Thank You, High School Health

I go to a magnet school, meaning that you’ve got to take a test to get in, but it’s still a public school because it’s open to everyone. We teach evolution, world religions, the whole shebang. Ninth graders take health class, which includes a short (and inadequate) social justice unit as well as a unit on drugs. Today we started our “sex ed” unit.

I was expecting it to be horrible. I wasn’t expecting abstinence-only education, but I wasn’t expecting to talk about contraception either. We also talked about various methods of birth control, adoption and, finally and most shockingly, we talked in detail about abortion.

Our teacher made very clear to us that his goal was simply to inform us, not to sway anyone’s opinions. But his stance on the matter became pretty clear when he said “right-to-lifers” in the most sarcastic, can-you-believe-this-bullshit voice I had ever heard a teacher use. And while I’m really glad we are going to have a sex-ed unit, and while I’m thrilled we’re being taught about things like abortion and contraception, I wish the teacher would keep his opinions out of it (even if I agree with them). Because as soon as a person starts to get opinionated, especially considering teachers don’t get much respect as it is, that’s when kids stop listening. That’s when we get indignant and think you’re just another full-of-shit adult trying to shove your opinions down our throats.

I honestly can’t say that more than half the kids in the class were even awake for it—our health teacher has a really droning voice and we’re all prone to passing out due to boredom from time to time. But according to the syllabus, we’re going to be getting into topics like sexual harassment and rape, gender and sexual orientation, and less general things like putting on condoms (with my ex-boyfriend sitting right next to me! Oh, goody!). And everyone is going to want to be awake for that particular lesson.

I am not expecting the rape segment, especially when we talk about date rape, to be handled with much compassion or finesse. I’m expecting a healthy dose of victim blaming and I’m bracing myself for a “what constitutes rape?” discussion which is bound to be all kinds of ignorant. I’m expecting we’re going to be getting hetero-or-homosexual only education. I’m assuming we will touch on transgendered but will not talk about genderfluid, or gender nonconforming, or agendered. Issues like these are barely in the public consciousness to begin with, let alone familiar enough to explain to thirty dumbass teenagers in a series of forty minute classes.

But then again, I was not expecting to talk so frankly and openly about abortion (we got a pretty vivid description). Nor was I expecting to be told by a straight, old male health teacher that women should have unrestricted access to emergency contraception, so long as they are responsible with its use. I also wasn’t expecting to be told that an abortion is 100% a woman’s choice. I was pretty shocked by the content of today’s health class, to be honest.

So, thank you high school health. Thank you for exceeding my expectations. But it’s only the first day, so we’ll see if it gets worse from here.

I really, really hope it doesn’t.

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