Every once in a while I read a post on twitter or WordPress decrying sex education in schools. Usually these posts quote a lack of education around pornography and sexual pleasure as well as consent, inclusion and diversity. I wonder about the authors. I wonder when they were last in school. I wonder where they are based. I wonder if they have done their research or are just referring back to how things were for them.
I have written about my own sex education and I have to say that it was pretty lacking. Many of those who are calling schools out are younger than me so I can only assume that their education would have been more up to date than my own, but clearly it was still far from the mark. What does annoy me is the fact that things have moved on. And I am not just talking about the last few months, they moved on a long time ago.
Pornography as a topic for discussion has been part of our syllabus for some time and actually there are many who think that things are a bit too forward thinking. I guess you can’t win and while some will say that schools do a terrible job of providing a rounded education for sexual pleasure and sexual health, others will be waving letters and sending emails at the horror of what is being discussed.
While I can’t speak for those in other countries, I am proud of the curriculum we have around relationships, sex, health and parenting in Scottish schools. There has been a lot of work done to bring things into line with current demands on teenagers and although I would say that the previous programme was good, there was an overhaul a few years ago which updated the materials and ideas. Porn has been in the classroom as a topic for discussion for years and the materials are fairly comprehensive.
While I could write with enthusiasm for hours about what we teach, the theme for today’s post is porn. And I will start with busting a myth. It isn’t true that watching too much porn will make you go blind. Although now I come to think of it I wonder if that is why those who continue to shout about things which are factually incorrect about education today are failing to see what I continue to write.
Anyway back to pornography. Our sex ed programme runs from pre-school through primary and secondary education and is thorough and comprehensive. If you don’t believe me I can send you a link so that you can see for yourself. The first mention of pornography as such comes when the young people are about age 11. At this point it is an optional discussion which is centred around explaining what pornography is and encouraging a child to talk with a trusted adult if they see something online that upsets or worries them.
It is part of the social media/popular culture topic which looks at online safety and the law around the sharing of images and is more about safety than anything else. However, it is estimated that at least one-third of children will have seen pornographic content by the end of primary school so it is something that may be worth talking about depending on the group. By the time young people are in secondary education, it comes up again and is discussed in more detail.
There is always a balancing act and while some young people at this point may be watching a lot of pornography, others won’t have seen much and some none at all. The materials focus on discussing what pornography is, the messages that it contains and the fact that what is presented often isn’t true to life. Discussion is around challenging some of the myths surrounding the way that sex and sexual pleasure is portrayed though pornography and exploring those.
Young people build on this learning in the senior school when the topic is revisited. Similar themes are covered but by this point you are dealing with young people who are over 16 and will have more awareness and experience. Again, a balance is found so that the learning environment is a safe space for all, and the good and bad of pornography is up for open discussion. There is no judgement, no shame, just discussion of facts and an emphasis on the fact that we are all different and will like different things.
As with all topics there are sources of support provided each lesson and information to go home to extend the learning and work in partnership with families. The programme we use is a national resource and is live, so it is continually updated and amended in order to be current. It can be widely accessed and the lesson plans and teaching materials are available to view. I think it is really good and I think those who write criticising education might be pleasantly surprised if they actually went and had a look.
Anyway that is my rant over. I don’t actually like porn. It does nothing for me on a personal level and I think that this is because I am just not visually stacked. I much prefer the power of words and would get off far more easily by reading a piece of real life erotica than I would by watching pornography. I have always been this way I think and while I have watched it sometimes with HL, it can actually turn me off rather than switching me on so its not so much for me.
I do enjoy teaching about it, however, because I think it is important and valuable and because I am passionate and interested in sex and sexuality as a subject. It is difficult to encapsulate here the level of detail and the fun and the energy in the discussion and the learning, but I know that is there and experience it first hand. I find my job difficult at times but it also feels like a privilege to be able to have these sorts of discussions with young people and I believe in the importance of them.
To read something far sexier than the educational side of teaching about pornography, why not head over to 4Thoughts where other bloggers are discussing porn as a topic.