One of this week’s controversies explored is sex education in the classroom. Many people believe that parents and families should be the ones responsible for teaching children about sexuality. Others think that the schools should follow a specified sexuality curriculum in addition to parental guidance to teach children about sex. Many parents are uncomfortable with talking to their children about the subject and welcome school involvement. In any case, sex education is taught in two main ways: comprehensive and abstinence-only. According to a 2004 poll by NPR, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, only 7 percent of American say sex education should not be taught in schools (Evans, 2008). Also, 45 percent of the public believes that both abstinence and other topics such as birth control should be taught (Evans, 2008). As of November 1, 2014, 22 states mandate that sex education be provided and 13 states require that, when provided, sex education must be medically accurate (Wikipedia, 2016). Some states require sex education to stress the importance of abstinence and waiting until marriage to have sex. Given the personal nature of this topic, it is no surprise that every state and every school district is different.
“Sex education is optional for Washington’s public schools. The only requirement is five hours of HIV-AIDS education beginning in fifth grade” (Seattle pi, 2005). Furthermore, “the only district-required sex ed is part of a health course mandated in ninth grade” (Seattle pi, 2005). Seattle Public Schools voluntarily teaches the Family Life and Sexual Health (F.L.A.S.H.) program to fifth graders. The F.L.A.S.H. program was developed by the Public Health Department of Seattle/King County (King County website, 2015). This program was being introduced one afternoon at the school where I volunteer. Interestingly, two girls said that their parents had requested they not participate and they were sent to the office to read while the program was conducted that day.
As a future teacher, it will be my job to instruct my students according to the curriculum I’m given by the district. It is not my place to decide which topic to stress more than another, just as it is not my place to teach the use of contraceptives over abstinence. A sex education program is fraught with moral and religious issues, and I hope to be able to navigate the curriculum should I teach fifth grade at any point in my career, or if the sex education program is expanded to younger grades.
Evans, Dennis. (2008). Taking Sides: Clashing Views of Controversial Issues in Teaching and Educational Practice. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Questions about the Family Life And Sexual Health (F.L.A.S.H.) Curriculum (May 27, 2015). Retrieved April 28, 2016, from http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/personal/famplan/educators/questions.aspx
Sex education in the United States. (n.d.) In Wikipedia. Retrieved April 28, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_education_in_the_United_States
State issues guidelines on sex ed. (2005, January 14). Seattle pi. Retrieved from http://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/State-issues-guidelines-on-sex-ed-1164265.php