Let’s talk about sex (education)

The Brand New Monty Python Papperbok points to a problem:

Some find it difficult to talk about; others find it difficult to do. Same goes for sexuality education in schools.

Let’s begin with the obvious question: why bother teaching sexuality in school? Aren’t English, math, science and social studies enough to keep us fully occupied for 12 years of schooling? Health and wellness have become part of a growing cluster of life-enhancing subjects that are being integrated into public schooling. We have advocates pushing for religion and spirituality, sexuality, money management, environmental education, “life skills”, entrepreneurship, self-defense, communication, social skills, drug awareness, anti-bullying, and goodness knows what else. I don’t object to any of these things, but there just aren’t enough hours in the week to get to them all.

But today, I want to talk about sex/sexuality education.

In my experience, teachers are very poorly equipped to teach sexuality education. It’s not that they don’t know what to do or what to say; it’s that it never works out quite the way you want. If you’ve never taught human sexuality to a roomful of other people’s children, stop for a moment. Pick an age group and imagine how you’d approach the topic.

Let me propose that if you go in showing how cool you are about sex, you’ll probably look like an idiot. And if you go in showing how embarrassed you are talking about sex with children or adolescents, you’ll make every one uncomfortable. And if you take the approach of sticking to the science you’ll achieve the remarkable feat of making sex boring. It’s a tough job. Trust me.

This, of course, is why so many teachers bring in outside speakers/presenters to do a professional job of it. Unfortunately, these are rarely disinterested parties: usually they are paid employees of an organization with an agenda. Sometimes they are great. Really great. I mean it. But often they are worse, way worse, than the teacher would have been.

Now that I’ve set you up, allow me to introduce you to Alice Dreger.

Alice Dreger

Ms. Dreger attended her son’s sex education class at East Lansing High School (I don’t know my American geography very well, but I assume this is East Lansing, Michigan). Invited speakers from SMART (Sexually Mature Aware Responsible Teen) were addressing issues of promiscuity, fidelity, abstinence, sexual health and the like. Don’t get too far ahead of me, here.

Ok, you guessed it. Alice Dreger heard some pretty dubious information/advice/propaganda. And she tweeted it. Live. Right out of the classroom. What follows is cut-and-pasted from an article at Business Insider.

dreger2 dreger1

So what’s the moral of the story here? First, thanks to Alice Dreger for bringing this forward. Thanks also to East Lansing High School for letter her observe the class.

Teachers: It may be uncomfortable, but do your job. You’re there to teach. Do it. Do it well. Guest speakers are fine, but be careful who you get.

Parents: Pay attention. Find out who is speaking to your children and why. Take this stuff seriously.

Students: Sometimes you have to spill the beans. Tell your parents what was said in class. Ask your teacher why this is on the agenda, and who these people are, and why you should take them seriously.

At the end of the day, it’s just a bit of embarrassment. We’ll live through it. And, my teaching colleagues, it just doesn’t matter if the kids think you’re cool. It really doesn’t.


One thought on “Let’s talk about sex (education)

  1. All good observations, and I appreciate that you put some of the responsibility on the students to stand tall and ask question, taking responsibility for some of their own learning.

    Liked by 1 person

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