    And had a parent objected, the idea that we would have suggested the parent was abusive or pedophilic or started calling the authorities is absolute silliness. Using children as a political prop or purposefully doing them harm (by endangering their parent) because someone disagrees with you?  That’d be a card from someone else’s deck entirely, illustrated quite clearly by the McCain ad (and campaign, as a whole) at hand.

  • invalid-0

    “You left out “teacher or school administrator.”

    I also left out prison guards, police and foster parents; I felt they were covered under ‘other authority figures’.

  • invalid-0

    I’d seriously have to wonder what parents would NOT want teachers talking to children about appropriate and inappropriate touch

    …the idea that we would have suggested the parent was abusive or pedophilic or started calling the authorities is absolute silliness.

    What, exactly, would you have “seriously wondered” about, then? How ’bout we just make it “opt-in” instead of “opt-out”, k?

  • invalid-0

    I’m making the point that pedophilia and other abuses are rampant in the very schools you would entrust with presenting sexual content to children. Clearly, you’ve glossed over this fact because it utterly demolishes your argument. Why should I be any more comfortable having a teacher talking to my child about sex than I’d be a celibate priest… or “other authority figure”?

  • invalid-0

    “I’m making the point that pedophilia and other abuses are rampant in the very schools you would entrust with presenting sexual content to children”

    The place where sexual abuse is most frequently found is in the child’s home. I get it that you don’t actually care about sexually abused children and are mainly interested in scoring what you sadly think of as political points but I do not recall one incident of a public school kindergarden teacher sexually abusing a child in her care much less the rampant sexual abuse of 5 year olds in public schools. (and 5 year olds are what we’re talking about here) Are you able to back up your claims of “rampant” pedophilia in schools ? I’m sure the AP would like to hear of it.

    • invalid-0

      The AP doesn’t need to hear it from me. They did their own investigation, which found 2,570 educators whose teaching credentials were revoked, denied, surrendered or sanctioned between 2001 through 2005 following allegations of sexual misconduct–this despite many jurisdictions that, as a matter of policy, do not make this kind of information public. To put this in perspective, 4,400 priests were accused of molestation in the 40 years from 1950 to 2002. 2,570 in 5 years vs. 4,400 in 40 years. Extrapolating from this data, sexual abuse in schools is at least five times more “rampant” than the highly publicized scandals involving Catholic priests! Which is why schools ought to be the last place anyone wants their child to learn about sex.

      Here’s a link to the story:

  • heather-corinna

    Colleen beat me to it, but I didn’t gloss over any such "facts," because what you’re positing isn’t in alignment with the facts.  I know of no data  — nor is it in alignment with the reporting of the many abuse victims I’ve counseled over the years — that shows child sexual abuse by teachers is "rampant" in schools.  The only places we know it is rampant in, unfortunately, are private households.


    Rather, one thing that has been a very tough cultural lesson we’ve been learning over the last couple of decades when child abuse awareness has been coming into being (as well as with general rape awareness), is that "stranger-danger" approaches were misguided, at best, and potentially have kept children (and others) in harm’s way, rather than preventing or addressing abuses, since the vast majority of sexual abuse for both children and adults occurs within the immediate or extended family, with spouses or other intimate partners, or with friends.  Certainly, that does not exempt people like priests or teachers, but that’s not where the majority of abuses occur or ever have. 


    One very good reason to have someone like a teacher do this kind of education is because that sends a clear message that it is okay to TALK about these issues, which supports disclosing abuse if and when it is happening.  If a child gets the idea it is just not okay to talk about ever, or not outside the family, then children — particularly those who may be abused within the family — are adrift.  One things predators tend to do — and do very well, particularly when in a cultural context that enables it — is exploit those feelings that abuse can never be told or discussed. Being abused tends to feel like a terrible, dirty secret no matter what, but all the more so when you’re given covert or overt messages from others — not just your abuser — that it is.


    (Just an FYI? Montessori teachers do not present themselves as authority figures: that is, in fact, in complete conflict with that educational philosophy.  But even if we’re not talking about me, or the framework I have taught in, many teachers — even in other systems — don’t present themselves that way or lord authority over their students.)

  • heather-corinna

    …but by that reasoning, since 50% of all assaults take place in the home of the child or the offender (Sanford, 1980), then the VERY last place it should be discussed is at home. 


    Since over 83% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by heterosexual males (Groth, 1979), presumably children should never be given this education by heterosexual men, even a male parent. And, following your logic, since the minority of abuse occurs from strangers (2-10%), then ideally, one supposes, the very best people to be talking to children about these issues are total strangers.  Really?

    Mind, I don’t think that’s sound, and it’s certainly not what I’d suggest: I’d personally like this kind of information to be taught at school AND home, by men as well as women, and I don’t think people children don’t know from Adam are the best choices for these kinds of conversations.  

