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Let's Talk About Sex, Montana


I remember when I was in grade school, sex education was taught to us in fifth grade.  I believe that they spent about two hours on it and most of it consisted of badly animated movies of a very happy sperm swimming upstream to meet up with an equally happy egg only to join together and well you know what happens next.  The egg wakes up with a bad hangover only to look at the smiley sperm lying naked next to her and wonders how she got there and why her panties are around his neck.  Seriously, that is all we got.  There was no mention of love or marriage, foreplay or how the sperm got in there in the first place, and certainly no mention of any of the other creative ways that two people could express there undying lust for each other, although looking back on it, that would have been awesome!  But I was not that lucky, at least not as lucky as the fifth grade class that my oh so cute, blond and perky, twenty something wife taught during the first year of our marriage.  It was her first year teaching science to fourth and fifth graders and she was assigned the task of teaching the fifth graders sex ed.  The first thing I thought to my self was somewhere there is a group of fifth grade boys who can’t wait to get to science class!  Whereas I got two hours of “instruction” in this subject, her students received two weeks.  By the time she was done, each one of her students could name each position of the Kama Sutra and had memorized five pickup lines.  But seriously, her curriculum was very appropriate for the age of the students.  The parents had the option of having their child opt out of those lessons, and my wife pulled it off with the grace, style and professionalism that I knew that she was fully capable of.
Now let’s fast forward to today, and a sleepy little town called Helena, Montana.  Actually Helena, the capital of Montana, is not that little with a population of about 29,500 and home to such notables as Gary Cooper, the A-Teams Dirk Benedict, Liz Claiborne, and L. Ron Hubbard the founder of Scientology.  Helena is the type of place where you can stroll down its quiet streets that have retained the feel of the old west, and with a murder rate of zero for 2007 and 2008, feel safe while you admire the 18th century, gold rush architecture.  It is also a place that has turned the subject of sex education upside down and has created a national uproar that had not been seen since sex education was first introduced to our educational system in the 1970’s.  The Helena school board has put forth a proposition that would teach school children, as young as kindergarten, sex education using anatomical terms such as penis, vagina, breast, nipples, testicles, scrotum and uterus.  It would teach first graders about same-sex relationships, and would teach fifth graders that intercourse can not only be done vaginally, but also anally and orally.  That’s right.  It teaches fifth graders about blow jobs. Here is an actual excerpt from the proposal.  “Understand that sexual intercourse includes but is not limited to vaginal, oral, or anal penetration; using the penis, fingers, tongue or objects.” Objects?  What, are they going to bring in vibrators and dildos?  It’s interesting, talking to a ten year old on the internet about blow jobs is called a felony, but at school in Helena it’s called standard course work.  I mean really, at ten years old most girls don’t even like boys yet.  Are they really ready to be told that they can be used as a human popsicle?  According to one school board member they even want to teach high school kids about erotic art and anxiety about sexual performance.  Thank g-d they did not have this curriculum in the 1950’s or Woody Allen may not have made a single film.
But having actually read the proposal (Helena Proposal) I have to say that I applaud them for there honest, well meaning intentions.  This is a crazy time that we live in where girls from as early as 12 years old up think that giving a blow job to a boy is less intimate then having intercourse, where sexting, or the sending of sexual pictures of ones self via a text message to a friend, is common place, and where hard core sexual content is readily available on the internet for anyone of any age to access.  The sexual pressures that kids experience today is light years beyond what we ever had to deal with as kids and the truth is, the way sexual education is taught in this country probably does need to be re-examined.  For example, included in the proposal from the Helena Public School System are proposed guidelines on talking to students about sexual predators, when it is alright for an adult to touch certain private parts and when it is not, and who to talk to if an adult does touch them in a way that the child does not feel is right. But also included in the proposal is the discussion of family and who can be parents, including same-sex relationships.  While I am 100 percent in favor of same-sex couples right to marry and raise children I think that the Helena Board of Education is missing what the real issue is that needs to be addressed.  Same-sex marriage is really part of a larger picture that should be dealt with by our educational system.  What needs to be taught to our children is the concept of tolerance, the concept of acceptance, the concept that it is alright for people to be different then us or our peer groups and that there are many kinds of people and families in this world and it is not our place to place judgment on an other person or group.  What needs to be taught is that discrimination of any kind is not only morally wrong but also legally wrong whether it is racial, sexual, or whatever, and to let that discussion be open to what ever questions our children may have. 
Where I think the Helena Board of Education’s intentions were completely misguided was with students from forth grade down.  Quite simply, at that age it is not appropriate for the public school system to discuss in detail the anatomical names of a persons private parts. Children of that age range are not mature enough to take this discussion seriously, and at this age the discussion of private parts should be between the child and the parents.  There are endless resources on the internet and at bookstores for parents on how to address this discussion with there kids if they don’t know how or are nervous about talking about it with their kids.  In addition, it is not the place of our educational system to teach first graders about homosexuality as proposed by the Helena Board of Education.  This again is a subject that should be up to the child’s parents on how and if they want to address this with their child. 
After reading what was proposed by the Helena Board of Education I have trouble believing that they truly thought that this would just sail right through with no controversy.  I was waiting for someone to yell out April fools while reading this but that simply did not happen.  It is clear that a great deal of time and thought went into putting this proposal together and minus some of the highly controversial items that the press has reported on, it is a very impressive and a quite comprehensive plan that many educational systems around our country could draw from. 
In writing this proposal I think its authors were acknowledging the fact that our world has changed and many of our young people are simply growing up with out certain fundamental skills and information that unfortunately they are not getting from their parents or their peer groups.  To many young people are getting pregnant way before they are ready and others have no idea what to do or where to go when sexually abused.  The internet has become a virtual playground for sexual predators and both children and parents are ill equipped to deal with it.  Children are bombarded with sexual images and peer pressures that they simply are not prepared for.  Most sexual education programs were created way before the evolution of Facebook or MySpace, texting or the iPhone, and just as technology has evolved, how we teach sex ed must evolve as well.  But ultimately it is the parents not the schools who are responsible for what kind of adults their children turn out to be.  Maybe it’s not just the children who need sex ed.




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Jeanne Thatcher

If you went to school in Sweden it would be completely natural for children to learn about sex, as they do about other life issues, from early elementary school. They feel very natural about their bodies, have sex later, fewer unplanned pregnancies and STIs. So, where's the problem? We are still so backward and Victorian - dare I say Dark Age influenced - that its no wonder we have the sexual problems we have in this neurotic, fearful, hysterical society.

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