Value-neutral killing

This is in response to Adam Laats’ post titled “Teaching Kids About Rape” at I Love You But You’re Going to Hell (such a great name for a blog).

Adam is not arguing for or against sex education (though he’s for it), but is just making the point that those who think explicit sex education in public schools nationwide is likely to happen, are clueless.

I want to argue a different point, which is that sex-ed proponents, in arguing for factually explicit, morally neutral sex education, are clueless in another way: In calling their brand of sex-ed “morally neutral”, they have no clue that they are begging the question.

Adam argues that Americans want schools to help keep their kids ignorant; or, if we insist, innocent. I would argue that it’s not ignorance we want for our kids — nor even innocence necessarily, since moral guilt or innocence is a result of a person’s own choices, and not something one person can give another — but morality. We don’t want morally loaded subjects taught to our kids in a way which implies that they are morally indifferent.

Some argue that we can’t impose morality on others in a pluralistic society, so the best we can do is present things factually – and, yes, explicitly – without making moral judgments one way or another. And this is where they beg the question: Is it morally neutral to teach about sex in a morally neutral way?

Suppose the topic wasn’t sex education but death education — how to kill people with your bare hands, say. Or how to kill people in various ways, since you may want some variety. Since we can’t impose morality in a pluralistic society (can we?), the best we can do is present things factually — and yes, explicitly — without making moral judgments one way or another (right?). Therefore why not teach kids exactly where to place their hands around someone’s neck in order to kill him most efficiently, that is, quickly and quietly? Or which type of gun or bullet works best at close range, and which at long range?

We would not be advocating that anyone kill — or not kill — anybody. We would leave morality out of it. We’re entirely morally neutral. We’re just providing factual information so that kids are equipped to make the decision for themselves; and so that if they do decide to kill, they can do it in the safest way possible. If kids are going to kill anyway, there’s no sense in them hurting themselves in the process.

Obviously killing someone cannot be taught in a morally neutral way. Virtually everyone, conservative or liberal, would agree that teaching such a thing, without guidance as to the circumstances in which killing is right or wrong, would be abhorrent.

Why then do liberals insist that “value-neutral” sex education is possible? Obviously it’s because they assume from the start that sex itself is value-neutral. But conservative religious people don’t share that assumption. To them, sex is inextricably bound up with morality. Thus, in the very act of insisting on value-neutrality, liberals are imposing their values on others.

We don’t say that sex is always bad. It’s not that we consider it a taboo subject, not even necessarily for children. But we think it’s bad to treat it as though it has no moral component. If schools don’t want to teach morals, then so be it. But in that case, don’t teach sex at all. From the point of view of a conservative Christian (or Jew or Muslim), teaching value-neutral sex is no better than teaching value-neutral killing.

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