Near the end of this school year in San Marcos, CA (San Diego County), a middle school health teacher did an activity in class from a school board-approved abstinence-plus curriculum which involved papers posted on the wall describing different sexual activities, such as hugging, kissing, “above the waist,” “below the waist,” and “all the way” (whatever that means – not exactly descriptive language). Students were supposed to stand near the paper that described what level they thought was most appropriate for middle school students. I wouldn’t necessarily do this activity in my classroom (partially because of the use of antiquated euphemisms and partially because I think the discussion would be better done in small groups), but I don’t see it as particularly harmful. It opens a dialogue among peers about what they think is right for them, which validates and gives them ownership of their feelings, and hopefully gets them talking to their parents about it.
However, one student thought that the teacher was asking her to stand under the sign appropriate to what she’d already done; she felt pressured to self-report and told her parents, who then proceeded to vomit a shit storm of sex negativity on the school.
So, first of all, NO MIDDLE SCHOOL SEX ED CURRICULUM — especially one that’s only abstinence-plus and not comprehensive — would ever ask students to publicly, in front of alllll their classmates, discuss what they’d done sexually. That’s ridiculous. Furthermore, parents at this particular school have to sign permission slips in order for their children to take the class AND the curriculum is available to parents in this district to pursue at their leisure.
Second of all, until recently, these students followed an abstinence-only program; having done thorough content analysis on a few of these programs, I can say unflinchingly that they are reductive, harmful, glaringly sex negative, objectifying, and shame students if they fall anywhere outside of mainstream sexual or gender norms. Abstinence-plus is barely a step up.
The parents said in an interview that “For the children to get that confused is just another reason why it [sexuality education] shouldn’t even be in the schools.” (ABC10 News, June 4th, 2014) Wh-wh-whaaaat? Middle school students were confused about something? If we removed any curriculum that is remotely confusing to students who are in the middle of a hormonal coup d’etat, there wouldn’t be any curriculum to teach.
So, parents continue to lose their shit over their children talking about sex. Not news, but still frustrating.
Here’s something fun that’s totally unrelated to take the edge off! It’s my favorite weekly feature on a blog.