What The Hell Do We Actually Learn In School Health Classes?
I started taking health classes since I entered the public school system in first grade and didn’t stop until I graduated high school. Here is what I learned.
In first through fourth grade, we were taught to wash our hands, sneeze into our elbows, to wear deodorant and take care of ourselves. Fifth grade was when we watched “The Movie”. You know “The Movie” in elementary school, it’s the one you finally learn about the body’s development, as you are supposed to hit puberty soon. “The Movie” talked about menstruation, breast development, balls dropping, boners and sex between a man and a woman. Everyone was as giggly as you would expect from a bunch of ten-year-olds and nobody thought seriously about the content of “The Movie”. Retention from “The Movie”? Just as much as you’d think a ten-year-old would take away from a movie about balls dropping. None.
This time, since we were apparently more mature, we learned about the dangers of illicit drugs and alcohol, how to properly exercise, and sex. Seventh grade introduced another “The Movie”, but this one was all about birth: how pregnancies happened, how the fetus developed and how the baby was born. In seventh grade, my health teacher showed us “The Movie” kindly pausing when the baby was being born and rewinding and playing and rewinding and playing and rewinding and playing the birth scene. That day I watched that woman give birth at least four times.
I was required to take two health courses to graduate. The courses dealt with drugs, alcohol and personal health on a more mature level. We were no longer told that drugs were bad, instead, we were taught why drugs were bad and how alcoholism works and affects much more than just the abuser. We learned how to take our heart rate and exercise in they way that would help us achieve whatever goal we may be after. We learned about date rape and how boys will put roofies into the cups/drinks of girls they wanted to sleep with. We were taught to never put our drinks down, watch intently when our drink was made or make it ourselves, and always, always go out with a buddy. Nobody ever said, “Do not drug anyone else” or “’No’ is the final answer”. Nobody said it was the woman’s fault, but nobody said it wasn’t.
So that was health for me. I was taught that I should never smell bad, I should grow breasts and get my period, I should never do drugs, I should never put my drink down. A pretty normal collection of information for a straight, cis female. If you’re like me or went to schools similar to mine, this may have been close to your experience, but if you take a closer look you’ll notice that your health classes left out some very important information. Sure, the teachers talked about safe sex, safe relationships, and safe behaviors, but only if you’re straight.
In all of my health classes, we were taught about the LGBT community only in a sense of, ‘yeah, gay people exist’, but we were never taught as if there could possibly be an LGBT student in class. For those who don’t know, the practices for safe sex differ depending on your relationship. Safe straight sex is different than safe gay sex. Relationship abuse is different, behaviors are different. The lack of LGBT health education provided in schools is terrible. Health courses are taught from a heteronormative standpoint that fail to even address the health of those in the LGBT community. Just because it is different doesn’t mean it’s bad. Everyone should be able to benefit from their health education. It’s 2017, things need to change. Teaching health from a heteronormative standpoint is discriminatory and detrimental to the physical and mental well-being of those in the LGBT community.
by: Abby Abrams