Wednesday, July 8, 2009

No More Health Education

This morning on the way to work, NPR reported that high school students in Texas will no longer be required to take a health class.

It is interesting to me how we rank academic knowledge. Math and the hard sciences on top, followed by social sciences, with arts and humanities at the bottom. Professors who teach engineering and medicine make significantly more money than English professors. Some subjects are fluffy and others serious.

This is ridiculous.

I know a health educator who does an STD program in the local high schools (during health class). Because the schools receive federal funds, they are barred from discussing safer sex. No mention of condoms, birth control pills, etc. The health educator basically gives a horrorshow of photos and gory details of STDs. Abstain children, or your privates could look like THIS!! Some of the teachers get around the restriction by allowing some time at the end of the presentation for one-on-one questions with the educator. Here are the types of questions and comments she hears:

-- If I have anal sex, I am still a virgin, right?
-- I heard if you brush your teeth right after oral sex it kills any germs you might have picked up
-- If you have sex standing up you can't get pregnant
-- Don't only gay people get HIV? (I swear, people still think this)
-- If you have sex in the shower you can't get pregnant

Meanwhile, we have a blossoming cohort of teen parents. They are not even allowed to talk about safer sex in the teen parenting class. All of the kids in that class are either expecting or already parents. Some of them have multiple children. The health educator said in that class they over-use euphemisms for everything: "If you are going out this weekend, remember to bring sunscreen! And if you find yourself in the sun, wear sunscreen!" They mixed metaphors often and while the kids seemed to get it, the educator got confused. She also hoped none of them were rubbing sunscreen on their genitalia with the belief that it would prevent pregnancy...

But I digress.

Why cut health class? When we examine the totality of knowledge that children should have when they graduate from high school, don't we want them to know something about being healthy? About nutrition, substance abuse (remember most of them will be off to college with easy access to substances), stress reduction? How is this less important than some of the other topics they learn? Personally, I would rather my kids know about health than how to dissect a frog. 

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