When Keeping it Real Really Counts

Lean on Me principal guyRealism is an educational philosophy which supports that children should be taught a facts based education.  There’s an “emphasis on critical reasoning through observation”.

I remember right before I went into high school my mother sat me and my two cousins down and made us watch the movie “The Wood“, as our sex education.  After the movie was over I remember her saying, “This is how boys are, now go play.” There were other times where she used to try to encourage me to “getting comfortable” with my body (her words, not mine), which for an 11 year old, is pretty embarrassing, but she was trying, and I give her credit for that.  However, aside from this, the only other sex education I received was the outlines of all the STIs and where babies came from, and then we spent like three weeks on the different ways you could die from drugs, alcohol and driving.  Everything else, I learned from Cosmopolitan magazine, stories from my friends, and my own experience, much like most kids today.  So then I ask myself, what is so terrifying about comprehensive sex education?

So apparently there is this theory, that if you teach the kids sex education, then that means they will go out and do it.  But if this theory is true, then it should be also true, for math, engineering, physics, and economics.

One of the things I do remember being a running theme in school for students, especially high school was, Will I use this in the Real World?  Most of the time the answer was, (insert expletive) No!, but that is not the case for sex ed.  So why do we still not see it as a mandatory subject especially, when Teen Mom is one of the most popular shows on TV?

Now let’s bring it back around.

The Realist classroom is teacher-centered; subjects are taught by a teacher who is impersonal and objective, and who knows the subject fully. The teacher must utilize learner’s interest by relating the material to the learner’s experiences, and by making the subject matter as concrete as possible. He or she maintains discipline by rewarding efforts and achievements, controlling the attention of the individual, and keeping the learner active.

Someone who got it right, is Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder.  She taught for educatorsthat was themed on how to teach sexuality education for male learners.  She identified how adolescent males learned differently and how you had to go in gain their trust before you could even begin to teach them something.  In the lesson, Dr. Schroeder discussed about the generalization of boys, the social development of boys, and also discussed this thing called “boy code”, which listed all the characteristics of what a boy should be like, such as tough, distrusting of adults, not acting like girls, and playing sports.  As a past student of Dr. Schroeder, I know first hand, she utilizes Realism primarily as her educational tool for sex education.

Teaching facts and remaining objective while applying to someone’s lived experience can be somewhat complicated when it comes to comprehensive sex education.  Realism, in most ways can aid in the fact based part, but it’s up to the teacher on the way they apply it. Handled with care, this could be a great recipe for good and useful information being taught and understood.

6 responses to “When Keeping it Real Really Counts

  1. I like the concept of a realist approach, but something that caught my eye was your mention of “knowing a subject fully”. I think it was one of my favorite people in the world, Bill Nye, who said, “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” I love this quote for so many reasons, but in this context I think it serves to remind us that no one can know a subject fully. There’s always more to learn and more to know. I think this fact is part of what’s thrilling about teaching. We learn from our students and they learn from us. It’s unrealistic to expect anyone to have an entirely exhaustive knowledge of any topic, in my opinion (and also in Bill Nye’s opinion, I guess!) Which is a little ironic, considering this is the realist perspective 😉 haha! All we can do is present ourselves as authorities and strive to know as much as we can and hope to impart the intended knowledge to our students.

    • So when I said “knowing your subject fully,” it does not mean knowing everything about your subject because as you stated, that is impossible. What I simply meant, was to do your research and be prepared for any questions that may come up. Will there be a question that is asked that you won’t be able to answer quite possibly? But if you’re teaching a lesson on STIs, it’s imperative that you do all your research on STIs, like the names, how they’re trasmitted, they’re statistics, if they’re curable, etc.

  2. I would point out that realist educational theory is concerned with facts of the physical world, which exist apart from human perception or attitudes and which can be verified and studied. That’s not to say that realist educational philosophy isn’t useful for some parts of sexual education, but I think it is limited because it cannot deal with things like pleasure, relationships, cultural beliefs and attitudes, or boundaries. A realist curriculum on sexual education would focus exclusively on the body and how it acts during sex/pregnancy/disease.

  3. Annalisa: I interpret realist instruction to focus on providing information and options, without inserting morals and values. In my thinking this definitely includes the science-y sections of sexuality education, but also is able to address the more subjective areas of sexuality education (like assertiveness skills, relationship structures, and sexual identity) by presenting a number of options. I think of this as the, “So, this is a thing,” approach–basically stating that there are myriad flavors on the topic, defining a few, and encouraging self exploration and critical thinking.

    However, I also could just completely misunderstand the realism school of education.

    • Erin, I agree with you. Annalissa: While all of those things may not be a part of the realist thoery, from what I understand, almost all things mentioned can be utilized in the realism school of education.

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