The discussion of what makes a good sex education teacher is subjective, however it is important to highlight the various techniques of teachers across the country. Let us begin with Mr. Al Vernacchio, a Sexuality and Society teacher at a private school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Vernacchio holds a master’s degree in Human Sexuality and has a unique approach to teaching sex education (Abraham).
In Laurie Abraham’s New York Times article entitled “Teaching Good Sex,” Vernacchio explains that he begins by reviewing the prior knowledge that his students hold on sexual behavior and sexuality (Abraham). This surfaces the baseball reference, in which a specific sexual behavior is seen as sequence of baseball plays. Vernacchio reminds students that baseball implies that sexual activity is just a game, with one party as the aggressor (often the boy, in a heterosexual relationship), while the other is defending herself (Abraham). With this reference, he explains that there is a strict order to play that implies you can’t stop until you finish; he says, “If you’re playing baseball, you can’t just say [you’re] really happy at second base” (Abraham). I never thought of the baseball reference in this light. Vernacchio is right: there is a hetero-normative assumption that sexual behavior must follow this specific rule set.
Vernacchio’s class is one of a kind in the US. Sexuality and Society is a course that “begins in the fall with a discussion of how to recognize and form [one’s] own values, then moves through topics like sexual orientation, safer sex, relationships, sexual health and the emotional and physical terrain of sexual activity” (Abraham). This is a very straightforward class that, in my opinion, should be more commonly presented in the public school system. As Abraham explains, there are three types of sex ed: abstinence-only sex ed, abstinence based sex ed, and comprehensive sex education (Abraham). Vernacchio has gone for the comprehensive approach, in which he offers nonjudgmental instruction on bodies, birth control, disease prevention and healthy relationships, which is geared to help teens make responsible choices when choosing to become sexually intimate with someone (Abraham).
After reading this article, it is clear that while Vernacchio takes a unique approach to sex ed, it has been effective and relatable for his students. As one student remarked in an interview with Abraham, she says, “I just love this class – you can ask anything” (Abraham). Isn’t that how all sex ed classes should be? How else will you retain anything from a class if you cannot engage in discussion and apply what you learn outside of the classroom?
We know my answer, but what do you think, and why? Should sex ed be abstinence only, abstinence based, or comprehensive?
Abraham, Laurie. “Teaching Good Sex.” The New York Times. 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 19 Mar. 2012.