Over the last few days a lot of media outlets have been covering the story of a private, New York City prep school that presented a sexuality lecture to students that pushed an envelope not traditionally pushed in school. If you’d like to read one of the news reports, this comes from the New York Post which was once a paper for the “blue collar” New York resident, but has evolved into taking whatever we’re supposed to call the side that lost the last election. I don’t even know about our labels anymore. Anyway, this is about Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School.
Please check out the article, but also recognize I could give you one from what was once a “white collar” newspaper but now is on the winning side of the election. Try to evaluate the facts and pull them from the rhetoric. And guess what… it’s all mainstream news these days. Everybody stop trying to act like a victim because there’s not enough media covering your point of view. If you think there’s not, you’re not looking very hard.
Obviously, the content was more extreme than your average sex ed lesson, although it was not a “porn literacy class” as some headlines scream. Trust me, the 16- and 17-year-olds of Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School in New York City do not need a porn literacy class. It wasn’t a class, either. The online workshop came from an expert who was not present. Students learning remotely watched from home. Students in school watched on their laptops. Let’s at least come into this with the facts.
The First Major (Non) Issue
In this particular Post article, they obviously chose a quote to fit the narrative of their story that what happened was beyond believable:
You notice how whenever one group doesn’t like another group teaching something they use the word “indoctrinate”? As a former journalist, this is the kind of ridiculous, over-the-top quote that you love, no matter who says it. And personally, I think this was never said out loud. It reads like an email quote. Regardless, it’s factually incorrect, but who ever let that hurt a good story?
Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School is a private school. If something like this took place in a public school, whoever initiated it would have been fired. Especially without checking with parents first. Although many of those children are having sex and watching porn, they are children and the parents should be consulted. Unless, of course, they signed some kind of waiver at the beginning of the year. It’s a private school. Rules are different. The school may have been well within their rights to do this. So I won’t score this as wrong or right by the school.
Are They Scarred for Life?
If you read the article and see what some of the students had to say, it was like most remote learning in that they were barely paying attention. I’ve watched my son do “remote” school. He’s usually playing with his iPad at the same time, or do thing other things on his laptop. Many of the kids seemed to think what they were learning was stupid or boring. I’m guessing its because they already knew the material.
As for the dainty flowers deeply hurt that words like “BDSM and “anal” was used, no outrage here. These are real terms and knowing them shouldn’t send your super-healthy sexual life into an unalterable tailspin. I can give you a list of 50 things off the top of my head you need to be more scared of than a few clinical terms that make you blush.
These kids were 16 and 17. If any of them had not heard or did not know these terms, it frightens me what else they may have completely missed when it comes to sex education and sexuality. I can say the term “anal sex” all day long and it doesn’t mean I partake. People need to not be afraid of words. They don’t all have to have good or bad motivations behind them. If you say the phrase, “Donald Trump has not been president for just over four months,” you’re going to have people waiting to see what you say next so they can either agree or disagree with you. Sometimes, statements of fact don’t have to be twisted into statement of opinion. Anal sex is real, and gay or straight, a bunch of those kids are going to do it with a partner at some point.
Will there be scarring for life? I don’t think they were scarring for the afternoon.
Remember, You and I Weren’t There
I’ve read a couple articles and most rely on the same source material, quotes and just present it with their unique slant. This was either the greatest moment in the history of sex education, or the worst. Realistically, it’s probably somewhere in the middle.
Based on the articles, I would say that I’m glad some of these topics were introduced to the kids – but they were introduced a few years too late. If I was going to say who had more knowledge of the online pornography industry, a 17-year-old or a 37-year-old, I’d pick the average 17-year-old. It sounds like a lot of the kids were just bored, or disinterested.
Basing our conclusions on a couple of newspaper articles is dicey at best. It would be easy to believe that a presentation of this sort could go off the rails in a hurry. It’s also easy to believe it was simply a health lesson that sounds a lot worse than it was based on cherry-picked facts or quotes. Neither you or I really know.
Should Porn Be Part of School Curriculum?
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mentioning pornography as part of human growth and development lessons, or in lessons that urge children to stay away from harmful substances. But, I also don’t think that any actual depictions of pornography need to be part of lesson. One of the things I often hear from those who host podcasts I appear on is that they appreciate how I don’t get graphic. There is no need to get graphic. We all know what pornography is and statistics suggest around 75% of the kids watching that lesson partake weekly.
We don’t give kids cigarettes, booze or drugs in teaching them that those things are bad. Nor do we take them to casinos or force-feed them. Teaching about addiction is important, but actual depictions or descriptions of pornography are just shock impact.
I hope that this incident prompts discussion. I think we should stand in front of a crowd of 16-year-olds and say, “Pornography may be dangerous to your health and future well-being.” Hell, I think we should do that in front of a crowd of 13- and 14-year-olds since by that point, they’ve statistically already seen porn. We need to talk about this more as a society, as adults and as educators. If there are missteps, that’s not a surprise. Overall, I think that this was probably a good thing for Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School to do. What do you think?