In an era of so much compulsory (some might say compulsive) standardized testing in schools, one of the many challenges faced by those who teach sexual health education is that there are often no agreed-upon standards. Most states mandate some kind of sex education or HIV instruction, but few make a point of requiring certain important topics, such as contraception or healthy decision-making, to be discussed. Content varies widely between individual curricula and is often tainted by political or religious agenda.
The Future of Sex Education Initiative is looking to fill this void. A group of sexual health organizations that includes Advocates for Youth; the American Association of Health Education; the American School Health Association; the National Education Association – Health Information Network; and the Society of State Leaders of Health and Physical Education collaborated to produce this comprehensive document of what they believe children should learn about sexuality from elementary school through high school graduation.
Some of the standards outlined include:
By the end of second grade, students should be able to use proper names for body parts; explain that all living things reproduce; identify different types of family structures; explain that everyone has the right not to be touched; and explain why bullying and teasing are wrong.
By the end of fifth grade, pupils should be able to describe the female and male reproductive systems; understand changes during puberty; define sexual orientation as “the romantic attraction of an individual to someone of the same gender or a different gender;” define HIV and ways to prevent it; describe healthy relationships; and define teasing, harassment, bullying and sexual abuse.
By the end of eighth grade, students should be able to differentiate between gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation; explain the range of gender roles; describe the signs of pregnancy; compare and contrast behaviors including abstinence to determine potential disease transmission risk; define emergency contraception and its use; and explain why a person who has been raped or sexually assaulted is not at fault.
By high school graduation, students should be able to analyze how brain development impacts changes in adolescence; define sexual consent and how it affects sexual decision-making; explain why using tricks, threats or coercion in relationships is wrong; and compare and contrast laws related to pregnancy adoption, abortion, and parenting.
This certainly seems like a step in the right direction. What do you think? Do the standards seem like something you could incorporate into your teaching? Are they too ambitious? Too political? Leave us a comment to let us know what you think!