Sex Education and Reproductive Health Bill: Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle interviews Fr. Nono Alfonso, S.J.

My transcription of the Word Exposed–RH bill part 8 by Bishop Tagle on the Reproductive Health Bill.  The interview with Fr. Nono Alfonso, S.J. was dated May 16, 2011.  See the  You Tube here.

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TAGLE:

My friends here we are again in the discussion about the different facets of the controversial reproductive health bill which is being pushed in the congress. we are glad that this discussion is being watched, heard, and shared with many.

With us once again is Fr. Nono Alfonso, SJ. He is the executive director of the Jesuit Communications.

Fr. Nono welcome back!

NONO:

Good morning, bishop. And good morning to you all.

TAGLE:

The morning is getting better because you are giving us your time.

My friends what we shall tackle now is related to education, especially sex education of children. This is what we shall look at together with the responsibility of the parents.

Ok fr. nono.

NONO:

Yes, because what we refer to here contains something controversial–in the eyes of the church and of some parents. There are provisions in the RH bill or RP bill which is being pushed in the congress, which says that from Grade 5, our children will be taught sex education. Of course, this is very controversial, because first, should they be taught at their age? They are still very innocent. Should they immediately be taught? Second, Who should be teaching these things, these sensitive issues of sex and sexuality. What can you say about these bishop in these two questions. The children Grade 5 and second, you know the situation in our schools, in our public schools. Should they be the one who shall teach?

TAGLE:

Maybe in your first point on the sex education that shall start at Grade 5. Of course, one of our aims is total education. We always say this. Education can help not only in the development of man but also in man’s progress. Education is also part of the Church’s mission. Like you, the society of jesus, you are into educational ministry, mission. Thus, It is not true as what others are saying that the Church is opposed to education. No. What the church wants to emphasize is this: because holistic education to make better citizens of the nation and better christians–is that we must be very prudent. For example, in the field of Sex education at these ages, We must study this carefully, because instead of educating, we plant more the seeds of what can destroy later on. Is education what shall really happen or we are pushing in the too early times the children the things that cannot be handled by their minds. I am a teacher, too.

NONO:

He is a good teacher.

TAGLE:

He is also a good student. That’s enough.

I also teach. I always look at the reactions of the students.  Sometimes, I feel what I prepared and the topic. Maybe it is not yet right for them. Maybe there are things that are preliminary before this topic can be truly understood. That is why I understand this preoccupation. Maybe it would be a wrong education that will happen if in this age that they are not prepared, you will be the one who shall put wrong ideas.

Also what is terrifying is that there are somethings–that is even before the present heads the department of education have sat in office–there are now pilot modules of sex education manuals. These are already being tested in 10 pilot regions, but they refuse to state what schools are these implemented. Aside from the contents, if we see the other excerpts, they are somewhat shocking.

NONO:

I saw the modules. First, they have a request to their students in these pilot testing, “Do not to share this when you go back to your parents. And especially do not tell this to Father or to Sister.”  There are these prohibitions to the students. This is like teaching children to tell a lie. But this is shocking, bishop. What I found out is not even for grade 5, but for lower grade levels. They are already taught–I am sorry for saying this–masturbation. These are for mature audiences. You can see from the modules that they give that these are not well discerned, they do not ask “who are the audience?”

TAGLE:

What you are saying is good, Fr. Nono. The concern of the church is that in these modules the approach to sex is too clinical: it is only an activity, only factual, biological, on what is said, “How can you protect yourself?” But the sexual act is always part of morality and relationship. And that is what is not being tackled. This is where the biggest concern of the church lies. Is sex education only just about a technique or how to do it or are they part of the holistic view of man and relationships?

NONO:

These are the values.

TAGLE:

Precisely. And what you are saying is what I also saw: “You are not obliged to tell this to your parents.” When I saw these, I put myself in the minds of the parents. I have a child. There is always a apprehension on what is being taught to my child. When I see behavioral change, I ask what is happening. In the teaching of the church, the primary responsibility of teaching and formation of the children are the parents. And that is also in the Constitution.

NONO:

And that is also the answer to my second question. Who shall be the one who shall teach? Because I have a very practical view of these things, bishop, because have interviewed in Radio Veritas, the teachers themselves who admit that they are not trained to teach. You know the state of our schools: lack of classroooms, lack of textbooks. So the teachers make their own rackets and gimmicks. They do not have the same teaching styles. This is terrifying. And some are using certain things just to teach these sensitive issues. Second, not only the physical structure, but also the teachers themselves admit that they lack traing on how to teach these sensitive issue. That is why bishop, it is too terrifying for me.

TAGLE:

Now, the challenge is if we want that we parents are the ones who will form, especially those who are married in the church. I remember that there is a question for those who are getting married: are you ready to raise as better Christians the children that God will give you. There in the ritual itself, we are being reminded that we have the responsibility. The schools, catechists, and teachers are only support. And the parents have right to say, “I don’t want these lessons. Do not teach these to my children.” Now if this is mandatory, it removes from the parents their role. And what is happening?  Is this dictating to the parents? But we want children to be truly educated. In the biological part, there are sciences, there is biology. And there are values. We wish that the parents must also take their formation seriously, so that they can form their children.

NONO:

We hope we have helped and gave explanations.

TAGLE:

So, thank you again, Fr. Nono.

NONO:

It has been a pleasure, bishop.

TAGLE:

If we call you, you do not think twice. Thank you very much to you, especially those who follow this discussion. We encourage you to share what you learned in our simple discussion. Thank you very much.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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