Sunday, August 14, 2022

Sex ed still poor after research, student, popular pleas


In an interview with the Washington Post, a man who has dished out sex advice for 30 years in a syndicated newspaper column spoke a little about the dismal state of sex education in the US.

Dan Savage, whose column runs in The Stranger, told the Post this:

The comparison I’ve always used is: Imagine if driver’s education was just the internal combustion engine and how it works. It didn’t cover steering, brakes, red octagons at the end of the street, what a yellow light means. If that were driver’s ed, the first time somebody got in a car, the odds that they were going to hurt themselves or someone else would be high. Our sex education is basically the reproductive internal combustion engine. It doesn’t talk about steering, brakes, red octagons, yellow lights. It doesn’t talk about anything where it gets complicated, which is usually where people get hurt.

So while we have reported about the need to overhaul sex ed and make improvements, Mr Savage’s reach is a little greater than ours. Still, schools have generally not responded.

One would think, after at least three years of pleading from the research community, the student voice, and the mass media, that some improvements would be made to the quality of sex education in the US and around the world.

No luck.

Not everywhere, anyway.

But one health teacher at a prestigious school in Manhattan gave it a try.

When parents found out some of the content of her curriculum, developed for kindergartners through 12th graders, she was sharply criticized and eventually resigned.

“I equip them with a way that they can exercise body agency and consent, by knowing exactly what those parts are, what they are called, and how to take care of them,” the New York Times quoted Justine Ang Fonte as saying about her curriculum for the youngest students. “That was paired with lessons around, what are the different ways to say ‘no’? And what’s the difference between a secret and a surprise? And why you should never have a secret between a grown-up and you. Because it’s never your responsibility as a child to hold a secret or information of a grown-up.”

National sex ed standards and those from the World Health Organization agree with her, generally. As do other prominent health educators.

“First graders need to be taught that other people don’t have a right to touch their bodies,” the Times quoted Jennifer S Hirsch, a professor of sociomedical sciences at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and an author of Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power and Assault on Campus, a book that argues that campus sexual assault is a predictable outcome of several factors, including inadequate pre-college sexuality education.

“And just as importantly, they don’t have a right to touch other people’s bodies. How many politicians have we seen in the news who never got that lesson?”

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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