Change the messenger

Schools should team up with health providers to teach sex-education.

By Barbara Goodmon

[05.07.04] — How to teach sex education in our North Carolina public schools continues to be a controversial subject for many people.

Most folks believe abstinence before marriage is the ideal model to teach students.

After that, however, few can agree.

While this controversy persists, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS continue to rise in teenagers and young adults.

While I happen to believe that “education, education, education” is the way to go, there is little evidence to demonstrate that education makes a substantial impact.

Perhaps the critical factor is not the sex-education policy that local school boards adopt, but the messenger who delivers the information.

Teachers already have enough to do teaching the basics, and they are not trained to teach a sex-ed curriculum, but health providers are, especially public-health nurses and social workers.

What’s more, students may feel more comfortable talking about sex issues with health providers than with teachers.

A possible solution might be for the public schools to partner with local human service agencies, which could visit schools to deliver the board-approved sex-ed curriculum.

When something is not working, why not make a change?

What we are doing is not working, and without change, nothing changes.

That is not fair to our children and teachers.

Using the wrong messenger to deliver the state’s sex-education curriculum may reflect a big gap on the State Board of Education.

That board, named by the governor, does not include a physician, psychologist or child-development specialist.

Education is about the whole child.

Just as one would hope that teachers would help students recognize connections among different academic subjects, and between those subjects and the real world, the governor should recognize that our students and teachers would benefit from a better-balanced board of education that included at least one child-development professional.

Barbara Goodmon is president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal.

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