The ‘Kindergarten Sex Ed’ In Chicago That People Are Freaking Out About Is An Amazing & Necessary Program

sex edSeriously people. This is why we cannot have nice things. The country is freaking out today because Chicago schools have approved a sex ed curriculum that begins in kindergarten and continues on through each grade. Mommy blogs are freaking out. Conservative outlets are rushing to condemn the program. Everyone’s gasping, “Sex Ed In Kindergarten!” with looks of shock and horror on their faces. And they’re all completely missing the details of the program and why it’s so important.

Plenty of schools have had “sex education” for even the youngest students for years now. They might not refer to it as “sex ed” but it covers almost all of the same information that Chicago’s proposed curriculum does and it’s extremely age-appropriate. For example, kindergartners learn anatomy and they learn about appropriate touching, which is a very important topic.

Want a good example of a kindergarten sex ed lesson? How about the bathing suit talk, one that I’ve already had with my 5-year-old and one that I think every parent should have? Basically, it teaches children that the area of their bodies covered by a bathing suit are “private areas.” We shouldn’t touch these areas on other people and other people shouldn’t try to touch them on us. If someone does, you need to tell an adult you trust.

That was super scandalous, right? A horrible example of liberal educators trying to turn young children into sexual deviants? No. Not exactly.

I agree that we need to wary of anything that attempts to sexualize kids at an early age. But I think there’s a difference between giving them important, age-appropriate information and sexualization. No one is attempting to tell your 6-year-old about the birds and the bees. That being said, as parents, wouldn’t you want your child to learn that if someone tries to touch them in an inappropriate way, they should come talk to you about it? How exactly are schools harming children by providing this message?

The outrage and backlash to the Chicago curriculum announcement are filled with misunderstanding and incorrect assumptions. It’s possible that a large part of the anger is coming from a decision to include discussions on sexual orientation and gender identity in the sex ed curriculum. In direct opposition to Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” measures, Chicago will begin discussing sexual identity in hopes of preventing bullying and raising awareness.

The program being implemented in Chicago should be a model for our country. We should applaud them for helping even the youngest students address these important issues in an appropriate manner. And we should disregard anyone trying to spread ignorance and fear.

There is nothing wrong with teaching children about their anatomy. And helping them understand the importance of “Good touch, Bad touch” could lead to saving children from potentially harmful situations. To demonize this and turn it into something it’s not is either stupidity, dishonesty, or both.

(Photo: woaiss/Shutterstock)

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  • Eileen

    The problem is that when people say “sex education,” the assumption is a long discussion about birth control options, which *is* inappropriate in kindergarten. I don’t know if it’s possible to reclaim the name. This sounds like a good program, though.

  • Helen Donovan

    How dare you! You posted the “bathing suit talk” without a NSFW tag?? What if my boss had walked in?!

  • amanda

    Yeah IThink the problem lies in the name – the bathing suit talk is not even teaching anatomy its a part of safety education much like stranger danger etc. I do have a problem with teaching anything beyond the bathing suit talk to a kindergarten – first grade even second grade child. But maybe that’s just me.

    • StephKay

      Full disclosure, I work in safer sex education so I’m about as biased as they come, but I guess I just dont understand. Sex education is a HUGELY broad term. And I would argue that there is a ton of crucial information for that kindergarten to second grade demographic under that “sex ed” umbrella beyond the bathing suit talk. For example kids develop gender identity between 2 and 5 years old, an awful lot needs to be addressed when children start noticing gender and sex characteristics and defining themselves. They also need to be taught about respect for their friends bodies and their own. They need to be taught about what different families look like. The list goes on and on.

      And I know this is just me, and I get to make this call as a parent and totally understand other parents wanting to make that call at home rather than the schools teaching it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily inappropriate to discuss certain sexual matters with young children at all. My three year old knows what sexual organs are called and what they do She knows how her baby brother is developing in my uterus and how he’ll get out. She asks to watch childbirth videos sometimes because it makes her happy to see mommies meeting their babies. When I noticed her dollies were getting married an awful lot and kissing, we just had a quick chat about how marriage isn’t what makes it okay to kiss, consent is what makes it okay. I guess my point is how incredibly broad sex education can be. No one is talking about showing five year olds how to put a condom on a banana.

      Argh, I ranted! Sorry! I know the school part makes it a touchy subject, the workshops I give aren’t affiliated with schools which saves major headaches. I think your comment was entirely reasonable, and I don’t mean to sound argumentative, but I would love if you or another commenter could help me understand the issues regarding the title of “sexual education” and the perception that matters beyond the bathing suit talk are inappropriate? I would really like to hear someone’s viewpoint.

    • Amanda

      I just wanted to say that in large part I agree with you. I teach my kids early on that families all look different — and are all amazing and wonderful and okay. I consider that teaching acceptance not sexual education though. LOL.. I think it’s just terminology. ANd while I have no problems with young kids knowing where babies come from my own kids didn’t at that age – largely because they didn’t ask and I didn’t feel the need to tell them.. I think that’s okay too — and I guess I think teaching it in schools routinely in the K-2 age range takes that choice away from me as a parent. I don’t think its NECESSARY information at that age, So if a parents WANTS to have that talk then or before they can, but I think teaching it in school at age force’s their hand. Just my opinion though.

  • Izzie

    As someone who was molested by another child (likely abused by someone at home) the entire year IN MY ACTUAL KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM WITHOUT MY TEACHER NOTICING, I sincerely wish we had age -appropriate safety measures such as the “bathing suit talk” when I was five. I myself didn’t even realize what had happened was wrong until I was maybe ten years old, and by then the damage was long done. From personal experience, I fully support the Chicago school district moving forward with this program.

