Emily Parnell — Let’s don’t make sex ed ridiculous

01/28/2014 3:01 PM

01/28/2014 6:22 PM

Have you seen the middle school sex poster that’s been in the news? It lists a number of sex acts that I quite honestly don’t want to list out here. I’m a bit of a prude that way, I suppose.

See, “Let’s talk about sex,” are words my parents said to me never. I was left to the osmosis method of obtaining my information. No worries, I found plenty of ways to find out anything and everything I wanted to know.

School provided a solid nuts and bolts explanation beginning in sixth grade. It was party-like: Moms attended, and orange drinks were served to all. Line drawings of reproductive systems were presented in gym class during subsequent years. The boys and girls were always separated for the talk; I don’t know if their lessons were similar or not.

During that time, I belonged to a variety of Christian youth groups, most of which would occasionally make a strong plug for abstinence. For the most part, it was good information full of values I respect to this day. But occasionally, it came across as a message from La La Land.

I remember one particular talk. I can’t tell you where I was, with whom, or who was speaking, but they warned strongly against intimacy of any kind before marriage, declaring that even praying together could lead to pregnancy. The speaker admitted that a rather significant chain of events would have to take place between “Dear God,” and “It’s a boy!” but it struck me as ridiculous. And if there’s one thing sex education doesn’t need, it’s ridiculousness.

Note to adults: Kids are quick to dismiss ridiculousness.

Kids need facts. Insulated as our conservative little group was, adamant as the adults were, some kids were out there having sex. Some lots, some just a little, and I don’t think any of it was seeded by a sultry bout of praying together.

In college, I received my first functional course in sex education. It was a freshman science class — weather science to be exact. The professor taught us about tornadoes, types of clouds, wind patterns, pregnancy and the transmission of STDs.

He minced no words and avoided no topic. Aided by his wife, a nurse who had seen enough heartache that she admonished her husband to use his platform to share safety tips, he developed this unusual lesson concerning the dangers of promiscuity that he delivered to hundreds of wide-eyed college students.

“I want to be sure you all know how to stay safe. This is life and death, and at least you’ll know how to protect yourself and others, if you absolutely


do these things.”

It was shock and awe. It was raw and honest. It was no “Joy of Sex” talk. It was a pragmatic safety guide, not a “how to” manual.

Are 13-year-old kids on the threshold of needing to understand these things? Some are. Admit it or not, fight it as you may, “Tsk tsk” all you like, some


will be facing these decisions, and choosing the go-ahead, entirely too early. And of those kids, some might just make a life-saving decision with the type of knowledge I learned in weather class.

The poster was part of a sex ed class in an area middle school. Are middle-schoolers ready for the cold hard facts of sex ed? I lean toward “yes,” but it depends on the presentation. The middle school poster offends me by the mere fact that this is no mundane topic that requires extra effort to gain the kids’ attention. It’s a gratuitous exercise designed to shock and titillate, to generate interest in a topic that many kids can’t get off their minds. I fail to see its educational value as a standing list hanging on a door. My opinion? It falls squarely at the other end of the ridiculous spectrum.

Turns out, the superintendent seems to agree. The district has pulled the poster for now.


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