Axiology, Transphobia, Spouse Selection: Poland’s Sex Ed Curriculum

In my last post, I sounded the alarm about a bill threatening Polish sexual education. Today, I’ll show you just how bad the current curriculum is.

What follows are curriculum fragments interspersed with my own memories from (Polish) Catholic middle school. The italicized paragraphs are my translations of the curriculum for “Preparation for Life in the Family ” put out by the Polish Ministry of Education in 2016 and recommended for 10 to 15-year-olds.


The student will refer to the right to life from conception to natural death.

“This is going to be difficult to watch,” the teacher apologizes. “But it’s important to know the truth. Unborn babies are murdered every day.”

The Silent Scream, she explains, shows footage of a fetus recoiling in terror at an impending abortion. It’s incontrovertible proof that the unborn child feels fear and pain, that it doesn’t want to die any more than we do.

I brace myself. She pops the tape in the VCR, and I see dark, indecipherable pixels an almost blank screen. The program’s host tries to point out the fetus’s body parts, but I can’t really see anything. I squint my eyes. I wait for the action. It’s only when my classmates erupt into tears that I know that the fault is mine, not the tape’s.

Afterwards, we go around the room sharing reasons why abortion is morally wrong.

Ever the budding philosopher, I up the ante. “It’s even worse than murdering an adult. After all, the adult has already had a chance to enjoy life, but the fetus has all of that ahead.”

The girl in black at the back of the room who is last to go has remained one of my dearest friends. At the time, her words run a confused jolt through me: “I think we should be allowed to give arguments for both sides. Just on principle.”


It’s worth covering the dangers connected with masturbation, e.g. pornophilia, sex addiction.

This is the one time the word “masturbation” occurs in the curriculum.


The student knows the differences between contraception and natural family planning.

Abortion was murder; contraception was playing at God. Besides, it didn’t work, and could turn to murder: one educational video claimed that when a condom got stuck inside the woman, the baby would be suffocated on birth by a “condom hood.”


In accordance with personalistic anthropology, humanistic psychology, pedagogy and developmental psychology, as well as familiology and axiology, and also the rules of the Polish language, [the teacher will] (…) highlight the value of marriage, distinguishing it from other relationships – in the legal, physical, psychological, spiritual, and social aspect.

Imagine taking that lesson as the child of single, divorced or unmarried parents!


And that physical aspect distinguishing marriage from other relationships?

The student can list biomedical, psychological, social and moral arguments for sexual initiation within marriage.

In another “educational” video, a leery boy is pestering his girlfriend. “Come on, babe, show me that you love me.” “I want to wait till marriage – that’s how much I love you.”

The guy was so antipathic that I assumed that anyone who wanted sex before marriage was practically a rapist. At the same time, a part of me was confused: was it always the man who was pestering? Did other girls not have unruly bodies like mine?

I made it to college thinking that waiting till marriage was the norm.


The child will know how to express gratitude to family members and what for. (…) He’ll learn to give Father’s, Mother’s, Grandparents’ Day wishes.

This one’s a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’m all in favor of teaching people how to be nice to each other. On the other, I’d appreciate an acknowledgement that some parents might not deserve thanks. Surely reading “honor your mother and your father” in their catechism is insult enough for abused children!


The school’s functions include (…) strengthening the process of identifying with one’s own sex. (…) It’s worth covering disorders of identification with one’s sex, such as transgender, transsexuality.

This new addition to the curriculum is appallingly harmful to trans kids – but not just them. I remember how once it was actually easier to be a tomboy in Poland than in the US. Now, I anticipate teacher-backed bullying at the slightest signs of gender nonconformity.


The student characterizes concepts connected with sexuality: masculinity, femininity, complementarity, love, value, marriage, parenthood, responsibility.

The glaring omission in “complementarity” is the only way in which homosexuality occurs in the curriculum.

I remember looking “gay” up in the dictionary. A classmate had asked me if I was gay, since I never talked about my crushes. (How could I talk about them if they gave me such evil feelings?) I remember hearing about gay parades as some exotically terrible event, where people talked about sex in public and dressed in revealing and bizarre ways. It never occurred to me that any of it might have something to do with love.


The teacher should cover the typology of relationships: e.g. monogamy, serial monogamy.

There is nothing past the period.


It’s not all doom and gloom; let’s end with a few more positive nuggets.

The school’s functions include (…) demonstrating the unity between sexual activity, love, and responsibility; discusses problems connected with sexual objectification.

That’s a beautiful, if quixotic, idealism: it’s not just that there should be a relationship between love and sex, but that there already is one.


The student knows the criteria of spouse selection, the motives for entering into marriage, and the factors determining the longevity and success of marital and familial relationships.

Now that lesson I’d like to attend myself.


In the end, Poland’s “family values” offer an escape hatch out of sexual miseducation: attendance in Preparation for Life in the Family requires parental permission.

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