A number of teachers, parents and students have told me about their personal discomfort after reading some of the articles on sex that appeared in the Jan. 16 issue of The UltraViolet. These adults were asking me, “Should kids be reading this?” By “kids” I think they meant Middle School students, though I have heard from some older students that the subject matter was difficult for them as well.
I certainly can imagine myself in high school wanting to write such articles. They would have made me feel “edgy” and shocking. But, as an older teen, I would not have been thinking about my audience (except students near my own age and perhaps some teachers) and certainly wouldn’t have thought about the appropriateness of delivering this kind of information to a younger audience.
Physical Education instructor Tinka Brown gives her 9th Grade Health class great information about how a young woman’s body develops, the physical aspects of sex and reproduction and the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, many of our older students have gotten information about safety, assertiveness and interpersonal violence from our IMPACT Self-Defense classes. These classes probably helped older students to put the articles in The UV into perspective and gave them a forum in which they could ask questions about things they didn’t understand.
Some may be wondering, “Why shouldn’t Middle School students be aware of the answers to the survey that appeared in the paper or the first-person account of one student’s casual sexual experience?” The answer is simply that sex is a loaded topic. Students that have insufficient preparation to understand the articles are likely to be frightened, confused or misled about sexual experience. Without a forum for discussion that’s a real harm.
Sex and sexuality are topics that ought to be discussed with students of all ages in presentations that are appropriate to their age, maturity and level of interest. Teens, especially, are grappling with their beliefs about gender, sexuality and sexual behavior. All the more reason, I believe, that this topic needs to be presented with a gradually increasing level of sophistication in a forum where questions and concerns can be addressed.
Emily Sears Vaughn,