sex, dating, & relationships, youth development & education

I should not teach gym, so why should they teach sex ed?

Sexuality education has a long history of being put into other classes, specifically science and physical education. While I strongly support integrating a discussion of sexuality, sexual development and sexual health into many areas of the curriculum, I also believe that adolescents need a specific safe and supportive class in which to learn, think, and ask questions about this sensitive topic.

Does it matter what teachers’ backgrounds are once they’ve taken on the task of teaching sex ed? Technically, their particular degree might not matter as much as their knowledge of and enthusiasm for the subject matter. I offer my support and commendation to any teachers excited to bring discussion of sexuality into their classrooms. But I get a very different image from friends’ stories from about hesitant, awkward and grossed out teachers who just had to do the sex ed unit.

Not only the teaching style but also the curriculum changes depending on where the school puts sex ed. The aspects of the sexuality that are emphasized depend on the context in which the material is presented. While science classes might focus specifically on the reproductive system, a physical education class might stress how to take care of a growing body. Furthermore, students will expect the lessons to take on these tones and may not even think to ask questions about the social and emotional aspects of their sexual development.

How will students feel when they’re told that today’s gym lesson has been canceled due to the sex ed requirement? What attitude will they take toward sex ed and sexual health? What will they perceive about the value of sex ed and its importance in their lives? What will they do when they have questions or need help?

I chose this topic because I’ve been told to expect official notice that the school district I currently work in will not need me next year. Instead of hiring teachers specifically to teach health, they will instead require physical education teachers to cover my topic. While upset, I’m not that worried about myself and my career. But what will become of my students?

Published by Mimi Arbeit

applied developmental scientist, antifascist community organizer, sexuality educator

3 thoughts on “I should not teach gym, so why should they teach sex ed?”

  1. Joanna says:

    Gym class was painful and uncomfortable enough for me as it was, I have trouble imagining how much worse it would be if we had health class mixed in. There was already such a huge social hierarchy in gym, and it would NOT feel like a safe space.

    Maybe others had a different experience of gym being a freeing place, but for me… ugh.

  2. Matthew Lowe says:

    Excellent observations, Mimi. I'd never really thought (until now) about how much the fact of WHO my gym teacher was (a hyper-masculine, ever-smiling jokester) affected my beliefs and attitudes towards sex. Sex Ed is truly a freak of secular education, and will always be inappropriate when shoved into a category like science or physical health. How do we convince school boards that personal development, besides being the overall goal of a school, should also be a specific subject within it?

  3. suz says:

    as a representitive of science, with one handed brevity; i'm pretty sure we don't want sex ed in the bio classroom either

    and let's be thankful our own high school bio teacher didn't even try!

Comments are closed.