Perennialism as an educational philosophy is about teaching scientific reasoning (the how) vs. the facts (the what).
- Similar to essentialism, this perspective advocates a teacher-centered classroom. There is little flexibility in the curriculum and implements strict standards
- Education focuses on “enduring themes” and “questions that span the ages”
- Learning stems mostly from the ‘Great books’ which are written by the thinkers and writers of history (books that are as meaningful today as they were when they were written)
- Goals: develop rational thought and vigorous thinking; sorting mechanisms
- Isn’t depending on facts, because facts and society can change
- Focus is the how and why we teach what we teach to change thinking
- Seminar and discussion focused, based in small groups
- Develops critical thinking skills
- Historically not inclusive of women or people of color
- No place for multiculturalism
- No place for computer technology
- No curricular activities, and no textbooks
Application to Sexuality Education:
- What would be the ‘Great Books’ of sexuality?
- Where do you get messages about sexuality and sexual behaviors?
- What about discrepancies between historical lessons in the ‘Great Books’ in sexuality and our current knowledge?
- What about societal influences of cultures outside of Western cultures? In Western cultures?
Perennialism from a sexuality education perspective includes teaching students about the how and why in sexuality. This may mean teaching about how to make decisions regarding behaviors and boundaries, or why sexuality is an important part of being human. It does not concern itself with choosing the most effective birth control, because the facts supporting those choices could change, and often do.
Lesson Plan Examples
Talking About Sexuality and Values
Purpose: To provide an opportunity for parents and teens to explore values around sexuality
- Which behaviors were easiest to assign to a particular age? Which were hardest? Why do you think this was so?
- Could the age you chose for particular activities by affected by circumstances? Can you give an example?
- Why do you think there were such differences in the ages listed next to some behaviors?
- How did you decide the appropriate age for a given behavior?
- How would you react if your parent (or teen) listed a very different age from one you gave?
- Would gender affect the age you think appropriate for some of the behaviors?
- How would you react if your boyfriend/girlfriend felt very differently from you about appropriate ages for some of the behaviors?
- Close this activity by asking the participants to respond to the following questions:
- By doing this activity, I learned … about myself.
- This activity really made me think about …
- My values …
Full lesson plan found here.
Feelings, Fear, and Frustrations
Purpose: To recognize and articulate some of the emotions that accompany adolescence
- What about being a teenager has caused positive feelings? Which things have caused negative feelings?
- What are some of the reasons that changes occur in adolescence? (Answer: Many reasons, including hormones that affect growth and development, changes in school situations, new pressures from family and friends, sexual maturity and so on.)
- Would you like to be several years younger? Why or why not?
- Would you like to be several years older? Why or why not?
- Are a person’s feelings ever wrong, or bad? (Answer: No, feelings exist and they are always valid, even when they are negative such as anger, jealousy or sadness/depression. People learn as young children that they cannot always act on their feelings, but they should always be able to talk about them to someone they trust.)
- Who would you talk to, or where would you go, if you were feeling especially bad about something? (Answer: Parent, other adult in family, doctor, religious leader, friend, school counselor or nurse, a trusted teacher or program staff person, community crisis center or telephone hot line.)
Full lesson plan found here.
Choosing Words Carefully
Purpose: To practice expressing thoughts and feelings through “I statements”.
- In general, how are “I statements” different from negative messages?
- How do you think the receivers of your positive messages will react? Give examples.
- How easy or difficult is it to use positive “I messages” when you’re talking with someone? Why? (Answers include: There is emotion involved and communicating clearly is more difficult when we are emotional; most people are in the habit of using negative, rather than positive, communication.)
- Is there a situation in your life right now where using an “I statement” might help make the communication more positive? Please describe it.
- Using “I statements” does not guarantee that the communication between you and the other person will go well. Can you think of a situation in which using an “I statement” might backfire or make no difference at all?
Full lesson plan found here.
1) Sears describes several ideologies when discussing sexuality curriculum. One of the ideologies is labeled ‘Libertarian Ideology’ which assumes a libertine perspective, that “celebrates sexuality and sexual diversity,” (Sears, p. 51). It also implies political libertarianism. This perspective states that each individual is in charge of their behavior and what may be ‘right’ for one person may not be for another. It also states that all people accept the ideas of reciprocity (“I must grant you the same freedom of choice you grant me) and consensuality (individuals must enter into relations as consenting adults who agree on the terms of their relationship) (Sears, p.51). Considering these statutes, the libertarian ideology references only consensual adults, because they are the only individuals who hold these rights. The problem arises when considering adolescents who are navigating their own sexualities and making decisions about boundaries and consent to sexual behaviors.
- How do we teach adolescents about their sexual rights in a community with conservative values that extol that they do not have the level of maturity to deal with decision making in sexuality?
- What about teaching about sexual boundaries, or how to recognize date rape?
- Are the ideas about reciprocity and consensuality only applicable to those individuals over 18?
- At what developmental age are the concepts (and realities) of reciprocity and consensuality cognitively appropriate? (That is, legitimately and wholly understood?)
2) Sears discusses how patriarchy is a defining force in why sex education has not been taught properly and efficiently. There is a constant competition of traditional ideologies vs. progressive ideologies as it pertains to gender (Sears, p. 305). Those that side with more traditional methods of how sex education should be taught will favor education being taught in a very concrete manner- that is, that there are only binary genders (i.e. male and female). The separation goes so far as to separate the classrooms by gender in terms of learning. Sears goes on to emphasize that the system of patriarchy perpetuates the categorization of male and female and creates a division of opportunities, roles and rewards which more so favor men (Sears, p. 144). As a result, state legislators adopt this ideology, which is then reflected within the school districts and eventually the classroom.
How can students be better served when incorporating sex education in the classroom, if they aren’t separated by gender?
- How should a teacher address the concerns of students who do not want single-sex sex education (read more about the concerns here)?
- How will students attach meaning to what is taught if they are separated by gender?
- How do teachers take responsibility for what is taught in the sex education curriculum?
- Do the positives of having gendered classrooms outweigh the negatives (pros and cons) ?
- Does the separation of genders foster a sense of learning that allows students to understand other genders?
Sears, J.T. (1992). Sexuality and the Curriculum: The Politics and Practices of Sexuality Education.Critical Issues in the Curriculum.New York: Teachers College Press.