(Sex + Education) – Education = ?

From a blog called Teachers Count:

A middle-school health teacher (in a small, conservative [read that religious] community) was put on administrative leave for teaching details about sexuality. The original story inferred that she was holding forth on details on homosexuality, masturbation, and oral sex. The truth is that she had taught the regular curriculum and thereafter fielded student questions, which turned to these things.

On the one hand, the outraged and prolix parents had every right to wax eloquent, loud and long on the violation of their parental rights in teaching their offspring about sex. It is even possible that some of those innocent students were hearing details theretofore unimagined by them

On the other hand–probably not. I teach junior high students, the same age as the endangered middle school kids in question. My students know lots about sex, far more than I ever knew at that age. For sure, these students see very explicit material on prime-time TV, and they surely see plenty of sex in the movies they watch. From time to time we discuss cinema in art class, and I am often floored at the kinds of movies these young kids view, both for violence and for sexuality. Furthermore, they watch and rewatch very explicit music videos–and many of them use outright porn. And furthermore, walking around the art room as kids work and talk, I overhear that many of them are sexually active at thirteen, fourteen, fifteen.

No wonder they have questions about sexual practices. I believe the young health teacher caught herself in a trap. Experienced teachers know that there are certain things you never say, never discuss, because of community reaction. Young teachers, hoping to help kids understand a sexual world they really are much too young for, can get tripped up on answering questions.

No doubt our Utah middle school health teacher will not have her contract renewed next year. I think that is a shame. Obviously, the offended parents have no clue about what their kids’ lives are really like. They do not realize the misinformation–and the pressure–these young students experience. I would not be surprised to find that these offended parents have not given their kids much information on sex. Maybe the teacher crossed a line–and maybe a few students pushed her there. Still, I’d rather see her keep her job and learn the hard lesson of staying very conservative on certain subjects, like sex.

Accusations included the charge that the teacher distributed a list of 101 ways to have sex.  In a heated meeting at the school, it turned out that the list was of 101 things to do instead of having sex.  Ooops.  And for this, parents want the woman fired?

Good analysis and background data in column by in the Salt Lake Tribune.

From that column, a list of what can and cannot be taught:

Careful what you say

What teachers can, and cannot, teach
as part of Utah’s human sexuality curriculum:
Teachers can:
* Stress the importance of abstinence from sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage.
* Provide factual, unbiased information about contraception and condoms with prior written parental consent.
They cannot:
* Discuss the intricacies of intercourse, sexual stimulation or erotic behavior.
* Advocate homosexuality.
* Advocate or encourage contraceptive methods or devices.
* Advocate sexual activity outside of marriage.

Source: Utah State Office of Education

Who knows what’s really going on? It will be interesting to see how this case is resolved.  It’s been hanging fire for a month now.

Other resources:

2 Responses to (Sex + Education) – Education = ?

  1. Jude says:

    The prissy old maid health teacher at my high school told me when I was putting together a health website for her class that I had to avoid linking to websites that mentioned HAM–homosexuality, abortion, and masturbation.


  2. zhoen says:

    When I was in nursing school, I was called upon to lead a “maturation” class, 9 ant 10 year old girls, at a local school. The school clearly told me what not to say, what hot words to avoid. There were a few moms present, and all the girls had to have a note from parents allowing them to attend. It was pretty wild once opened up for questions, but I was 33, open minded, and up for whatever they asked. I didn’t get the feeling they had real sexual experience, but the curiosity was ENORMOUS. I remember feeling like that, and how much I ached for one person who could have given me information with a light touch. Tiptoeing around the taboo words was a challenge, but I was well warned, and got across some of that information anyway. Nothing like a whole family of religiously repressed people to learn alternate modes of speech.


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