Sex in the classroom
It did not take me long to discover that there were major gaps in the boys understanding of sex. This was 1976 and well before the advent of the internet (which creates an entirely different set of ignorances). They were much less liberal times and the boys’ knowledge was sketchy.
I did not think anything of it. When we came to human reproduction I slotted in my own sections on sexually transmitted diseases and contraception and also did a couple of far-ranging discussions. They went down well and there was obviously a need.
I’d been doing this for a couple of years when me Head of department found out.
‘Does the Head know you’re doing sex education?’ He asked.
‘I doubt it,’ I shrugged.
‘I think you’d better tell him,’ he suggested.
I thought that was a bit strange. Sex ed was an established part of the curriculum in most schools. I couldn’t see the problem. But then I hadn’t reckoned with the school. It was very traditional and old fashioned. I enjoyed that. I liked getting my teeth into it and giving it a good shaking. I saw my job as stirring up the hierarchy.
With that in mind I went to see the Headmaster.
He was enshrined in his oak panelled office, sitting in his leather-bound chair behind his large dark oak desk. I was ushered in and sat before him on a hard wooden chair.
I explained why I had come.
My Head of department had given the impression that I might be walking into a minefield. But he was very pleasant. He didn’t say no. He merely suggested that introducing sex education was a big step. There could be repercussions. Before I did any more I needed to have it discussed at a staff meeting.
I found that amusing but it did not seem to be any big deal. I went along and saw the relevant Deputy Head and had it included on the next agenda. I prepared my presentation and was looking forward to the debate. I had no doubt that I would quickly get through this formality. When the agenda came out Sex Education was down at item number six.
The meeting took place and I sat there with my notes. We managed five items in the allotted time. I did not manage to address my issue. Not to worry. It would be on the next agenda. The next staff meeting agenda went up and I noted my sex education was down at number nine. The penny was beginning to drop. My suspicions were confirmed when the following agenda had no room for my topic at all. I was being stalled. The boss hoped it would all go away.
I produced a sheet explaining the need for sex education and circulated it around the staff. I then went and had personal ‘discussions’ with every member of staff. I managed, with my powers of persuasion, to elicit agreement in principle from every one of them, Deputy Heads included, apart from two abstentions from two religious Catholic staff.
Triumphantly I returned to the Headmaster’s office, clutching my referendum results and confident that I had circumvented the tactics and come up with a result. There was no need for a discussion at a staff meeting.
The Headmaster was unruffled. He congratulated me and suggested the next step would be to canvas the parents for their views. I could see that he expected a strong parental opposition that would scupper it. I was not so sure. I thought the parents were mot liberal and modern thinking than the Headmaster imagined. Sex education was not a major controversial issue.
I produced a single page letter to be distributed to parents. It was approved and sent out. There was not a single negative response.
At my third interview with the Headmaster he congratulated me again and suggested that the next step would be for me to take it to the Governors to gain their approval. I could see the tactics being deployed and wondered what other obstacles might be put in my way. He was stalling for all he was worth.
I put together my presentation and was given a slot at the next Governors’ meeting.. I gave them the works and, surprisingly, gained a unanimous agreement for me to go ahead.
At my fourth visit to the Headmaster he admitted defeat. He conceded that I had successfully jumped through the hoops and could go ahead and do it.
It was only at the end of our meeting that he dropped his bombshell. He was an old guy well into his sixties, and had come from very conservative times, an honourable man.
‘You know Chris,’ he said thoughtfully,’ I know times are different and we have to keep moving forward but I’m personally still not sure about this sex education. I do not believe you can go showing films of young girls masturbating to red-blodded English boys without it having some effect.’
I sat there stunned.
It was only then that I realised what sex education meant to him. It wasn’t contraception, disease and relationships; it was sex films.
Perhaps a little more conversation about content and presentation might have saved me two years of uphill battle?
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