Thursday, March 7, 2013

Not "sex ed," but people ed

I should be prepping for the class I will be teaching in 45 minutes, but I have been thinking that I ought to blog about this, so here I am.

This is a headline that I am sure woke up a few people:

Really?! Then I saw it had appeared on the Web site for Fox News and realized I had to find other reliable sources. So, I went back to RH Reality Check, and here is what they report will be included in "sex ed" for kindergarteners:

"students in kindergarten through third grade will learn about their anatomy and appropriate and inappropriate touching and that all living things reproduce. Fourth graders will focus on puberty, HIV, and AIDS. Conversations about human reproduction, contraception, and abstinence will still not take place until after fifth grade."

My son is in kindergarten, my daughter in third grade. We have made a point of using the words "penis" and "vagina" to refer to their body parts since they were able to talk. So, I applaud the educators in Chicago who see the sense of teaching children a basic respect for their bodies by naming their parts in an unashamed manner. Because what is it that we teach kids when the grown-ups have such difficulty referring to body parts that we need to talk around them? We are not protecting them, but in fact teaching them how to disrespect and shame their own and each other's bodies.

So, how and why is this "sex ed" exactly? This is just about being people.

Speaking of which, I am thinking that I do not want the first time my kids hear the word "gay" - I mean really hear, and not just overhear it - to be when somebody hurls the word at somebody else as an insult. Which is how I remember learning the word "lesbian." In third grade. When a boy in my class - a kid who Knew It All because he had older brothers and sisters - accused my best friend of being a "lezzie" because she and another girl were holding hands as they walked back from the school's main office. Like lots of 8 year olds, esp. girls, will do. As for "gay" - I learned it as another way of calling something or someone "ridiculous" until a friend in college finally called me out on it.

Again. Not a "sex ed" issue, but a people issue.

I say this with all sincerity as a parenthropologist, we can do better than we have done and be better than we are: We can teach kids to be what we wish that we ourselves could be.

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