Tuesday, February 19, 2008

It's time for Sex Ed!


There doesn't seem to be a good age to start sex -ed. It either seems to early or too late. What happened to the window of opportunity which is the right time?

Where I teach, there is little culture of responsible sexual behaviour. There is a significant minority of pupils - usually from the less educated and lower socio-economic groups - who are spreading chlamidia around amongst themselves. They know there is a school nurse anonymous drop-in programme but they shun it.

"They'll only give us tablets."

"And....?"

"Well you can't drink and take the tablets."

So, these precocious, in your face and far to sexually active to be age appropriate teenagers would rather drink and shag than get better.

"Chlamidia. Thats a nice name for a little girl........."

Still, as my fourteen year old daughter commented:

"Doesn't Chlamidia make you infertile? You should just leave them to get on with it and let the gene pool find its own level." So perceptive and so compassionate all in one!

And yes we have the unplanned pregnancies too and an unknown number of secret abortions. In one of my classes I have a fifteen year old expectant father. He is very cocky (!) and full of himself and at the same time he is a frightened and vulnerable little boy who burst into tears when we were looking at Christian and Buddhist attitudes to abortion. This is the same boy who absolutely lost it when he and his girlfriend were separated in the post morning break chaos on the corridor and he was directed away from the crowd by some colleagues. "If my baby dies I'll never forgive you, you bastards." Then he broke his knuckles punching the wall in a temper tantrum.

So this morning I introduce the topic to a class of 13/14 year olds. Two thirds listen intently, keen to learn and understand, grateful and relieved that there is an adult willing to have a calm, relaxed and informed conversation. ("I could never have this conversation with my Dad.")

The other third, though, fell into giggles at the mention of the word "contraception" and were on the verge of hysterics at the word "condom". These are the least well educated and from most socio-economically deprived section of pupils. They have limited horizons (I've never been to Leeds. I once went to Dewsbury with my mother on a Saturday and it were busy. I shouldn't like Leeds")and very young parents. I know that a cycle is about to be repeated. While the other two thirds listen, learn and take it all in, this group remain completely untouched and untouchable by any concept of sexual ethics, self respect, issues of STIs, contraception, sexally age-appropriate behaviour, teenage pregnancy or abstinence.