Unlike some parents, I don’t object to sex education in the schools. Sex and religion are both sensitive topics, best taught in the home. But you can’t always dance around or avoid the subjects in education, and some parents are so queasy about either or both, they never teach them at home either. So they are taught in school, though usually in the blandest way possible, so as not to offend the people who have strong opinions on what may and may not be said to their wards. Personally, I was hoping for insipid and dull sex education: it’s just enough information and nothing more. But I do have friends who object to sex education in school, and they’d given me dire warnings. And I’ve always been a paranoid mama. Would the the children have to denounce their families’ heterosexism? Might the teachers put on a porn movie and tell the students to take notes? It really didn’t seem likely, because the school staff, whatever flaws there might be, still struck me as largely cognizant and respectful of mainstream values, but you never know.
And so, I was grateful the school was letting curious parents find out what would be taught in the class. And I have to say I was more worried about the preview than the material I was going to preview. Would I be the only parent there, while all the others had already decided “whatever” or “no freakin’ way?” And if so, would I be facing down a single teacher asking me what my hang-up with school sex ed was, and why was I the one weirdo wasting her time with questions about the program?
So I was deeply relieved when it was obvious early on that many of the other parents were coming to the preview, and for just the same reasons as me: they just wanted to see what the program was about. In the end, about 40 parents crowded into the same classroom, just to watch some old videotapes on a TV.
It turned out to be all I expected and could want in a public school sex ed program, in short, really bland and non-threatening. There were three videos (as in on VHS tapes) that the children would see, all of which dated back to the early 1990s. They were corny, in a way a 10-year-old could appreciate. The subject was essentially “welcome to your puberty!” with a subtext of “everyone else is as clueless as you, and you are way too young to have sex.” The last video, sponsored by Tampax, went on and on about tampon insertion techniques, and the old-school sex education part of me appreciated the moment of mind-numbing boringness and irrelevancy. There was nothing I could take offense at, and I appreciated the way it’s being presented, too.The children will also be segregated so that boys will be with a male teacher, and girls with a female teacher, and all will write their questions (or pretend to write so that those with questions won’t be obvious) so they can be answered without fear of peer pressure. I’m sure some kids will ask obnoxious questions but that sort of stuff would come up at some point outside of the classroom anyway.
I am sorry to say I think most of the material will be new to Neil. He’s so young and prepubescent that I haven’t broached the subject of physical development with him; it just hasn’t been relevant. But my mother put “Where Did I Come From?” in my hands when I was 8, and she’d laugh at my prudish American ways. So I hope he’ll ask questions, and if not, we’ll come back to the subject ourselves when he’s interested in it.