Hi, everyone. And welcome back to America Under the Microscope. 欢迎回来【闲话美国】. Hi, James.
Hi Lulu. Hi, everyone.
It has been sometimes since last time we’ve spoke. So how's the new semester treating you？
It’s been busy , dealing with teenagers is a handful.
Actually I thought today we can talk about education-related topic.
In fact the other day, I was talking to some of my students. I said what kind of subjects you did in school, and apart from the the major subjects, the academic subjects, we were talking about health education, specifically sex education.
Usually that's a topic I find many students don't want to talk about.
Well. I mean, I think many of my students they were saying that they wish they had more of a comprehensive sex education when they were in school. Because there wasn’t any when they were growing up. Yeah. So I thought let's talk about that. A little bit of a risky topic is talk about on this platform, but I thought it's a ,nonetheless, it is an essential element of education. Right？
I agree it's very important.
So first of all, let's talk about your own experience when you were in school, did you get any like formal sex education？
Yes I did have ‘sex and health education’ what a lot of schools call it. And I had it at all three levels from primary school, middle school and high school.
Oh, So that's always in the curriculum, 就是一直在课程设置里面的是吧？
Yes, and most public schools it very much is part of the curriculum.
And let me guess based on all these other topics we talked about, it's not the same across the country. Every state has their own standards.
That should be a mean for this program. It's not the same everywhere in America.
No. A lot of people if they have never been to America, if they were just like listening to social media, whatever, people have this general perception of Americans are very, very open-minded when it comes to sexuality, for example, I don't think that's true. Is it?
Not really ,to be honest, most Americans tend to be kind of conservative about it. Don't trust what you see in the media. Most people kind of keep to themselves about that kind of stuff.
So what is like the sort of general family attitudes, like parents attitude? Are they happy that it's included or...?
Well, I've read recently in a poll from planned parenthood, which is a big nonprofit organization that deals with sex education and pregnancy, that most parents are supportive of these programs in schools. And they want the schools to teach the children. The key factors which are involved are sexuality and health because it's part of being human and it's part of growing up.
Em... Hang on a minute. You mentioned planned parenthood. Yes, in English there is something called like Family Planning, right?
So It's kind of like has to do with when you want to get pregnant when you want to have babies. Is that true? 就有点计划生育就是跟我们的计划生育不是一样的意思, but it sort of is about planning when do you have kids?
It's along those same lines, but a lot of planned parenthood, what they do is they also do education about sexuality, sexual health, sexually transmitted infections and prevention and all these things. So it's not like necessarily about family planning. But when to have children.
Em....try to avoid.
Understanding what leads to children.
And also to sort of like prevent unwanted pregnancy.
I suppose. All right. Since you mentioned, it's like an essential part of the existing curriculum, in a lot of the, in most of the states, then what it is... what you said it's part of health education就是健康教育的一部分. What is that particular module or part of curriculum called.
In my school ,when I was a kid, it was part of your PE program. So there was a time that you lost part of your PE class to have lessons on this. Although now many schools included in their what we call social emotional learning module or SEL.
Social emotional learning?
What's that about ?
It's basically helping kids with their social needs, their emotional needs and things like this. So it's kind of mental health related. And sexual education is part of mental health ,too.
Em... So generally want the kids to be well-adjusted, well-adapted.
Okay, so let's talk about the actual content or get into a little bit about the content. First of all, how early does it actually start? primary school?
Most districts do have the basic starting in elementary school. And, by basics, they focus mainly on things like your body, the parts, and health-related to those parts and also tying with the SEL stuff about which parts, you know, if people touch you in certain regions, what you should do, who you should talk to and things like this.
Oh, It's more about protecting them against predators.
But it also about just general hygiene like how you should take care of it, too.
I see. 所以既是保护孩子, 不要让孩子受到侵害, 同时也是hygiene what James mentioned. hygiene是卫生, 个人卫生, I see, so that's why it's part of health, maybe even PE class. What about middle school like junior, junior middle school？
When you get to middle school, that's where it gets a little bit more complex because middle schoolers which is what I currently teach, they're going through the fun phase of puberty.
青春期. Yeah, where their bodies start to change and they start to feel all sorts of messed up really.
So, a big part of that. This is also you will likely get classes separated from male and female because there are very different situations and you don't necessarily... the girls don't necessarily want to have the boys listening to talks about menstruation.
