I was holding a notice from my 13-year-old son's school announcing a
meeting to preview the new course in sexuality. Parents could examine
the curriculum and take part in an actual lesson presented exactly as it
would be given to the students.
When I arrived at the school, I was surprised to discover only about a dozen parents
As we waited for the presentation, I thumbed through page after page of instructions
in the prevention of pregnancy or disease. I found abstinence mentioned
only in passing.
When the teacher arrived with the school nurse, she asked if there were any
questions. I asked why abstinence did not play a noticeable part in the material.
What happened next was shocking. There was a great deal of laughter,
and someone suggested that if I thought abstinence had any merit, I
should go back to burying my head in the sand. The teacher and the nurse
said nothing as I drowned in a sea of embarrassment. My mind had gone
blank, and I could think of nothing to say. The teacher explained to me
that the job of the school was to "teach facts," and the home was
responsible for moral training. I sat in silence for the next 20 minutes
as the course was explained. The other parents seemed to give their
unqualified support to the materials.
"Donuts, at the back," announced the teacher during the break. "I'd
like you to put on the name tags we have prepared -- they're right by the
donuts -- and mingle with the other parents."
Everyone moved to the back of the room. As I watched them affixing
their nametags and shaking hands, I sat deep in thought. I was ashamed
that I had not been able to persuade them to include a serious
discussion of abstinence in the materials. I uttered a silent prayer for
guidance. My thoughts were interrupted by the nurse's hand on my
"Won't you join the others, Mr. Layton?" The nurse smiled
sweetly at me. "The donuts are good."
"Thank you, no," I replied.
"Well, then, how about a name tag? I'm sure the others would like to
"Somehow I doubt that," I replied.
"Won't you please join them?" she coaxed.
Then I heard a still, small voice whisper, "Don't
go." The instruction was unmistakable. "Don't go!"
"I'll just wait here," I said.
When the class was called back to order, the teacher looked around the
long table and thanked everyone for putting on nametags. She ignored me.
Then she said, "Now we're going to give you the same lesson we'll be
giving your children. Everyone please peel off your name tags." I
watched in silence as the tags came off.
"Now, then, on the back of one of the tags, I drew a tiny flower. Who has it, please?"
The gentleman across from me held it up.
"Here it is!"
"All right," she said. "The flower represents disease. Do you recall with whom you
shook hands?" He pointed to a couple of people.
"Very good," she replied. "The handshake in this case represents intimacy. So the
two people you had contact with now have the disease." There was laughter and
joking among the parents.
The teacher continued, "And whom did the two of you shake hands with?"
The point was well taken, and she explained how this lesson would show
students how quickly disease is spread. "Since we all shook hands, we
all have the disease."
It was then that I heard the still, small voice again. "Speak now," it
said, "but be humble." I noted wryly the latter admonition, then rose
from my chair.
I apologized for any upset I might have caused earlier, congratulated the teacher on
an excellent lesson that would impress the youth, and concluded by saying I had only
one small point I wished to make.
"Not all of us were infected," I said. "One of us...abstained."
Thanks to the Mr. Layton of this story for sharing it with others.
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