New Frontiers in Sex Ed

In high school, The Curmudgeon recalls, health class was taught by gym teachers – you know, the kind of guys you suspect had to be told to go home and change when they showed up at their own weddings wearing a great tux, new, shiny black shoes – and white socks.  Most of those gym teachers made it pretty clear that they were uncomfortable teaching a sit-down class no matter what the subject and were especially uncomfortable talking about anything involving sex.

So maybe that’s why a teacher in the Wallingford-Swarthmore school district, a very high-tone suburb of Philadelphia, invited an outside group to help him teach his students about the birds and the bees.

And since The Curmudgeon is writing about this, you surely sense that it did not go well.

The group the teacher recruited to come to his rescue is called the Amnion Pregnancy Center, and all you need to do is take a quick look at its web site to see that the Amnion folks are not the right people to help teach sex ed to high schoolers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer tells the story.

A 17-year-old jolted the Wallingford-Swarthmore School Districtlast month when she told the school board that a nearby faith-based crisis pregnancy center had been invited to her health class, saying that it offered medically inaccurate information, exaggerated the dangers of sex, and offered a Bible to a girl who stayed after class.


School board members “were horrified – none of them had any idea that this was going on,” said McElroy, who showed up at their July meeting with a poster board copied from Amnion’s presentation, titled “The Steep Slope of Arousal.”

 The poster showed two stick figures holding hands at the edge of cliff – part of Amnion’s RealEd “relationship education” program that contends that even hand-holding, hugging, and kissing can cause teens to fall into the abyss and crash on the rocks of sexual activity.

 McElroy told the school board the presentation had encouraged abstinence not just from sex but any touching in order to conserve oxytocin, a hormone that is released during sex and activities like cuddling. The claim that too much youthful activity depletes oxytocin and thus makes it harder for a person to eventually bond with a future spouse has been challenged by scientists, who say it’s based on research with prairie voles, not humans.

 Ah, yes, that ever-dangerous oxytocin.

 Amnion executive director Melanie Parks said the RealEd program is not faith-based. She said that it encourages young people to think critically about sex and relationship choices, that the discussion of oxytocin was taken out of context by the student, and that the information in the program “was presented accurately.” She denied that a student was given a Bible.

The controversy over the role of Amnion – which quotes the Bible on its website, accepts grant money from the socially conservative Christian Focus on the Family and has a stated goal of ending abortion in the Philadelphia suburbs – highlights the ongoing ambiguity over how sex education is taught in Pennsylvania public schools.

And there’s this:

Another element of the center’s presentation, according to students who attended, was a piece of sticky tape; the teens were told that “if you have sex with too many people it becomes less sticky — and you can’t make healthy relationships,”  McElroy said.

The school board, of course, was outraged – outraged! – and said it knew nothing about the presentation or the presenters.  It also said it would investigate.  Meanwhile, the student who brought the issue to the school district’s attention is a senior and said the group has actually been in the school for several years and that when she complained about the presentation after she heard it during her sophomore year she was assured that group would not be back.

The school officials lied.

So the parents of high school kids in the Wallingford-Swarthmore school district probably shouldn’t hold their breath waiting for their school board to address this because school officials swept this matter under the rug once and there’s no reason not to suspect they won’t do it again.



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