My first sex education class was in 5th grade. Prior to that I had never been taught about sex, sexuality, or even my own body – which had already started undergoing changes that I knew practically nothing about. I remember being confused and insecure because I was so uninformed, and I believe that experiences like mine are all too common. Starting this school year, however, a new Chicago law calls for mandatory sex education starting in Kindergarten for all students in Chicago Public Schools. This new curriculum will introduce to children topics like bullying, physical anatomy, appropriate versus inappropriate touching, different family structures, etc.
Teaching about bullying to 5 year olds will help to prevent the problem before it can even start, rather than attempting to stop it once it has manifested.
Teaching about anatomy will aide children in being more comfortable in and aware of their own bodies. It will work to act to normalize the notion that everyone’s body is different, and help eliminate stigmas associated with the development of bodies.
Teaching about appropriate and inappropriate touching will ingrain into these children’s minds the unacceptability of acting in certain ways. It will teach them to respect and consent are imperative when interacting with others.
Teaching about different family structures will make these children aware that other family dynamics exist outside of their own – some families may have two moms, and some may have none.
This law has been the cause of much controversy – mainly from parents who think their children are too young for sexual education. “If he has questions, I’ll be happy to answer them, but I’m not sure it belongs in a classroom setting,” claims one parent. While it’s great that this parent is glad to talk openly with his or her child, I do strongly believe that the classroom can be an environment that is very conducive to both classroom conversation and a comprehensive and equal sex education for every student- as it will be taught be certified teachers who are experts on these topics.
Conservative organizations have also been very critical of this law saying that the Chicago Public School system is “giving in” to liberal groups that seek to “normalize homosexuality,” amongst other things. And while I respect that different parents may have different beliefs towards the lgbt community and other ideals of sexuality, I think that everyone should be able to recognize the importance in at least having their children be aware of the different backgrounds that other children may come from so no ones feels as if they have to hide their background or family situation.
Sexual education is a feminist issue. Not only do I believe the 5th grade is too late to start sex education–for reasons of personal awareness–but also because by the time kids are in the 5th grade, matters of sexuality and puberty (particularly in females) have already been stigmatized. I remember feeling almost ashamed of the changes happening to my body because I was never taught otherwise. Young girls, and boys as well, need to be taught from an early age about the changes that will occur and the complete normality and diversity of these changes. I believe that there is serious potential in this bill, as it could lend to these students growing up to be much more self aware and respectful people. If inappropriate touching is seen as unthinkable from such an early age, there will likely be a decline in rape and sexual assault/harassment. By being exposed to these things from early on, children will be both aware and respectful of themselves, as well as their surroundings, and accepting of the diversity it has to offer.