  • Lastango

    “Conservative outlets are rushing to condemn the program.”


    You, of course, did not link to any of them. The article at the link you do provide in that phrase to give the false appearance you are airing all sides of the question does not in fact comdemn the program. Evidently, when you caution “And we should disregard anyone trying to spread ignorance and fear”, you really mean that — even if it amounts to perpetuating ignorance.

    • meteor_echo

      I knew you would be here. Anything “out of the norm” seems to outrage you.

    • jessica

      You don’t know how to use google?

    • Paul White

      Why should we have to work to substantiate an author’s claim?

    • jessica

      If you consider googling to be too much work then you’ve really got a problem. It literally takes 3 seconds (give or take depending on your internet connection).

    • Paul White

      And if you consider requesting that an article back up its claims to be unreasonable, then you’ve got a problem.

      It’s pretty basic: If you make a statement of fact, substantiate it. None of my professors would let you not cite a source simply because they could google it. While I’m aware this isn’t an academic journal, the basic premise is still the same. Make a factual statement; show evidence.

    • jessica

      Well since I don’t consider a blog to be on the same level as an academic journal or academic research paper and this shouldn’t be held to the same standards, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. In herbal I feel that everyone should be aware that info on blogs should be dour checked for accuracy. (That goes for lots of other sources as well IMHO.) And I’m also going to reiterate my position thatis you have the time and ability to click on the link in the article, you also have the time and ability to do a quick google search.

    • jessica

      *thus not this. In general, not in herbal. I hate autocorrect.

    • once upon a time

      I don’t understand the opposition to this comment. If a writer wants to write an opinion piece, they can write an opinion piece (unless you’re Maria Guido and don’t know how). If you want to present something as news, and make comments that the reader is supposed to take as fact, then you’d better have some proof. A single comment buried in the final pars of a news article is not proof of ‘conservative outlets rushing to condemn the program’.

  • Samsam

    If conservative sites are rushing to condemn the program, I would think you would have been able to put a link to one that actually does. The only “condemning” in that article was a quote from a parent.

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  • Beth

    Two thoughts. First off, I think that it’s much likely than “possible” that parents are concerned with what is going to be taught to their children about gender identity and homosexuality. Second, the abc article you reference does say that kindergarteners will be taught the basics of reproduction (as a parent I would certainly want to know what that entails before they teach it to my five year old) and there are no specifics on the age which the discussions of gender identity and homosexuality will begin. Assuming that religious and conservative-leaning parents are just upset about something as simple as the “bathing suit talk” (which I think the vast majority of people would be fine with) when so much more is going on, is over-simplifying, insulting, and biased. I want my children to be kind and loving to and respectful of others, regardless of whether they hold beliefs or lifestyles similar to ours, and I strive to teach them that. But I’m not okay with their teachers telling them that behaviors I think are morally wrong or inapproriate are good. I don’t think that makes me intolerant, crazy, or a bigot.

    • Sara

      The articles that I found by following the links stated that the kindergarten curriculum teaches that “all living things reproduce”–it says nothing about going into the specifics of HOW reproduction happens. I think there’s a whole lot of jumping to conclusions happening here; personally, I would need to see the actual curriculum before making a judgment on its level of appropriateness.
      Personally, I don’t think that sex ed should be the responsibility of the public schools; parents should be responsible for giving their children relevant, fact-based, comprehensive sex ed. In my ideal world, all kids would get that at home, including both information about contraception and STD prevention as well as advocating for abstinence until you’re a mature, responsible adult capable of handling the potential results of sexual activity.
      HOWEVER, since that’s apparently not going to happen and we’ve decided that sex ed needs to be part of the public-school curriculum, I think that we owe it to the integrity of the discussion to wait on passing judgment (either good or bad) until we know more specifics about the curriculum itself.

  • Daisy

    We had something like this in my grade one class, and it struck me as perfectly normal. It was similar to the talks my parents had with me, and a logical extension of other first-grade health and safety lessons like “Don’t go anywhere with strangers.” And I was the most sheltered kid in my class by far (my parents pulled me out of class in grade four when they started talking about more “mature” topics like where babies come from and what puberty is), so if my parents and I weren’t fazed by that first grade “sex ed” class, then I can’t believe anybody else could be :P

  • BDHA

    In my experience, sex-ed wasn’t mandatory. Parents had the option of signing a form if they didn’t want their child in the class, whatever the reason was. The kid would then spend the period as a study hall or watching educational videos. The program isn’t meant to be compulsory it’s about providing the option for parents who want to teach their children about these issues from a young age. If it offends you, in any way, your child does NOT have to participate.

  • TheHappyPappy

    I completely support these programs because I’m one of the children who was saved from molestation by them. I got a very similar program starting in grade 1-2 (IIRC) in my Canadian elementary school. When I was 8, our upstairs neighbor started tickling me and attempted to inappropriately touch me. When I told him to stop, he exposed himself to me. I covered my face and jumped up and ran downstairs to tell my mother. To this day, almost 20 years later, I still get the yuck-shivers and a sick feeling when I remember his hands just brushing my sides when he tried to grab me as I ran out. This was one of the worst experiences of my life and nothing much was done to me (relatively speaking).

    The reason I was able to identify what he was doing and save myself? Elementary-school sex ed.

    I tell this story, even though it’s embarrassing to hear and tell, because I want people to know the importance of educating our children. Kids NEED this information. They need to know about good touch/bad touch and what to do if it happens to them. If I hadn’t been informed and empowered to say “No!” and speak up for myself (both to my mother and the police, when they came) I might be even more scarred by a much worse experience. No one who cares about child welfare should be opposing these programs.

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