Thursday, March 13, 2008

A few words about sex education.

So a few days ago some cleverdick figured out that a quarter of American teenage girls has an STD. (Why did they only test girls? And how did they choose their participants, anyway?) The TV news prompted a lively household argument, with much differing opinion about what sex education actually was, never mind what it should be. (My housemates' experiences indicate that in the late 80s/early 90s, sex ed in American public education was actually sex ed, but it withered about 10 years ago. The sex ed I got was clinical, quite thorough in the limited realm of devices and widgets, entirely centred on PIV, and, at 15, far too late.)

One of said housemates - the one who'd had sex ed at the end of the 80s - said the STD epidemics shouldn't be blamed on poor education. That parents are meant to be responsible for these things, not schools.

Um. I guess that might work if we lived in a magical world where all teenagers are parented. They're not. I wasn't. All the information about sex I got outside school was from dubious girly magazines and from bad sf/f books. If you think schools shouldn't be responsible for sex ed, then...what do you think should happen to children with little or no parenting? Is it right to expose us to a health crisis because of something the parenting we never had didn't provide? Do we deserve that?

This strongly reminded me of the people who say single-parent families are A Bad Thing that creates Evil People; yeah, and what are kids who don't have two parents meant to do about that? Suck it up?

This comes at a time of iiinteresting state education wanks in the UK news; apparently 'school is the last moral force'. This is less wanky when you realise the headline-makers have said 'moral' when they really mean 'social':

They now sometimes had to teach social skills such as eating a meal together.

"Schools have a much stronger role in bringing up children than in previous years," Dr Dunford said.

In his speech, Dr Dunford told heads and senior staff that for too many children, school was the "only solid bedrock in their lives".

He highlighted how schools were now expected to set rules about basic behaviour which once would have been the responsibility of parents and the wider community.

Having bedrock is not about morality. (Though it reminds me of she who said that sin is when you treat people as things; we've built a world that puts people last). It's about society, and about what structures are going to catch those of us that have been tossed down the cracks.

Meanwhile, schools absolutely have to prevent children from being fat. Anything but fat. As many STDs as your Daily Fail sexphobic rhetoric can provide, but not fat!


Alis said...

The state of American sex ed nowadays scares me. So much for separation of church and state...

/me blissfully remembers back to her own awkward high school classes.

thene said...

According to my 32-year-old housemate, sex ed was pretty good when she had it. The 23-year-old housemate says it was a mixture of basic biology and long harangues about the risks of sex, and mentioned condoms only briefly and more arcane BC gadgets not at all.

Bush Administration, won't you just die already? :/

Dw3t-Hthr said...

I'm thirty; the only sex ed I got in school was basic mechanics and fearmongering in eighth grade, two weeks. My parents gave me books and told me to ask if I had questions; they didn't give me what I needed to know, but they beat the fearmongering.

Though these days the county I got that sex ed in is occasionally in the news because of insisting on adding the actual existence of gay people to the curriculum. So it's not all bad.

thene said...

Applause for said county; can I ask whereabouts it is? ('cause I think at one point in your life you were right here on the north side of Atlanta, mm?)

What I had was ENTIRELY about PiV, big help for the queer kids there. The only mention of other acts was in the anti-AIDS class when the teacher said 'the anus is not designed to have a penis in it'. Personally, I'm not positive that orientation is as necessary to safety as teaching about variant sexual acts - if you teach about how to have different sorts of sex safely, everyone's listening and everyone's covered. Orientation itself is another category -

- and now I'm tripping over my words because it's so important from inside here, but how to say that when public education rarely even teaches about gender, which is important to far more people than just me, and which is probably easier to sleepwalk right over?

[I take comfort in the Girl Guides survey of what teenage girls want to be learning more about - it's a long list of things that aren't taught (or aren't taught properly) at schools; safer sex, body image & EDs, public speaking, furniture assembly? Oh yeah. a link. But who in the public sector is going to fucking care, so long as we can all do quadratic equations and we know what an isthmus is?]

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Montgomery County, Maryland. Just north/northwest of Washington, DC.

What I got was all het-based fearmongering, but the news articles I found when doing research around Ren's Blogging for Sex Ed Day thing suggested that at least the orientation information has improved in the past umpty-lump years.

While I have a good friend in Smyrna, I've never lived in Georgia. The heat would kill me, if not literally, at least mentally; I turn into a moron at temperatures over 85.

thene said...

Oh, mybad. >< (there's a Georgia college listed on your Lj profile.)

Dw3t-Hthr said...

Yeah, I was enrolled there for a summer course (due to the intervention of said friend in Smyrna) as part of some small GA college association pooling together to do a study abroad program.

I have to say, travelling with American students sucks. (Perhaps the more so because she and I, being Too Crazy To Graduate, were old enough to drink legally in the US, unlike everyone else on the trip who wasn't a teacher ....)

But I'll admit that the LJ listing is confusing. (You may note I have a tendency towards crazed completism there, though I'm not sure I got my elementary school in ....)

SunflowerP said...

I think that'd be "moral" as in "mores", which are social (in the broader sense of supporting the social fabric, not the narrower one usually referenced in the phrase "social skills"), rather than "moral" as in "ethical".

That's just nitpicking your nitpick (though I think failure to grasp the first sense of "moral" is a factor in the overall problem of shoddy sex-ed) as a way of waving hello.

I came via Zombie Z's, as you may have surmised (spurred to action by reading in the archives a wonderful discussion in which you, L., and Belledame addressed the relationship between radfeminism and sex-pos feminism); I'm pleased but not very surprised to see an old friend - hi, dw3t-hthr!


thene said...

SunflowerP - you're dead right, and I hadn't even thought of parsing 'morality' that way. Thanks for that. (Though I can't help but wonder what proportion of the other readers/listeners understood the word the same way I did).

I need to add both dw3t-hthr and zombie z to my blogroll, too ><