I have enjoyed reading MacKenzie Mays’ series in The Bee regarding sex education and teen pregnancy very much and I understand there are still pieces coming. I particularly related to the one on Aug. 6 talking about new California laws requiring sex education but school leaders not being happy about it and actually defying the law.
One might wonder why this topic is interesting to me.
My seven children are all completely grown up and out in the world raising their own families. Besides the obvious tragedy of teen pregnancy and its far-reaching ripple effect on many people, I have another reason for concern.
In 1977, yes 40 years ago, I received a master’s degree from Fresno State in health science. My emphasis was on (guess what) sex education! For my thesis, I researched the topic throughout American history and wrote a complete curriculum to teach this subject to junior high school students. The goal was to present factual information to students without being judgmental.
I divided the course into 13 units to be taught separately in class periods or condensed as time permitted by qualified teachers.
I had the good fortune to be able to teach this curriculum several times while doing this project. I received positive feedback from parents and students and enjoyed it all very much. Fresno State actually had me teach a graduate class using this lesson plan.
The class was one of those three-hour classes once a week and was populated with teachers, police, nursing students etc. all wanting to learn about teaching in this area.
My rather vague goal at the time was to become a consultant for a school district and help teachers to teach this subject comfortably. I visited with Ernie Poore, who was the current Fresno County Superintendent of Schools. He blamed the lack of this kind of program on fear of controversy and backlash from parents.
To quote him, “Governing boards simply don’t want controversy.”
Ann Gabel, who was director of Fresno County Nursing Services, was also interviewed. She listed three reasons that prevent sex education to be offered in our schools.
▪ Difficulty in getting administrative permission regarding parent objection, lack of teacher training and political implications.
▪ Budget constraints like teacher training and material costs.
▪ Parent reaction might be small but likely very vocal and politically incorrect.
Looks like we were mostly blaming the parents, which was probably true at that time. Who is to blame today? Probably still the parents directly and indirectly.
Even though well educated parents find it difficult to talk to their children about this topic, some seem not to want anyone else to discuss this subject with their kids. Add to this the many parents that are not capable of handling this or just don’t care and you have the situation we have today – too many teen pregnancies.
If I had my way, there would be several health educators in our school districts teaching mental health, dental health, nutrition, sex education – the list goes on. If this dream were ever to happen, perhaps parents would be more confident about this whole area. I know it would cost more money, but I think it would be money well spent.
I will get off my soap box now and get back to my regular life of selling travel, but I will eagerly await the next Mays’ story. In any case, it was fun reading my 40-year-old thesis and sadly realizing nothing much has changed in this delicate area.
Joanne Lippert is a senior consultant with Altour. Connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.