Do Kids Need More Education?
Thursday, August 18, 2011Tweet
Somehow this turned into Sex Ed Week at Faith Permeating Life... so let's round out the week with one more post.
Macha left this great question on my honeymoon myth post:
Am I crazy or does every post you write really come down to "More education please!!!" ;)
The answer is: Yes and no. (Well, I mean, every post? No. But do I believe kids need more education? Yes and no.)
We put a lot of pressure on our official education system (by which I mean primary and secondary school, either public, private, or homeschool). When I was in college, it seemed like every discussion of a problem stemming from ignorance came down to "kids ought to learn this in school"!
One thing that I do think is missing from most schools is financial literacy. It seems like kids are always asking for practical applications -- "when am I going to use this stuff?" -- and this is one area that I think would be to the benefit of everyone. It wouldn't require adding an additional subject, since it could be taught alongside the relevant math concepts. And I think our English classes could include media literacy when discussing plot and storytelling.
But the truth is, kids already spend a lot of time in school. Despite the push from some corners for longer school hours, I don't think that more time with some of the teachers I had would have done any good. I doubt I would have learned more by spending an extra hour a week with my middle school science teacher whose sole goal in life seemed to be to make us feel as stupid as possible, or with my high school French teacher who spent class reading aloud from a book in French and translating each sentence into English -- after we'd already done that for homework the night before.
For the most part, I don't think *more* education is what's needed. I think it's better education.
As much as I love to rant about the quality of education in this country, for the moment I'm going to stick to my original topic of sex ed.
From both my personal experience and that of others I've talked to, it seems that sex ed curriculum at most schools is treated as a necessary evil.
That is, it is not approached as "We really need to equip kids to be sexually healthy, to feel good about their bodies, and to make intelligent, informed decisions about their sexual activity."
It is instead usually taught in a way that seems to be a reaction of fear and resignation. Fear of kids getting STDs and getting accidentally pregnant -- so let's show them pictures of STDs so they'll be too freaked out to have sex (clearly that's working well). And then, well, if you insist on having sex anyway, here are your options for contraception. (Unless, of course, you're getting abstinence-only education, in which case we'll just use fear and authority to keep you from having sex for as long as possible).
I've already written about what I think good sex ed looks like, so I'm going to try not to repeat myself, but in thinking more about it, I don't think this kind of change can happen until everyone -- teachers, administrators, parents, and everyone else -- starts to think about sex ed differently.
Right now it is based on a kind of deficit model: Here is this problem, so let's throw fear and information at kids to get them to behave the way we want.
I suggest conceptualizing sex ed more like skill-building -- not in the sense of "here's how you put a condom on," but teaching students how to have a conversation about sex before they have it; how to take care of their body and be respectful of their partner's body; for women, how to pay attention to their signs of fertility. And they don't have to learn everything in health class -- let's give kids scripts for talking to their parents and their doctor about sex.
It's not more education, exactly, it's just a different way of thinking about and planning the lessons that are already built into the curriculum.
What is one thing you wished you'd learned in sex ed class? Leave it in the comments!