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Sex Education in Schools

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James Edward Ko 091970 En12 S06 March 18, 2011

Let's Talk Sex, First-Graders

"Why the first grade?" That usually is the first thing that goes a person's mind when talking about sex education given to kids at an early age. Follow-up statements may be like "Does not it do more harm than good?" or maybe "It is too early to teach first graders about sex". We usually get similar thoughts about sex education given to students at a very early age. However, it should be clear that this paper emphasizes 'Age-appropriate' sex education starting at their first grade. Hence, five or six year old kids will obviously not be taught how to have sex or even about masturbation, at the very least. Sex education, like learning mathematics, is a process. They should not be taught about long division with decimals that that early age. Similarly, age-appropriate sex education cannot be taught to kids in a matter of five weeks' time. It is always done one step at a time.

At this age, where kids are now bombarded with media, they have come to be naturally curious on almost everything, including sexual matters. Also, they are now starting to know the differences between right and wrong: they feel good when they do good and feel guilty when they do wrong. Because of this, they become doubtful when asking about sexuality because they may think it is not appropriate to do so because they have this mentality that anything that is related to sex is only for adults. Adults, in turn, will have a hard time discussing to their kids about sexuality because of the uncomfortable behavior the kids show, making parents feel they are doing something 'wrong' (Gossart). However, as stated earlier, sex education (whether at home or at school) need not be anything hardcore. Simple lessons like differentiating boys from girls and about family is a good way to start introducing them to sex education (see appendix for full curriculum from grade 1 to high 4). Also, kids at this point in their lives should be taught that "no one has the right to touch him in ways he doesn't like" (Gossart), and this goes more especially to young girls. And since kids can be easily manipulated by adults, parents or teachers should tell them these things at an early age. However, there will still always be an issue about 1st grade being too early. To address the problem, teachers or parents can answer kids' question in a simple, clear and short manner. In this way, it answers the kids' curiosity but does not go too far as to being very curious that might lead to self-exploration on sex. And given that kids nowadays are exposed to many kinds of sexuality through media, it might as well be that the parents/teachers are the ones to explain to them in detail and clear things out (Gossart). For this matter alone, a little too early is better than a little too late. We should not forget that the main purpose of said course is to give adequate knowledge, at least at an early age, so that they would know what they will experience when they reach puberty, or even parenthood (Hyde 523).

Teaching first graders about the different attributes a boy has from a girl may seem just common knowledge for some of us, but in fact, it is very crucial. In their first two years in elementary is when they really depend on grownups to tell them what to do. "If you lead a person to expect something, they tend to interpret whatever happens as bearing out what they were led to expect" (Caplan, and Caplan 41). For example, when an adult tells a child he is not very good in math, the child immediately believes it. Then, once he is faced with a mathematical problem that he is not familiar with, he will get intimidated and would probably not even bother trying to answer it. This just shows how a child can easily be influenced by a grown-up. This attitude intensifies if the recipient looks up to the person, like a parent or a teacher. Thus, when they are taught what are the things a boy/girl should or should not do, they tend to bring that into their knowledge as they grow up. However, sex education at first grade should not be limited to gender differences. The concept of family (parents, siblings and relatives), how a baby is made and giving appropriate names about the body are all part of age-appropriate sex education and can be taught to first graders. Now one might say that with all this information given to kids, they may be confused and get discouraged on learning more about sexuality. However, "the bottom line is that children are more concerned and confused when they only have bits and pieces of information... or misinformation. It leaves much to their imagination, which can fabricate some rather frightening details" (Gossart). For example, kids at an early age (5-6) would feel that playing with dolls is only for girls and if a guy would play such toys, the boy would immediately lose his gender identity and would now become a girl (Ciccarelli 337). So it is the job of the teacher or the parent to at least try to discover what their child knows and spot the information that needs to be corrected. Carolyn et al. says it shortly but straight to the point: "youth lack accurate knowledge about the body, sexuality and sexual health" (Sobritchea et al. 29). So in a quick glance, all these may seem that we are underestimating a child's knowledge, but, in truth, we may be overestimating them.

Adolescents

Now, one might ask, "So what if they lack sexual knowledge? They are just kids." Precisely the point! One must consider the long-term effects that an early sex education given to kids will reap. And it is only through starting at an early age will kids be able to learn what to expect when they reach a very crucial stage in their life: puberty.

Before going further, let us first define what puberty actually means.

"Puberty is not a point in time, but rather a process. It is the stage in life during which the body changes from that of a child into that of an adult, with secondary sexual characteristics and the ability to reproduce sexually. (In fact) it is the second most important period--the other being the prenatal period--during which sexual differentiation takes place" (Hyde 59).

So obviously, one can say that puberty does not happen in a matter of days, but years--many years. This raises a concern. If kids do not have concrete foundation about their sexualities, it will not take very long for them to get confused, if not unsure, about themselves during the said process.

For example, usually, "girls reach puberty earlier than boys do" (Martin 21). This means that

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