Final Update & Project Summary

My final project has taken on a much different identity than I was originally planning for it to. While my original goal was to sample many different sexual education curricula from various high schools in New York, obtaining such information proved extremely difficult and ultimately did not end up panning out the way I had hoped. What I am proud of, however, is the end sample curriculum that I created. It was much more time consuming than I expected to create the lessons, think of sample situations, select readings that related to topics, and design assessments and homeworks.

As a whole, my project helped to grow my perspective of sexual education and human sexuality, increased my overall knowledge of sexual health and issues related to sex, and most importantly, allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the importance of “sexual citizenship.” In fact, if I had to define my curriculum, it would be one of sexual citizenship. Citizenship can be defined as behavior in terms of the duties, obligations, and functions of a citizen. But what are these duties, obligations, and functions? I argue that they are to maintain and protect certain universal values for all other citizens whether locally, nationally, or globally. These values include wrongness of harming another human, respect, fairness, freedom, equality, rationality, and human happiness. But why should sexual education of all things have to involve a sense of morality or ethics? Because at it’s core sexual education is essentially education about relationships between people, and this human interaction immediately draws in an ethical dimension.

To give a sense of how values-based reflection can be hugely powerful in a sex ed curriculum, I would like to use the topic of sexual assault and rape to demonstrate. There has been an emerging argument that students should not be taught how to avoid being raped, but that they need to be taught not to rape in the first place. In majority of curricula currently available, the few that do discuss sexual assault usually do so from the viewpoint of a victim in which steps must be taken to avoid being a victim in the first place. Don’t walk alone, cover your drink, don’t accept drinks from anyone, don’t drink to begin with, and so on. But I have yet to hear of a discussion that centers on why rape is so criminal, often seen as more criminal than say a robbery. Reflect on the values of wrongness of harming another human, respect, fairness, freedom, equality, rationality, and human happiness. If students are prompted to reflect on the moral reasoning on why sexual assault is so harmful, why consent is necessary, and why it is their obligation to protect others rights, sex ed can teach far more than basic facts, but encourage development of citizenship and morality.

I have been asked if I realistically expect schools to be open to a curriculum that includes sensitive, difficult questions and lessons that bring up topics such as abortion, LGBTQIA identities, how to properly put on a condom, and others. My answer is no, I don’t expect many schools to readily jump on board. The current political and social divides the United States faces would not allow for national, and probably not even state or local unity when it comes to sex ed. This is a frustrating point for me because biology does not differ between Texas and Washington and Maine; babies are made the same way and can be prevented by the same methods regardless of geographic region. Domestic violence is not restricted to a single state. Equal rights for the LQBTQIA population, gender and racial stereotypes, and reproductive rights are all topics we face on a daily basis in this country whether or not some people acknowledge them. So while my answer is no, I don’t expect many to openly accept a curriculum centered around “sexual citizenship,” I hope the time comes soon in which we realize more harm than good is caused when information and discussion surrounding these issues are not introduced to students in a safe, respectful, educational setting.

I leave anyone reading this with the following challenge. Next time you are watching the news or reading an article or listening to a random conversation that mentions decreasing funding for Planned Parenthood, how states are navigating abortion laws, that the charges of a sexual assault on some college campus were ultimately dropped due to lack of evidence, that new all-gender bathrooms will be installed in the office, or anything else, look at it through the lens of values. Your values may be different than the ones I listed here, but your values are your guide through the rights and wrongs of life. This is not equivalent to politics, but rather to your own morality. Imagine life from the perspective of someone else. If you were born into their shoes, what kind of life would you want to have? This project has enlightened me to ask the same questions, to intimately understand that sex ed can teach about condoms and birth control, sure, but ultimately needs to teach about the relationships they will be involved in with friends, family, sexual partners, peers, and people who seem completely different from themselves. It is far more important that sexual education helps to encourage students to grow into citizens with not only a strong sense of right and wrong, but also an understanding of why things are right and others wrong. In doing so, sexual education can be a facilitator of a more united, just, and respectful future.

Comments

  1. Annalise Ajmani says:

    Your Monroe Project is so important, Micayla. It’s certainly seemed like a stressful, often frustrating process, but your final product is exactly what our country needs for sexual education. I’d be interested to learn more about sexual citizenship, as it seems like a more correct, less gendered, and more effective way to teach sexual education. Your points about how sexual education is geared towards teaching students (particularly women) how to not get raped rather than why we shouldn’t rape, how the situations we learn in classes like D.A.R.E. are often much more straightforward than the ever-confusing real world, and how “biology does not differ” across the US are very powerful. I hope you can continue your work in the future–any school in the country would be lucky to learn from the materials you’ve created this summer!