It is impossible. You may not agree. But it is simply not possible. Sex and learning will not go together. No amount of sex education can strike a deal between sex and education. Either sex or education, but not both. This is not a personal opinion but it is a scientific fact. Brain sciences have evidence for it.
In puberty, initially, sexual urge manifests as passionate love for opposite sex and till it gets consummated the craving lingers. A brain saturated with passionate love is like a fountain of three feel-good chemicals—dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin (ref: Dr Patria, professor of psychiatry Loyola University). Lover will be in an exhilarated state under their influence.
This state is very much similar to the intoxication induced by drugs. The brain which has smoked cocaine and the brain drenched in love for opposite sex are strikingly similar. According to Dr. Helen Fisher(psychology today) same brain chemicals and neurological pathways set into action when one is in love or cocaine-induced high. Effect of cocaine is likely to be doused after some time, whilst the intoxication of love can last for long–from days to years on end. It depends on how the love affair unfolds and how long it prolongs. As the neuroscientist Dr. Larry Young reiterates in his writing, there does exist a thing called “love addiction”.
In the early phases of love, the lover will be in the clutch of an unreasonable obsession for his/her companion especially when she/he is not sure that his/her love will be reciprocated with the same intensity. This obsessive state lowers levels of serotonin in the brain of a lover. At the same time, neuroscience labs have evidences for reduced serotonin levels in the brain of patients suffering from obsessive-compulsive neurotic disorder (OCD). So obsession of a passionate lover can be more or less similar to the obsession noticed in OCD.
Teaching love drenched brains—A tough task
When scientific evidences declare that regions of brain like amygdala, frontal and prefrontal cortices go out of balance inside the brain of a passionate lover, educationists cannot ignore it. They have to mull over the dilemma of teaching a host of students who are in a craving state for love from the opposite sex. In order to explain maths and science, teachers need an intact, well balanced frontal and prefrontal lobes inside the brains of their students. These regions of the brain are instrumental in planning complex cognitive behavior, personality expression, decision making, and moderating social behavior.
An intoxicated frontal lobe will fail to execute important brain functions such as planning for the future, judgement, decision-making skills, attention span, and inhibition as desired. The entire emotional state of the student will go berserk when his amygdala is drenched in passionate love. What is the point of pouring concepts in math and science into such brains with the best teaching strategies?. It is in the brain of the student, meanings and impressions are constructed and stored in response to the teaching process. Reason for the failure of many teaching strategies –however student centred they might be — is that those carefully knitted strategies fail to knock on the doors of students’ mind that has been hijacked by sexual hormones.
The situation is more precarious when love affairs are becoming a symbol of status and a criteria for peer acceptance among students. According to Dr. C J John, “The crude reality is that there is media glorification of romance. This is influencing young minds so much so that not having a boyfriend or girlfriend is considered a discredit in the school atmosphere. The probability of puppy love phenomenon is very high and needs to be handled sensitively. Punishment is not the remedy,” (Times of India daily, December 24, 2017)
Is there any remedy?
Actually, there is no remedy for this dilemma. How can we bulwark the nature’s call? Love for opposite sex has a survival value and will take its own course. But the important thing that differentiates human beings from animals is, human beings can delay gratification of his instinctual urges/needs (sex, love etc.) however powerful they might be. We can rely upon this gift the creation has bestowed upon us.
In a culture like India where observing abstinence till entering into a marital contract is advocated, practicing delaying of gratification is an appropriate choice. Yes, science too is in favor of developing that personal quality of delaying gratification. There is much evidence that personal characteristics like delaying gratification and self control are very much linked to better school grades , achievement, well-being and satisfaction in life. (e.g. J.S Herndon, University of Central Florida,2011).
Delaying gratification is a necessity
The world has begun to recognize a fact that excellence in performance is for those who have mastered the art of delaying gratification. Pullela Gopichand, chief national coach for the Indian badminton team, said that he took away the mobile phone of P V Sindhu during her intense practice period before Rio Olympics. P.V Sindhu who bagged silver medal in the Olympics meticulously adhered to the work ethics he prescribed. If this is in sports, in the area of academics, see what JEE top runner 2017 Sarvesh Mehtani has to say when asked about his study habits.
“I did not use my Smartphone for the last two years. I cannot stay focused while using a Smartphone. I was not able to pursue my hobbies much in the last two years. I also cut down on hanging out with friends”.
The personalities who excelled in their field realized the importance of investing their full attention on their goals. High performance demands 100% investment of mental and physical energies. So delaying certain gratification is a necessary quality that must be developed by the students with high aspirations for their future.
Learning to say “not now”
There aren’t special techniques for delaying gratification. Ancient Indian teachers disciplined their students by exhorting them to observe certain guiding principles. According to them, a student should be a Brahmachari (celibate). Otherwise, he cannot be qualified as a student. For a modern teacher, instilling that quality of “delaying gratification” in the students will be a daunting task. Technology has quickened the pace of world so menacingly that new generation is perfectly ignorant about the wisdom behind “waiting patiently”. When the entire world is vibrating with an adamant wave of instant gratification convincing a student about the need for delaying gratification is nearly impossible.
However, ability to say “not now” can be developed in students when they have something more urgent or significant demand in-front of them to which they have an emphatic “yes”. In other words, it is their aspirations, dreams and intense passion for a goal and their dedication to it which helps students to say “not now” to the things that are likely to cripple their spirit of commitment to learning.
A holistic education of sex
Actually knowledge about anatomy or biology of sexuality need not promise a psycho-sexually balanced healthy individual in all means. Ultimately it is the student who sticks to rational but not to compulsive choices (while dealing with his sexual impulses) who masters the art of delaying gratification. Only such students can apply the lessons he/she received from sex education classes in a realistic way. In that sense, sex education cannot be seen as something separated from educating young minds for making rational choices in their personal life.
Students’ knowledge about the biology of sex is likely to lead to perverted ways of experimenting with sexuality if it is not complemented with psychological, existential, moral, social and even spiritual implications. Let the sex education programmes in schools append one more dimension to its objectives. Let it aim at empowering the students for delaying certain gratifications. What is sex is as important as what is sex for. And each culture has its own interpretation for this query. Sex education must be sensitive to this.
(This has been republished from Teachers of India)