To begin, I would like to submit that teaching and discussing human development from a relational, a biological, a psychological, a physiological, as well as from a social and cultural perspective does not encroach on the moral rights of parents. As long as the instruction is academically-based and rooted in the latest research from scholarly and peer-reviewed sources, and free from any moral or religious references, studying human development, which does include sexuality, can be taught the same way as any other subject. The question that should be considered is when is the discussion of such issues developmentally appropriate? Though some issues may appear to be in the periphery, a number of them such as culture, gender, and race are inherently addressed due to the subject matter covered in History, Literature, Drama, or Cultural Studies classes. With that out of the way, this post will lay out my reasons why schools are responsible for addressing all issues that cover the human experience.
The Pragmatist in me would say that schools have a responsibility to the community-at-large, and being responsible to the community, to the citizenry, involves preparing the students of the community for the transition into adulthood. This means teaching students about dating, decision-making, identity, self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, as well as sexual orientation. Openly and honestly addressing those issues/topics in the curriculum is not only relevant to the experiences and educational needs of adolescents, it “allows for [students to have the space] to develop their own beliefs and values” (Gutek, 2004, 284), which I hope all will agree is the goal of education.
While some may take issue with such a “liberal” stance on discussing what many may view as the responsibility of the parents, I want to remind the readers that there are many young people who do not get the information from home, which has resulted in an increase in violence in adolescent relationships (Bouchey & Furman, 2003). And there is not a person reading this post who has not heard of the social ills resulting from early-age pregnancy. More over, more and more college students are getting into credit card debt because the school system failed to teach them about financial management. So, the next time you hear someone barking that schools are there to prepare young people for the future, keep in mind that that future encompasses more than whether or not they know how to read and write.
Bouchey, H.A. & Wyndol, F. (2003). Dating and romantic experiences in adolescence. In G. R. Adams & M. Berzonsky (Eds.) (2003). The Blackwell Handbook ofAdolescence. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
Gutek, G. L. (2004). Educational Philosophy and Changes. Boston: Pearson CustomPublishing.