Innovative Program Brings Values, Virtues to Sex Education

International   |   Lauren Funk   |   Jan 20, 2011   |   11:19PM   |   New York, NY

What passes for “sex education” these days is often considered pornographic and highly offensive to traditional community standards.

One popular American book, targeted at ten-year-olds, displays pages of naked cartoon figures engaged in sexual intercourse.  A recently released UNESCO curriculum encourages masturbation for children as young as five.  Meanwhile, UN agencies and international advocacy groups routinely denounce abstinence programs. 

Amid the chaos, one group offers hope.  Alliance for the Family offers a comprehensive abstinence-only sex education curriculum in the context of an extensive character development program, and many international observers- including USAID and the Vatican– are taking notice.

The program, called “Alive to the World” (AW), is a 12-year, story-based curriculum that teaches children and teens about love, sex, and marriage within a larger framework that promotes values like loyalty, honesty, self-respect, and personal responsibility.

The AW program is intensive, adaptable, and it is growing.  The program reaches over 270,000 students in 11 countries, so far.  The government of Chile recently recommended the program to its public schools, and a new public-private partnership between the Government of Panama and Chevron now funds the participation of over 10,000 pupils.  Even homeschoolers in the US are picking it up.

Cristina Burelli, the executive director of Alliance for the Family (AFF), attributes the success of AW to the values that structure its content.  The values are Judeo-Christian in nature, she explained to the Friday Fax, but they are universal to humanity.  The program presents these values in a completely secular context, which makes it appropriate, and even popular, in public school systems.

“Alive to the World” incorporates an abstinence-only sex education component in the latter five years of its curriculum.  Christina explained that the problem with some abstinence curriculums is that they focus only on the subject of sex and  “forget that [abstinence] comes down to forming young men and women of character” who can understand the values that underlie abstinence.  “When these values are embraced, abstinence makes sense,” she said.

The values taught in AW have other positive results.  A third-party evaluation funded in part by USAID found that the program increased “democratic virtues” like teamwork, respect for others, and equality.  Additionally, Latin American school officials report that the program led to a significant decrease in violent behavior among participants.

AFF’s newest project extends the curriculum to Africa.  The Africa Family Life Federation worked closely with AFF to create an AW curriculum adapted to the traditions of African culture, and the need of HIV/AIDS prevention.  The San Matteo Foundation, through the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has awarded AFF a grant to fund the printing of the African books.

Other partnerships are forming as well.  AFF is already working with the Doha Family Institute to extend its program to the Muslim world, and Christina has set her sights on the US inner city, especially the Hispanic populations.  “The curriculum’s success demonstrates its ability to work in all different cultures and regimes,” she says.  “It underscores the universality of the values taught.”

Visit the Alliance for the Family Website here Note: Lauren Funk writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax publication and is used with permission.