Wednesday, March 29, 2017

One Student's Reaction Says It All - Sex Ed And Public Schools Don't Mix

I loved Kindergarten Cop. Nearly every classroom scene is hysterical, but the one where Joseph, a 6-year-old whose father is a Gynecologist, feels the need to perform a knowledge dump of sorts on substitute teacher Schwarzenegger's boss (Principal Phoebe) after the sub's particularly rough morning, always cracks me up.

As a child of the 1960's, I remember watching the movie and actually being a bit embarrassed by that dialogue! 

Like most of my peers, I grew up in a world where anything to do with the word 'sex' was said in a barely-audible whisper and only under conditions of absolute necessity (though come to think of it, I can't remember one time my parents thought it necessity to use it in the presence of either my sister or I) and only in a hard-to-find back room with no one else present and only under conditions of complete deniability. It could also be scrawled on a piece of paper to be burned directly after reading like a Mission Impossible tape.

These thoughts and more came flooding to mind after an article showed up in my standing Google Alert for "public education" with a headline that screamed

Jenks school sex-ed presenter won't be asked to return after backlash.

Consequently, I read it with interest.

The entire article - from the Tulsa World, a major state newspaper - centers around a Facebook post (because this is the only place 'real' news is generated anymore - via social media) a Jenks High School Senior made during a presentation the entire senior class was made to witness - ostensibly due to the state mandate for AIDS/HIV education. According to the article, student Brooklyn Wilson was angry because she felt 'demeaned' and 'belittled' by the speaker, who apparently said at one point,
"Do you know why girls are so desperate and always text guys first? Two words: Daddy left."
In response to this and other pieces of the program Wilson didn't care for, she to0k to her Facebook page to opine publicly,
“Parents, I would be furious if I sent my child to school and this is the way they are treated, with shame, guilt, and embarrassment being used as a way to try and prevent sex. I am genuinely so upset and let down by a school I gave my trust and faith to, since kindergarten until now."
She then goes on to demand,
"not just an apology, but a re-teaching of a positive, healthy and secure way of having safe sex, that does not belittle other students family situations, which are already hard enough for them to deal with."
To close the post, she says,
"It is so heartbreaking the hate I was shown today by the adults who are supposed to be our leaders and protectors, and I cannot let it go unnoticed."

In another post, she includes a photo of one of the slides being used and then says that the presentation was run 
"by a completely Christian organization (already a completely innapropriate (sic) and ignorant violation of students varying beliefs)...
Because few people will probably understand why I would choose to write a blog about this issue, I'll confine my discussion to five points:

  1. It is unfortunate but true that Oklahoma schools are required to teach a course about HIV/AIDS. This begs the question "Should schools be teaching students about HIV/AIDS"? How about if and only if at least 75% of the school's population is proficient in reading and math first? Schools are not to assume parental responsibility, they are to provide students with teaching for recognized educational subjects. You can argue that many parents don't educate their children about the ramifications of unprotected sex, however that makes it no less a subject to be taught in the HOME by parents and not at school. It's a chicken/egg argument. Did parents quit teaching their kids about sex before or after the school took the job out of their hands (or was it the legislature that did that?)? What was the rate of sexual contact among students before schools took over the role of parent/sex educator? I can promise you, no kid in my class was ever given a birth control implant without parental consent in the 70's or 80's when I was in school. Today, that's not a big deal to administrators at Langston Hughes Academy in Tulsa. For them, the Federal Government says it's okay (Title 10), so it is!
  2. More than likely, Wilson became offended by what the presenter said about fathers because it mirrors conditions in her own life. Unfortunately, what the speaker said is true. If you're not certain, please Google "girls with absent fathers". Chances are you'll find "The Father Code" which contains these 9 problems associated with absent fathers. Though it could have been said in a much kinder and gentler way to be sure, sometimes there's no way to prevent the truth from hurting. Today, many adults leave marriages because it feels like the 'right' thing for them. These parents are often concerned more about their own needs and feelings than how a broken home will affect the emotional and psychological health of their children. That truth has to hurt kids, too. 
  3. Wilson goes on to say that she was 'treated' with "shame, guilt, and embarrassment" which were "being used as a way to try and prevent sex". Any good counselor would tell her she can't be 'treated' with any of those things because they are feelings people experience. In addition, no one can make anyone else feel an emotion (unless that person is holding a gun to your head and your response of fear is a direct result of that action). Though humans are imperfect, we are able to control our emotions if we train ourselves to do so. Like many of the Snowflake Generation, Wilson was 'triggered' by parts of the presentation, and then proceeded to blame both the school and the presenter for her angst instead of examining her feelings through introspection and making changes in her own reactions based on her own internal discoveries. Wait! Let's substitute a class on taking responsibility for our own actions and feelings in place of Sex Ed, which has never and will never work, anyway.
  4. Wilson wants not only an apology from the school, she wants a "re-teaching of a positive, healthy and secure way of having safe sex". I have no idea of Wilson's relationship status and I'm not applying any of these scenarios to her personally, but this presentation was given to a group of high schoolers - not a group of couples celebrating their 25th wedding anniversaries. So here's the thing - 'positive' and 'healthy' sex is not had in the back seat of a car after a football game, or in a friend's basement during a party, or in your bed while your parents are out of the house - no matter how much you love one another. 'Secure' sex would require trust. If you're gonna have sex with someone you've known for a night, or 2 weeks, or a month, there can't be any real trust between you because you don't know that person well enough to have built that yet. Consequently, 'safe' would be out too because you can't have 'safety' without 'security'. Now there might be a whole lot of hormones and some emotional exhilaration involved in each of these scenarios, but none of the things Wilson has identified wanting the school to teach her are going to be possible unless she's in a monogamous, long-term relationship - a married one to be sure. Something tells me the presenter probably hit those high notes, but again, truth can hurt, and in terms of sex, the 'safety', 'security' truth's are definitely not as 'sexy' as friends, Instagram and movies would have you believe. 
  5. In addition, as the CDC says,  
    So this is embarrassing. Not only is abstinence sex education required by mandate in Oklahoma, but it's the only thing that prevents HIV (the specific topic of the mandate) 100%. It also prevents EVERY OTHER sexually transmitted disease as well, but what the heck, we're just talking about the required HIV/AIDS mandate. Seems kinda dumb for Wilson to complain that the school 'hated' and didn't 'protect' her when they were not only following the law in this case, but providing her with a speaker that would tell her what was right - what was truthful, healthy and affirming about sex - what would keep her healthy, not just what she wanted to hear. Also funny, is that though she complains bitterly about the speaker originating from a Christian organization, she never said the woman was evangelizing - she simply didn't like the message of the presentation - possibly because it went against her pre-conceived ideas about sex
Yes, Brooklyn Wilson was angry about the sex ed presentation at her school. Sadly, the Jenks High School administration, instead of 'protecting' Wilson and 'leading' their student body when they saw Wilson's post make it to the paper, immediately threw the presenter they'd taken time to check out and hire, under the bus to come down on the side of a high school senior who - like other kids her age often do - took to social media to complain about something she didn't like.

Clue here parents and administrators - those in your care ARE CHILDREN, YOU ARE THE ADULTS, maybe it's you we need to school - not in sex, but what are and aren't appropriate, positive and healthy leadership roles.