The policy mandates that sex ed begin in kindergarten with such topics as basic sexual anatomy and safety being presented. The curriculum will proceed in what is deemed an age-appropriate manner throughout the school years.
Under the new policy, the youngest students – the kindergartners — will learn the basics about anatomy, reproduction, healthy relationships and personal safety. Through the third grade, the sex-ed lessons will focus on the family, feelings and appropriate and inappropriate touching. In the fourth grade, students will start learning about puberty, and HIV. Discussions will emphasize that the virus cannot be transmitted through everyday contact such as shaking hands or sharing food.
From the fifth through the 12th grade, the emphasis will be on reproduction, the transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases, bullying and contraception, including abstinence.
Of course, the idea that small children will be taught about s-e-x has more than a few people up in arms.
Well, I say “Bravo, Chicago.”
What I find appealing about the new policy is not that small children will learn about sex, but that sexuality will be normalized and not perceived as some perverse aspect of one’s personhood that should be a source of shame, discomfort, or rebellion. The policy effectively redefines what sex education is. It is no longer an awkward film shown to teenagers (many of whom have already explored their own bodies and those of their peers) cramming a multifaceted, complex subject into a tiny box.
While I feel strongly that parents should have an ongoing conversation with their children about sex and sexuality from the time they are able to speak (because anyone who has been around a very small child knows that he or she has clearly discovered his or her genitals way before he or she can speak), this just does not happen often enough. I think it would be a bit awkward to try to explain to a 10-year-old why you are vaccinating her against HPV in the 5 minutes before the nurse comes in with the needle.
It is way past time to lift the veil from human sexuality and acknowledge that it develops just as a child develops and should be nurtured in much the same way.
What do you think? Is it a good idea to teach sex education as early as kindergarten?