When my daughter was in second grade, she brought home a bag of books at her reading level. The bag was shaped like a kraft paper envelope, but was made of a strong fabric. Some nights the bag was yellow, other nights it was orange. Some nights she would read the books inside alone, sometimes aloud and other times I would read them to her. We had to dedicate 20 minutes each evening so that she could complete her monthly form and be recognized for her work.
It’s funny what we remember. I wonder what my daughter’s memories of “baggie books” are. For the most part, I only remember the bags and the time we spent together reading. And then I also remember the one time I thought I was protecting her little being – even though I now know I was just trying to protect myself.
I don’t remember what time of year it was, or if the kids were studying life cycles. I just remember sitting with her and opening a book about frogs. In this book, the frogs have mated. And it wasn’t just the word mated, there was an image of frogs mating. Yeah, a picture of a frog on another frog’s back.
Immediately, I contacted the teacher. Then I spoke to the principal about how I didn’t think it was appropriate for my child to be exposed to this in second grade. I thought she should learn her math facts and how to form sentences. Actually, I’m not sure I was that rational; although I remember that both gave me grace when I expressed my opinion.
I guess at that point I drew from my experience in elementary school (considering I was such a healthy example of an adult) to make assumptions about how my daughter should be taught as well about animals. In second grade, I also knew there were these creatures called frogs; that their life began in a gelatinous substance from which tadpoles are born. These creatures were magical because after about six weeks they had legs, lost their tails and became frogs, changing from water to land, from herbivore to carnivore.
But no one has told me exactly how the jelly-like substance appeared in the first place. Mating, or sex, was quite a taboo idea in my world. First, it was reserved for married people. Second, it was “sacred”. Third, it leads to diseases. Fourth, my parents spent time alone in the shower.
I didn’t know it then, but today I am so grateful for what public education has done for me as I grew into my adult body. When I became a teenager, my mother was too ashamed to tell me what PMS meant, let alone tell me how to take care of myself during my period. It was in adulthood that I completely understood this.
If it hadn’t been for my sixth grade teachers, I might have had a little more trouble. The girls were in one class (it was a small school) and the boys in another. The teachers showed us pictures of our reproductive organs and those of the opposite sex, told us about the changes our bodies would undergo in the coming years and answered all the questions.
These topics were reinforced in grades seven and eight, and in high school health classes. Of course, each subject was very sterile, factual, scientific and sexual intercourse was not promoted. Abstinence was the name of the game (although many were sexually active). Yet even without internet access on our own personal devices, we found Cosmopolitan in the checkout aisle of every grocery store and talked about what we learned over lunch.
People my age should write a book called “Everything I Need to Know About Sex I Learned from Cosmopolitan.”
And everything I learned about cancer screening came from my sex education. Classes. I know the benefits of a Pap smear and how to detect changes in my breast tissue.
Today, at 42, I am grateful for it, even if it was the minimum.
I’m also pretty disgusted with myself for what I did when my daughter was in second grade. My thought was twofold: one, this is not how I was raised and two, if we talk to our children about sex or reproduction, they will be more inclined and curious about something they should hold close. of their chest. And so, I thought I was protecting my child.
What I know now is that not engaging or giving them opportunities to learn something that almost every creature on their planet does or is (a being that has sex organs and is a sex being) , I also left them at a loss to understand what their bodies are going through and will go through on their own.
The other night I was talking to my daughter about breast exams, reminding her to get them every month. I asked her if she knew how to do it, and she said that at school the teacher told them to silently read that paragraph in a book, but they didn’t have to if they didn’t. didn’t want.
Under the teacher’s direction, she felt like she shouldn’t read the material. She recalls being told that the breast and prostate material was “super uncomfortable and fun to read”, so it was the student’s choice whether or not to do so.
I’ve heard many, many stories about how sex education is non-existent, more of an abstinence pledge. Are we so uncomfortable with our bodies that we can’t even teach children to check their breasts for disease? Every human being has breasts, and they all need to be checked regularly for cancer.