Oh, that is done as well. So in my school, when we were trying to do this kind of sex education, health education, they did separate men and women, boys and girls. So it's the same in America ?
Only for certain topics.
Oh, I see.
So the topics like when it comes talking about body parts, sometimes those are separated, talking about menstruation that was separated. But the big part of middle school is talking about what's normal with all these changes in puberty, how to cope what you can do with when your hormones are going crazy.
Because that's also when you start noticing girls and boys.
It is, yes, I do with that daily.
Before... in primary school, most kids were probably boys gross, girls gross, and then middle school is like that's when you start to develop feelings.
Well, middle school is a little bit, boys are gross, but I like that boy.
Em... I see, and who is teaching these classes. This is just like one designated teacher or for example like history teacher, but you also doubles as a sex education teacher. How does it work?
Oh no. I might be a homeroom teacher but no I would not teach that. Normally, at least when I was in school and I know a lot of schools in America did this. They invite experts to talk about this, doctors, counselors, psychologists, people who are... went to school to understand these things.
I see, I remember when I was in school, when I got that very limited sex education, it was taught, it was supposed to be taught by my biology teacher. But she was conveniently sick that day. We had to self-study, it happens.
It does. But there's also one other big thing that takes place during middle school is they start teaching about healthy relationships.
Oh, right, because you don't have the idea of like早恋. So if a boy dates a girl in junior middle school stage, is that encouraged or at least it's allowed?
It is allowed, it's not encouraged, but it's not forbidden.
What happens, now you are teaching...Are you teaching junior middle or are you teaching high school right now？
I teach middle school.
You teach middle school. So what happens if you see a girl and a boy in your class getting really close, maybe during the recess like they're physically quite affectionate. Would you intervene (YES) as a class rule or more for their sort of like health...
If that's actually at school, that I would have to intervene. Yeah, so school physical displays of affection are not allowed.
I see, I see. Okay. So, that's middle school focusing more on puberty, the changes, the hormonal changes that your body goes through and inviting experts and start to talk about healthy relationships. What about high school?
High school you start getting into the what I think a lot of people really think about when they hear the term sex education because in high school that's where they really start teaching really what is safe sex. And they also teach about preventing pregnancies and preventing STIs.
Now, I'm going to ask a very blunt question, so these high school stage, the sex education is not more on ‘Don't do it’ but on ‘if you have to do it, what are the safe ways? What are the health precautions to...?’
Well, That's gonna actually depend on the school. My high school was ‘Don't do it’.
When I was in school, abstinence until marriage you're supposed to wait till you're married. But that's much less common now because it doesn't work. You tell a teenager don't do something...
Yeah, they would do it. Sometimes you see in this like American TV shows and movies, they have this, Oh yes, they make a pledge, they have this promise ring or whatever. Does that actually happen that you belong to a society and you all promise make a promise that you will not do anything like that before getting married?
Yes, that is our thing, I have seen it before. It's not that common though, but it is a thing. But for the high school especially nowadays it's a big part of... it’s teaching the kids like all right, you shouldn't do this, but odds are you will do it because your teenagers and you don't listen to adults.
This is what you should do. This is what's safe. This is a condom, these are birth control pills. This is who you should go talk to if there's an issue. Things like this.
OK, so safe sex and contraception.
I wish I had that part because they didn't teach me that part in high school.
Well, You said your high school is focusing more on teaching not to do it at all.
Yeah,That was more than 20 years ago though. So it's changed since then.
I see. But I would think if they talk about safe sex, then, of course, they would talk about sexually-transmitted-diseases like STD, STI, AIDS that sort of thing.
Yeah, They definitely do that. I remember that fondly. They hammer that one into you. So if you have sex, you'll get aids.
Right. The scare tactic then.
Which again doesn't work.
Okay. So now I know this is only the basic episode but guys you got to understand usually I would do a little bit of translation, speak a bit more Chinese at this stage, but I can't because if I do I probably will get our show banned.
So we're gonna wrap up here. If there are any words you don't know, I tried to speak very slowly, and I try to hammer in those words. If you're still confused, check out the text, so you can learn some very interesting words.
And on that note we're gonna wrap up here. Thank you, James, for coming to the studio; and in the advanced episode, we're gonna go into a little bit of a debate about sex education and how it should be or should it even be there?
We'll see you next time.