Sex Ed for Caring Schools Creating an Ethics-Based Curriculum
reviewed by Colleen McLaughlin & Alireza Tabatabaie - February 16, 2015
Title: Sex Ed for Caring Schools Creating an Ethics-Based Curriculum
Author(s): Sharon Lamb
Publisher: Teachers College Press, New York
ISBN: 080775398X, Pages: 168, Year: 2013
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Despite having strong theoretical and evidence-based support, sex education still remains one of the most difficult educational challenges across the world. Sex Ed for Caring Schools: Creating an Ethics-Based Curriculum reflects on the problematic of school-based sex education, particularly in the US. The current discourse on comprehensive sex education in the US is largely dominated by a rights-based argument in which the emphasis is placed on young people's entitlement to sexual health and well-being. Sharon Lamb takes a distinctive approach: she examines and advocates comprehensive sex education from an ethics-based perspective and ties school-based sex education to the notions of democracy, citizenship, and ethics. This book is written in a reader-friendly but highly scholarly style and is based on Sharon Lambs faith and belief in adolescents; a faith that is central to this book and central to envisioning a democratic society:
Adolescents are loyal, imaginative risk takers , ready to devote themselves to strong causes, with full access to emotional life that fuels them. Rather than the randy, hormonal, confused troublemakers or innocents whose impulsivity prevents them from making good decisions, I choose to see teens not as people to control, but as people to inspire and be inspired by. (p. 18)
Sex Ed for Caring Schools serves three purposes: first, to introduce the reader to the field of sex education; second, to provide the reader with an overview of critiques and an opportunity to take a critical stance towards some of the important aspects of sex education; and finally, to present a new view of comprehensive sex education that is rooted in a democratic, ethical, liberal arts perspective, and emphasizes education on character, citizenship, and caringthe three Cs. Written primarily for pre-service teachers and other graduate students in education who may teach sex education classes in the US, Sex Ed for Caring Schools can also be used by a wider geographical audience and all stakeholders involved in adolescent sex education, including teachers, principals, board members, and parents.
Chapter Two is a comprehensive and balanced critical discussion of the current major trends in sex education in the US. Examining both abstinence until marriage and comprehensive sex education programs, she describes the current practice of sex education in the US today to be as a sad picture:
Curricula are riddled with stereotypes; tend to exclude LGBTQ youth; do not support democratic education; skirt around the idea of pleasure; show a White, middle-class, heterosexist bias; have been shown to be ineffective with regard to prevention of STIs, pregnancy, and first sex; and, perhaps most importantly, have lost their ethical focus. (p. 43)
Based on such a criticism, she moves on in Chapter Three to present an in-depth exploration of the kinds of ethics sex education curricula should endorse. Highlighted in this chapter is a discussion of the Ethics of Care (p. 48) in which care is prioritized over justice to protect groups that have less power. She encourages teachers in sex education classes to engage their pupils in discussion of ethical dilemmas and questions in order to nurture their ethical thinking and reasoning and learn what an adequate justification for ethical behavior is.