In this week’s news roundup, I mentioned that Texas will no longer require Health Education in its pubic schools, and I just wanted to expand on that a little more.
First, some background:
A new law went into effect requiring that students to take 6 elective courses, up from the 3.5 that were previously required. Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott then dropped the Health Education requirement in order to give students more flexibility in choosing their electives. He also dropped 1 semester of the PE requirement and 2 semesters of the Technology requirement for the Recommended high school programs.
There are 3 high school graduation tracks in Texas:
- Minimum Program
- Recommended Program
- DAP (Distinguished Achievement; formerly known as the Honors Program)
The majority of students will graduate under the Recommended, which means that the majority of Texas high school now don’t have to take an extra semester of PE, and can now go through high school without ever setting foot in a technology class, since all that was required was 1 full credit (2 semesters) of technology. Since pretty much everything is technology-based nowadays, what the hell is the TEA thinking?
I’m less perturbed by the PE requirement being dropped, but only slightly. I never had to take a Physical Education class in high school because the requirement was satisfied by my participation in marching band. Same for the students who participated in sports, drill team, cheerleading, JROTC, etc. But what of the students who don’t participate in those types of extracurricular activities? 32.2% of Texas children ages 10-17 are overweight. Physical and Health Education are two of the last things the state should be dropping.
So that brings us to Health Ed being dropped, to which I say ARGH!!!
True, school districts aren’t required to drop health class. Many school districts around the state will likely continue to keep Health Ed. But since the state is no longer required to keep it, a lot of districts–particularly the more conservative ones–will probably kiss it goodbye.
Lots of stuff gets covered in health class. Healthy eating, alcohol and drug abuse, domestic abuse, anatomy, and yes, sex ed (sometimes), among other things. I’m sure the level of information provided to students varies greatly depending on the district and the teacher, but at least there was something in place mandating that some type of health education be presented.
I lucked out. When I took health, my teacher was one of the school’s gruff football coaches. And while I know coaches at times get stereotyped for being ridiculously lax and scatter-brained (think “Fresh Prince” and 10 Things I Hate About You), my health teacher was blunt, passionate, and very intent on teaching health relevant to his class of rowdy, hormonal teens. And sure, a lot of us already knew the drill. But a lot of people didn’t. And all of us paid attention to those STD pictures.
My sister and her peers weren’t so lucky, having a teacher who preferred to let the class do whatever they wanted, although the teacher did at least go through the motions of providing the mandated curriculum. Unfortunately, that didn’t include sex ed, and my sister can regale you with various headdesk arguments she had with her male peers who took it upon themselves to share their bits of wisdom with the girls (i.e., if there’s space between a girl’s legs when she walks/if her thighs don’t rub together, it’s because she has lots and lots of sex and she’s a big slut). This? This is the shit kids come up with when adults can’t be bothered to teach them properly.
I don’t get it. I just don’t get it. 6 credits of electives=12 classes. And I’m all about electives, really. When I was in high school, I was Queen Band Geek and lived for clarinet competitions. I went on to two degrees that were completely liberal arts-based. I totally get the importance of electives.
But If I had a kid, I’d be completely okay with them having only 10-11 courses in electives if that meant they graduated knowing about their bodies. What the hell is the state thinking? Instead of taking things away, they should focus on finding ways to mandate a very specific curriculum that incorporates comprehensive sex ed into comprehensive health education classes.