This is the post where I mostly beat myself up, so if you see yourself here – my apologies. I’m not attacking you. I’m attacking me.
I want to start with a big, giant ARGH!
I read this article about what people want from sexual education.
It’s the same things we hear over, and over, and over again when we ask youth what THEY want.
Coincidentally, it’s also the same things that we hear over, and over, and over again when we ask adults what they want their children to learn.
That is NOT what is being taught in the majority of schools across this country.
80% of parents want comprehensive, inclusive, sexual health education being taught in schools.
Meanwhile, only 22 states in the nation mandate that it be taught, and only 12 states mandate that sex education be medically and scientifically accurate.
What’s up with that?
If the vast majority of parents and students want it – why isn’t it happening?
I was thinking this over when I had my ARGH moment and started kicking myself.
Because, despite my new vocation – I am part of the problem.
An example – two years ago I donated some books to the school library.
The books were written for elementary aged children.
My kids didn’t need them anymore, they agreed that their friends most certainly DID.
The librarian agreed.
BUT… She wasn’t allowed to put them out where the children could access them. She was only allowed to put them in her office, where teachers and parents could check them out.
And… I let her!
I didn’t ask her to tell me who made this decision so that I could contact them and demand an explanation for keeping age appropriate, medically accurate information out of the hands of children.
I didn’t even blog about it here.
I did exactly nothing.
I let the censorship brigade win.
I pandered to the lowest common denominator – FEAR.
Fear that one child would take home those books and one parent would be upset and yell.
And I treated the fear of that scenario as a reasonable justification for keeping important, valid, potentially life saving information out of the hands of children who need and want it.
But I’m learning – and I’m working to correct my mistake.
Here’s what I’m doing – I wrote to the librarian to ask if anyone had checked out those books, and who was the final decision on whether they got shelved. (Mind you this same library is allowed to stock the full unabridged Bible which is full of rape and incest, so a children’s book about body parts really isn’t that scary by comparison.)
I have also written to both the school board and the superintendent of the school district to remind them of my state’s laws about sex education, including the updated bill that was recently passed and which asserts that all children in our state have the right to medically accurate information about their bodies and their sexuality so that they can make safe and healthy choices for themselves.
I am awaiting answers from all parties.
The other thing that I think we all need to do is challenge the challengers.
We need to make it so that one upset parent does NOT have the power to remove books, media or other sources of information from our schools.
Instead of a school reacting to an outraged parent by banning a book or removing it from shelves and denying access to ALL of the other children, the school should sit that ONE parent down and explain why that book is there in the first place – the same reason the school is – to educate children, offer them new points of view, give them information about things that interest them, answer questions, encourage their quest for knowledge, spark conversations…
Because here’s the thing, our society already offers parents who want to bubble-wrap and protect their children from the influences of the world many options for doing so.
They can go full-bore and home school, limiting every facet of their children’s education and worldview to what they, the parent, deems acceptable. (Personally I think this is a form of child abuse, but I have had many, many friends tell me that it is FREEDOM!)
They can enroll their children in charter schools or private schools that cater to their world view.
They can also OPT OUT of things like sex education and send in notes letting staff know that their children aren’t allowed to check out certain books or access certain types of material. If they’re paying attention, they can pre-read assignments to make sure the content is suitable for their delicate flower.
It is not the school’s job to protect children from the world. It is the school’s job to PREPARE them FOR the world.
In order to do that, they have to be able to teach to the needs and desires of the highest seeking students. They have to be allowed to reach for the stars, not be tied to the tracks.
And the only way that’s going to happen is if we get as vocal as the fear mongers. If we challenge the schools to stand up to the bullies. If we have their backs when they do.
Parents have threatened to pull their children out of school if the schools taught the word penis. So the schools stopped.
I know, for so many of us, we think, well, okay – I can teach my child that at home, it’s no big deal…
But it is – it’s a REALLY big deal. Because what happens to other people’s children affects you. It affects all of us.
We need to reach out – with all the love and wisdom in our hearts – and we need to educate the people who don’t understand that penis isn’t a bad word, vagina isn’t a bad word – and they aren’t bad body parts either. They are normal, natural, healthy parts of who and what we are and our children deserve to be able to name them.
If we want these things being taught, we need to rise up and demand it. We need to get loud, get vocal, get organized and we need to hold our schools accountable.
We are the majority, and they need to hear from us.