Just as the most important thing teachers did for me while I was at school was to teach me about my body, one of the most important things I’ve ever done for my daughter was been walking into my in-laws house with a box of tampons, placing them on the counter. In that moment, she saw that I wasn’t ashamed of the amazing things my body does every month, and she could also have conversations with me about her cycle. It opened the door to some really impactful discussions.
I’m sure my daughter doesn’t remember the frog book. But she remembers the “Kool-Aid activity” where students would pass an “STD” to each other, without really understanding what the STD was, how it affects an individual or how to prevent it; the kids just knew their kool-aid was now the color of their classmates.
The April 2022 edition of Muhammad-Seymour Superintendent Lindsey Hall’s “Bulldog Bulletin” reiterates this approach to sex education.
“Our school board recently voted NOT to adopt the new national sex education standards for teaching in our health classes. We have received many questions about this, and our health curriculum will not change in this area. special education.
(If you missed that vote, it’s because it was on the consent agenda under “press 108.”)
“Sex education has always been optional for students taking a health course. Prior to the start of this teaching unit, if you have a health class student at MSJH or MSHS, you will receive a notice from the teacher regarding this instruction. If you wish to “unenroll” your child, you can do so by contacting the teacher. Alternate assignments will be developed.
It happened again at the April 19 Mahomet-Seymour school board meeting when staff danced around what was being taught in the classroom: ensuring that the standard of teaching students about the dangers of vaping and opioids, but noting that if parents want their child to receive sex education outside of these approaches, they may be able to enroll their student in an after-school BLAST class.
As a parent, I certainly cannot rely on a school to educate my child. I mean, if I want to make sure they use capitals, I have to teach them myself. If I want to make sure they know the end of slavery, I have to teach them myself. If I want to make sure they understand how to divide, I have to teach them myself. And if I want to make sure they understand biology, I have to teach them myself. Ultimately, it is my responsibility to educate my child appropriately.
It is also my responsibility to ensure that my children are better educated and healthier than I was or am. The reality of this has been that I am not the one teaching most of the time; I am one who listens, learns and grows as they help me open my eyes, mind and heart to different points of view and new questions or information.
So why do I remember the frog book? Because I, the adult, was uncomfortable with it. Me. I was and am the one who had the problem. It was outside my comfort zone. And that’s my problem to solve.
In the same way that drug education programs help introduce the risks of drug use to children, often also helping them develop solutions to navigate what could be high pressure situations, comprehensive sex education programs reduce rates of sexual activity, sexual risk behaviors (number of partners and unprotected sex), sexually transmitted infections, and teenage pregnancy. These results are stronger in communities that embrace these efforts.
Comprehensive age-appropriate sex education (very different from sex education) helps children and young people to understand their changing bodies and feelings and to develop safe, healthy and satisfying relationships with others. Later, it also helps them identify life-threatening illnesses in time to seek treatment.
I don’t believe educating my kids about drugs will turn them into addicts in the same way that I don’t believe teaching my kids about their bodies will turn them into anything other than what they will become: humans.
Instead, I understand the importance of sex education in our public and private schools. The reality is that I, along with my siblings, grew up in our adult bodies, whether we were educated about them or not. We write sentences in it and solve mathematical problems, if necessary. Even in those instances that work to meet our obligations, three of us are still menstruating 30 years later, each is raising kids (because we’ve had sex) and we’re all approaching the age we need to pass. mammograms, colonoscopies and a host of other tests as our bodies change again. Honestly, I don’t use math much, but I take care of my body every day.
Today, I no longer look at the subject of mating (or sex) in the same way as I did 14 years ago. I believe there are appropriate ways to talk about how creatures reproduce, how families are formed, and how people relate to second graders. I also believe that we do more harm to children, who become adults, by not talking openly about what our bodies do, need and even want (at some point) simply because it is something that puts the adults in the room uncomfortable for a moment or two.