“Where did you hear that word?” I wanted to know.
The fifth graders at my kids’ uber-expensive private school have started what used to be called Sex Ed, but is now called Puberty Ed (evidently, it’s OK to teach the kids the word “p***y” but not to use the word Sex), and a big part of the curriculum, it seems, is telling the names of things.
“We learn the medical term, the slang term, and the vulgar term.”
“You know what else they call it, Mommy? A c***! And did you know that the F-word means sex?”
That’s it! Too much for me!
I’m all for sex ed. I wrote a post a while back about not telling my kids the facts of life because I didn’t think they were ready to hear them. But when they were old enough,(for them, that was age 9), I did tell them. I’m not a prude, or squeamish about the subject. I want my kids – my daughter especially – to feel comfortable with their own sexuality. I want them not to think of sex as dirty or shameful. What I don’t want, is for them to be learning the words p**** and c*** in school. From their teachers.
Here’s how it works: the teachers explain the “real” words for the reproductive and sexual organs, the sexual act and various and sundry other words having to do with puberty. Then they ask the kids what words they know. And it turns out, they know A LOT of words.
I know that I can’t protect my kids from foul language forever. And maybe it is better for them to learn the words in a safe environment, where they can understand how they’re different from the “real” words, and why they shouldn’t be used. But maybe not. Maybe learning those words in school somehow validates the words themselves. I think the theory is that letting the kids say the words in a controlled, monitored classroom environment takes away their clandestine thrill. But I’m wondering if all it does is teach them bad words.
I like that school has taught my ten year olds what’s about to happen to their bodies. I like that the whole process of how babies are made has been de-mystified and de-giggle-fied for them. But language is a powerful thing. Words matter. They don’t teach them bad grammar so they know what good grammar is. They don’t learn the N-word during Black History Month, or the K-word during the unit on the Holocaust. Teaching words like those – and like the ones my kids learned at school this week – only perpetuates their use.
It might be naïve to think that simply by not teaching kids bad, demeaning, prejudicial or offensive language that language will just go away. But wouldn’t it be a nice goal? Wouldn’t it be nice to try?