HEALTH EDUCATION IN TODAY’S CLASSROOM
The topics in a health class are so different today compared to even ten years ago. Topics used to be simple and scratch the surface topics: food and nutrition, puberty, sex education, marriage, etc. The question that is being raised today is at what grade should certain topics be taught? Kids are growing up so quickly now, even though they still have an elementary school mentality. When did kids stop being young and carefree, where their biggest concern was where do we play after school, the park or the play yard, and turn into how old should I be when I have sex, or is it OK to drink and smoke cigarettes. What is the cool thing to do and at what age? Health education has taken on more scenarios that used to be appropriate at the high school level. Now more than ever, health education and societal pressures need to be brought down to the elementary level. The question is how young do we start educating our students on mature topics.
In today’s world thanks to the media, TV and music idols, the cosmetic industry and a host of other influences, kids today are beginning to learn about things at a much younger age. This becomes a conundrum for a school district. At what grade level should we begin teaching our youngsters about sex education for example? Certainly where we live can be a determinant as to when to begin such delicate topics. There are children who live in inner city areas that are becoming pregnant by the fifth grade. They are babies themselves. Let’s look at their role models. Their mothers may have gotten pregnant at a young age; there is a good possibility that there is no father. The cards they are dealt have not been kind. We can look to a suburban area and see a similar scenario. Everyone wants a boyfriend, but what does a girl have to do to have one and at what sacrifice? Parents are more of a friend to their child than a parent to their kids today. We live in an immediate gratification society. Kids want a cell phone, they get a cell phone. They want a car when they are seventeen, they get a car. It is no longer taboo to wait until you are married to have sex. Girls and boys are growing up much sooner than years past. Children will do whatever it takes to fit in. They don’t have time to be kids anymore. It seems they go from childhood to adulthood. Puberty anymore seems like the topic that has become a “let’s just touch the surface” of this subject.
It is important to begin bringing certain subjects in health down to lower grades. I know in many districts, letters are sent home to the parent if a controversial subject is going to be covered. It is a parent’s right to say no to have their son or daughter taught something that they feel their child may not understand or are too young. School districts and teachers are caught in a very precarious position. There is no doubt that Health Education has become a subject with many hot button issues that need to be covered. I would think that having these issues taught at a younger age in a tasteful manner can only lead to young adults making the right choices for themselves.