I was recently confronted by a friend of mine. He claimed that I had very stringent sexual practices, or, in his exact words, that I was a “prude.” I haven’t had many sexual partners, especially being a 26 year old gay male. Whereas some gay men may have double digit sex partners in one year, I may only have one and that is with a constant partner. I’m not very fond of “hooking up”, and I am very cautious about how long I am with someone before there is any physical expression. With that being said, my friend asked me that, as a sex educator, shouldn’t I be experienced and open sexually in order to better serve the students that I teach? As much as I hated his statement, or the idea of being a prude, it did bring up a good point.
What is this idea of real world experience being more important than formal principles? This concept fits very closely with the idea of progressivism or pragmatism, the ideology that greater emphasis should be placed on methods and attitudes rather than on a systematic philosophical doctrine. Progressivism is becoming a very powerful wave in the comprehensive sex ed movement. Students are beginning to take more active roles in their sex education as shown here. Sexuality education does tend to have some hands on aspects, especially curriculum like Making Proud Choices.
However, what curricula like these lack is the opportunity for students to share their experiences, and to develop a real world correlation to the skills and concepts that are being taught in comprehensive sex ed. Students learn how to put a condom on, but don’t get the opportunity to discuss what their experiences with condoms have been. We give students mock scenarios for how to negotiate sex, but neglect to acknowledge experiences that pertain to domestic violence and peer pressure. We teach students about all the different methods of contraception, but fear to talk about withdrawl as a method. When using progressivism as a teaching philosophy, curriculum developers should begin to think on a broader scale of what “comprehensive education” means. Comprehensive education should encompass more than just skills, facts, and scenarios. It should incorporate active learning and active discussion about experiences shared within the given environment, and allow students/consumers to get information pertinent to their specific situations.
Certain high schools in the Philadelphia area are seeking to address the individual needs of high school students through the use of Human Resource Centers, or HRCs. These centers have become more abundant in the city, and have been used to give high school students information on pregnancy, HIV, and STIs, as well as a space to receive individualized counseling on their reproductive needs. Foreign nations such as Germany are light-years ahead of the United States when it comes to this aspect of sex education. As sex educators and curriculum developers, we need to re-shape the notion of “comprehensive” and understand that active learning and real-life relatability is pivotal to actualize the concepts given in these comprehensive sex ed curricula.