Will Australia’s New Sex Education Curriculum Keep Kids Out of School?
As a new sex ed curriculum is being adapted and taught in Australian schools to some parent’s dismay, a spotlight is being shined on the somewhat contentious subject matter. With research showing that students are becoming sexually active earlier on and with low rates of reported condom usage as well as unwanted sex it’s important that these students receive the right information about human sexuality at the right time and via appropriate means. But keeping kids interests can be difficult especially when they are already bombarded by sexual images on their computers, tablets, and Smartphones, giving them what may be a false set of facts and an aversion to hearing their sex ed lectured to them from what they may view as an out-of-touch teacher. While sex education is a requirement in most North American schools the curriculum varies greatly as does the teachers interpretations of the prescribed material.
Sex Ed at the Sex Shop
Take in point one educator in Minnesota that made headlines after taking her students on a field trip to a local adult sex toy store. The principal of the Gaia Democratic School in Minneapolis Starri Hedges is also the director and sex education teacher and after a lesson on safe sex she took some of her middle and high school students to local sex shop Smitten Kitten. Some of her students were as young as 11 years old and parents were understandably concerned and angered that their children were brought to a school sanctioned event where they could freely see items like sex toys on display.
The Gaia Democratic School only has about 25 students in K-12 and boasts a motto that promotes academic freedom, democratic education, and youth empowerment. Hedges has defended the field trip and the school board has stood behind her. The contested field trip took place after a lesson on safe sex and a dozen students visited the store to participate in one of their sex education workshops. The workshop was staffed by an experienced sex educator and included a frank discussion about sex.
The complaints from parents were that not only were they unaware that students went to a sex shop, but that once there their children were face to face with various adult material like vibrators, dildos, condoms, fetish gear, and DVDs that adorn the shelves of Smitten Kitten. The backlash after the initial story broke was such that city inspectors visited Smitten Kitten and gave them a citation for having sexual material on display in view of minors. The citation didn’t include any fines and only required corrective action but lawyers for Smitten Kitten still contested and the ruling was later reversed.
The city of Minneapolis has an extensively detailed sex ed policy that promotes early learning based on a belief that high school is too late to begin to learn about human sexuality. And while the parents of students from the rather progressive Gaia Democratic School should perhaps expect some forward thinking interpretation of these and other educational policies and curriculum, some have felt that the school went too far and have removed their children from classes.
The New Sex Ed Curriculum
A similar problem may soon be occurring across Australia as new and highly contested curriculum is brought into schools. Not that it’s expected that Canadian teachers and principals will be interpreting the Liberal governments curriculum as a directive to visit an adult toy store with their students, but the subject matter alone has many parents up in arms. Protests surrounding the issue have cropped up all over the country and stories like the one of the Gaia Democratic School and Smitten Kitten are serving to fan the flames of the sex ed debate as parents are promising to remove their children from schools.
But removing students from school so that they miss out on sex education can have significant, detrimental impacts. The latest national research reveals that most young people learn about sex from school and education programs rather than at home. Research has also revealed that a greater number of young people are becoming sexually active with a low level of consistent condom use as well as increased rates of unwanted sex. With so many competing messages bombarding children about sexuality misinformation is rampant and shows a definite need for a comprehensive, whole school sex ed approach.
1. Canada policy on health education > http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health.html
7. Victorian Australia Policy on Education – http://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/teachingresources/social/physed/pages/aboutwhy.aspx