    But if we were to follow your numbers game to its logical conclusion, the place we should teach this least is where it happens most often, and who teaches this should be people furthest removed from a child, so it makes school (or, you know, a streetcorner) look infinitely better than home.

  • invalid-0

    You challenged me to provide a basis for asserting that child sexual abuse is rampant in schools and therefore that our educational system should not be used to teach sexual mores and practices to our children. Q.E.D. I’m not the one advocating yet another massive usurpation of individual responsibilities by the state. You are. And in the light of this information, I’d like to see you try and continue to argue that case. There are very good laws against pedophilia and child sexual abuse, which should be aggressively enforced and the perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent, but our scandalously dysfunctional and corrupt education system needs to clean house and get back to basics.

  • heather-corinna

    That was Colleen asking you to cite, not me.  I’m already well aware that abuse occurs in schools sometimes, because I am well aware there is no place at all where abuses — including sexual abuse — do NOT happen.  I didn’t need a citation because I was also very aware that where it happens most is in the home: in other words knowing where abuse happens (read: everywhere) has little bearing on my advocating for education in school on these issues.


    Knowing that it also sometimes happens in schools, but more frequently happens at home does not change my feeling that it is ideal that children be taught about what abuse is, about their right to bodily autonomy in as many places as possible, including at school AND at home.


    (Just FYI?  We do not have laws against pedophilia, we have laws against child molestation and sexual abuse.  Our laws criminalize actions, not desires, whether they are done by pedophiles or by anyone else.)

  • invalid-0

    We (and John McCain) were talking about 5 year old children, kindergartners and their teachers. Your claim was that abuse of kindergartners by educators was “rampant”, an absurd and ridiculous claim.
    Fortunately there are a great many more educators than Priests but I did enjoy your little burst of creative fantasy math despite the fact that it and your conclusions only strengthen my observation that you, like most social conservatives, have nothing constructive or intelligent to say about preventing the sexual exploitation of small children. Indeed it appears to be a social problem that people like you and John McCain use to score political points. The pedophiles must be so pleased with y’all.

  • invalid-0

    My claim was that sexual abuse is rampant in American schools: not even a debatable point, though you took extreme umbrage. Any eight year old could find the Associated Press study I cited with just a few mouse clicks, which could be aptly headlined Study: Child Sex Abuse 5X Worse in Schools than Catholic Parishes. Apparently, though, that shocking information does not comport with the narrow-minded, outmoded lefty dogmas you and a handful of comrades in various intellectual ghettoes scattered here and there continue to cling to like some modern-day Flat Earth Society. No surprise there! But I really didn’t think you’d be so true to form… so blinded by your partisan zeal that you’d embarass yourself further by attempting to dissemble and parse and say that because the study does not specifically target the abuse of kindergarteners in schools, my (and McCain/Palin’s) objections to Barack Obama’s sex ed for kindergarteners legislation, based on a study of child sex abuse in schools generally, are “absurd and ridiculous.”

    The one thing I can’t wrap my head around is: what’s your end game? Do you really want to live in a society where only government apparatchiks and educrats have any accountability for this kind of thing, and no one knows to whom? What success can you point to, broadly speaking, that qualifies our school system to be an instrument, much less the primary one, for combatting any social problem? It can’t even combat ignorance these days in many places, judging by dropout rates, test scores and other empirical data.

  • invalid-0

    This entire discussion has been about age appropriate sex education for 5 and 6 year old children. We were talking about protecting children in a society in which 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 10 boys will be sexually abused before puberty. Most of this abuse takes place in the child’s home and by a male relative or friend. And THAT is why age appropriate discussions in school are a good idea. Because we need to protect children and we, as a society, are doing a poor job of it. If you wish to address those fact please let me know. I’m not at all interested in your stale and formulaic conservative excuses.

    We were discussing this because John McCain and his fellow social conservatives are more interested in the lowest sort of gutter politics (and in your case a creative statistical analysis that any reasonably intelligent man would be ashamed of) That y’all would use childhood sexual abuse in order to try to score political points is disgusting. This is what I take umbrage at.

    My ‘end game’ with this issue is a society where pedophiles aren’t protected and children are. It’s clear to me that you and your fellow social conservatives have an entirely different agenda. It’s equally clear that trying to communicate with you isn’t just unpleasant it’s also a complete waste of my time

  • invalid-0

    I think McCain was right you cant teach sex education to a kindergartener and have it be age appropriate.

  • invalid-0

    This is the dirty kind of an election campaign but now it is over and I am happy that news like this didn´t damage Obama. It makes me personal happy that he becomes the next president of USA.