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Sex Education Standards

Will we ever have a national curriculum in this subject?

We’ve all suffered through sex ed classes in school. Sweaty-pitted boys and flushed-faced girls staring at an equally-embarrassed twenty-something gym teacher trying to explain reproduction in the stalest way he can. I didn’t learn about sex in that class; I barely heard what the teacher was saying through all the giggles. I don’t think this torturous experience is much different for anybody, and although the maturity levels of the students being taught probably won’t change, the curriculum might. 40 sex and health education experts are calling for “The National Sexuality Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12” to be implemented in classrooms nationwide.

Students benefiting from these standards will be younger than in the traditional classes. Second grade will be the beginning of the curriculum, with students learning about human reproduction and the names for body parts. By the fifth grade, students should understand the purpose and workings of puberty, information about the transmission of HIV, and understand the concept of sexual harassment and abuse. Eight graders should know about emergency contraception, the concept of gender roles, and abstinence education, while high school graduates should be able to describe how to use a condom.

Currently, American students have no standardized sex education curriculum, although most receive around 17 hours of instruction before they graduate high school. The only standardized curriculum ever put in place was years of government-funded abstinence-only programs, a policy that is obviously not working; American teen pregnancy rates are some of the highest in the industrialized world. According to proponents of the education standards, these educators don’t actually believe a standardized curriculum will be put in place—at least not yet—but want to get people talking about what kids should know about sex at various ages. Proponents of the sex education standards say that sex education standards like these are entirely appropriate because by students enter middle and high school, they already have conceived notions, usually incorrect ones, about sex.

Of course, the idea has its detractors. Some abstinence-only education proponents think that conversations about sex should happen at home—if they happen at all. It seems that after all these years, proponents should know that abstinence-only education doesn't work. Certainly, if they want to tell their kids to wait until marriage that's their prerogative, but keeping kids--all kids, not just theirs--completely in the dark about sex makes the already-heady mystique of it that much more intriguing.

What do you think about the National Sex Education Standards? Do you think that these standards, or similar standards, will ever be implemented in American schools?