Initial Summary: "Children Having Children"

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When examining Fields' article "Children having children: Race, innocence, and sexuality education" I think that it is important to look upon it from a broad view and not to get too caught up in the specific examples of her work within Southern County, North Carolina. The main purpose of this experiment was for Fields' to examine the links between abstinence-only sexual education and stereotypes of race, gender, and sexuality. She did so through examining school board meetings about the topic of sexual education within a heavily African-American dominated school system. One of the first things that she realized was that the school board was not an accurate representation of the population of students; it was heavily dominated by white women who, with very few exceptions, preached abstinence-only sex education. Their beliefs were that "abstinence from sexual intercourse until marriage is the only certain means of avoiding out-of-wedlock pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, and any other health and emotional problems associated with sexual intercourse" (550, Fields) Fields later describes that abstinence-only education comes from the idea of childhood (children under the age of 18) sexual innocence. This assumption is played up by the racial and gender stereotypes that are reinforced by societal norms and practices. She goes on to describe the role that race plays within the idea of sexual education stating that many African-American girls are viewed as "hypersexual" and that they practice a type of "bad-girl" sexuality. To combat the use of stereotypes when thinking about childhood sexual innocence the phrase "children having children" was developed. This phrase is sex, gender, and sexuality free, meaning that one cannot determine the type of child who is pregnant or who has children from the phrase; this is how they prevent stereotypes from influencing one's point of view. This phrase promotes the idea of an individual explanation to each child pregnancy because none of them are for the same reasons. This is an effective method of combatting the problems within the sexual education system because it takes pre-judgments and societal ideas and norms out of the equation.

Questions:
1) Why is abstinence-only education still the major form of sex education within our country when it has been proven to be less effective than other methods?
2) How can we further remove stereotypes about race and sexuality from influencing our decisions about sex-education?
3) Looking back upon your sex education, was it heavily influenced by the type of town you grew up in? Stereotypes about your school? Other outside sources?

2 Comments

This is in response to Question 3.

I grew up in an extremely small town in Central Wisconsin. The overwhelming majority of the population was white, Catholic, and conservative. I think that this heavily influenced the way in which I was taught sex education. My school used an abstinence only sex education approach that focused solely on the negative aspects of sex. It seemed like my teacher was trying to scare us out of having sex saying essentially that "If you have sex, you will get pregnant and get STD's". I don't remember there ever being any mention of homosexuality in any of my classes that taught sex education. Because my town was so conservative, that was a pretty taboo concept that was rarely discussed. The church that I attended routinely stressed the importance of abstinence outside of marriage. The older I got, the more I understood that it was important for me to form my own opinions about these topics, which have become throughly developed since coming to school at the U. One of my favorite parts about this campus is the ability to have, and voice, your own opinions about touchy topics like these.

By: Avery Shnowske

When I look back on my experience with sex education in public school versus my fiancee's experience with sex education in public school, definite differences appear. I grew up in a moderately liberal part of the Twin Cities. My school was known for its arts program and homosexuality wasn't a huge issue. My fiancee grew up in central Wisconsin where life was conservative and focused on athleticism. If anything, I'd say that my education in school was very informative (it seemed like too much information at the time when the school nurse mimed how to put a tampon in with one leg up on a chair - though how else would we have known?). His was not. He is a really smart guy, but his knowledge of the biological processes of the sexual body wasn't stellar. He was taught abstinence-only and got all other information from personal experience and from rumors.

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