Sex Ed in NYC Public Schools

Even in the most progressive areas, the anti-sex head-in-the-sand crowd seems to be taking over. New York City is introducing new sexual health education curriculum, and it’s a mixed bag. Some of it is good:

High schoolers will learn the difference between sexual harassment and flirting, how to set a sexual limit, and sexual refusal skills. Middle schoolers will learn about reproductive anatomy and the benefits of sexual abstinence.

But, not surprisingly, some of it isn’t so good:

The new curriculum doesn’t teach middle schoolers about birth control, for instance, or address sexual orientation except in the context of AIDS.

Even the good seems to be coming a little late — shouldn’t kids be learning the difference between sexual harassment and flirting well before high school? And shouldn’t they learn about reproductive anatomy before middle school? When 1 in 10 New York City public school students report having sex before the age of 13 — that’s right, 13 — it doesn’t make much sense to avoid teaching them about the naughty bits until they’re in 7th grade, and to not mention contraception until 9th.

The absense of discussion on sexual orientation is also disturbing — especially when it’s only mentioned in the context of AIDS. As Miriam Yeung, of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, says, “When you don’t see info about your life, or your behaviors or your feelings, then you don’t practice any health-promoting behaviors.” And as the article points out, the majority of parents (79%) want their children to learn about sexual orientation in their health classes.

The new curriculum also prohibits condom demonstrations in classrooms, which is just plain dumb. Condoms are most effective when used correctly, so it would make sense that we teach people how to use them correctly. What’s troubling is that if this is happening in New York City — which is pretty overwhelmingly liberal — just imagine what kids in rural Texas are being taught.

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9 comments for “Sex Ed in NYC Public Schools

  1. mythago
    August 14, 2005 at 9:29 pm

    So they’re teaching the kids that lesbians have a lower rate of AIDS than heterosexuals, right?

    The no-condoms thing is not dumb; it’s to shut up people who pop a vein at urban legends of “third graders had to watch a teacher put a condom on a banana.” Now they can say, see, hysterical parents, it says RIGHT HERE that sort of thing is forbidden.

  2. Catherine
    August 14, 2005 at 9:40 pm

    putting a condom on a banana is practice. it’s a lot better than fumbling in the dark or back of a car when the real thing comes along.

    also, since i was until recently one, i can tell you what kids in rural texas are taught: nothing. oh wait, that i can get crazy diseases and die. if you’ve seen the sex ed in the movie mean girls, it’s exactly like that, except instead of a gym teacher the schools spend thousands of dollars on speakers and programs to teach high schoolers absolutely nothing about safe sex other than don’t do it.

  3. August 14, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    It’s interesting that they will not talk about sexual orientation when statistics show that 1 in 10 teenagers is either gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

  4. kathy
    August 15, 2005 at 9:55 am

    Well, I don’t know about rural Texas (I’ll believe Catherine on that one), but in rural WV we got taught absolutely nothing. In sixth grade all the boys were sent out of the room and the teacher told us about our periods, but that was only because a girl started hers in class and totally freaked out. Otherwise, there wasn’t a single thing even remotely related to sex ed even mentioned in school (in a classroom context, plenty of kids were telling each other all sorts of wrong stuff). We didn’t even get the abstinence only crap.

  5. August 15, 2005 at 10:48 am

    I’m appaulled that they aren’t teaching anatomy until after(?!?!) puberty. I grew up in white-bread suburbia and we learned that stuff in 5th grade – intentionally before puberty so we weren’t caught off guard. I even had a condom demonstration (banana) though we still protested to try to get free condoms available. Guess I didn’t know how good I had it, but that was also the more sex-positive 90’s, and AIDS paranoia did motivate a hard-to-miss safer sex phenomenon.

    Some insight into NYC schools – all those famous NY liberals abdicated responsibility for public schools and either leave the city when they have kids, or pony up for private schools. And there’s a lot of variation in quality and content of the programs from school to school (depending on how active the local community is) so you can be sure that some kids will get better quality sex ed.

  6. JenM
    August 15, 2005 at 11:52 am

    In suburban Texas (San Antonio, specifically) we had the puberty films / speeches in 5th grade. I remember being amazed by the myths the film felt were important to mention weren’t true – “you can shower when you are on your period.” I don’t remember any sex-ed classes in middle school at all, and then finally in either junior or senior year of high school we had one class on contraceptives including demonstrations. I vividly remember being told “saran wrap is NOT an option.” This was in the late 80’s – wonder if they added or eliminated anything from the programs…..

  7. August 15, 2005 at 2:00 pm

    My first sex-ed class was in the 5th Grade. I was attending a DoDDS (Dept of Defense Dependents) school, and I’ll never forget the frankness with which our teacher discussed everything. I even remember thinking to myself “WOW, we’re going to learn how lesbians have sex?!” Obviously, I’m glad they felt it was important to make sure every piece of (CORRECT) info they could provide, was given to us, as early as possible.

    This was back in ’92. My how times have changed.

  8. August 15, 2005 at 2:49 pm

    Remember, Dr. Frist says you can contract AIDS from sweat or tears. So don’t exercise close to strangers and don’t let friends cry on you either.

  9. piny
    August 15, 2005 at 5:11 pm

    >>As Miriam Yeung, of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, says, “When you don’t see info about your life, or your behaviors or your feelings, then you don’t practice any health-promoting behaviors.”>>

    You also lose any trust in the educators who seem so narrow and outdated. If you see them as essentially clueless from sixth grade onwards, it won’t make a difference if they attempt to remedy the disparity in tenth grade.

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