Eleventh grade. That’s the first and only time I remember learning anything about health and sex education.
Worksheets, textbook readings and those cliché videos from the '90s that make you question why everything you watch in class is outdated.
And in that one year of health class, I honestly couldn’t tell you if I learned about consent. Yes, sexual assault and domestic violence came up, but the specifics of consent never did. And maybe I don’t remember because that’s something I always knew, but what about the people who don’t? Where’s the comprehensive curriculum for students who need to be educated on more than just “No means no” and think everything else is yes?
Consent is not something that we should only be pushing during an online orientation for freshmen in college.
It shouldn’t be a 30-minute lesson module that no one will remember because they’re just clicking through it to fill a requirement (which turns out isn’t actually required but “heavily recommended"). Starting to teach consent to an 18-year-old won’t erase all their beliefs about health they’ve believed since they were born. Starting to teach consent at 18 is illogical. As adults, many of our core beliefs and values are already sealed tightly into our personalities and decisions. We are more easily persuaded when we are younger.
Which is good if you had a great education on consent, but detrimental if you didn’t.
Not only is it ironic, but it’s insane how we as a society acknowledge how teenagers are having sex at a young age, but fail to teach them anything on the matter when they could’ve used the information years ago. Eleventh grade is the latest time you want to teach a teenager about their own health.
So what do we do about it? Consent Education Minnesota, also CONSENT (ED) MN , “is a youth and young-adult-led grassroots legislative initiative to pass a state statute requiring K-12 affirmative consent education.”
The group's main objective is to improve health curriculum in K-12 classrooms.
Ranging from sexual violence to STIs, it’s important for students to have a comprehensive curriculum that effectively tells and gives them information that will actually benefit them. Similar programs are trying to create concrete curriculums for youth that are updated and fit with pop culture because what we have today isn’t cutting it.
Currently, in Minnesota, the state doesn’t require students to actually receive education on consent, coercion or sexual assault.
It’s all up to our local school districts to fit this into their curriculums. If any of you have been to a public school, you know how quickly health falters to that extra time set for state standardized testing. We can’t leave the importance of teaching consent in the hands of school districts who care more about that new football stadium than the education of their students.
We have this phenomenal law that can shape the way consent is taught in the future, but so many educators and parents fight back against the teaching of health curriculum at young ages because they’re “only kids” and aren’t ready for it yet.
To the adults out there, have you seen what’s going on in popular culture and the media? The longer you wait to teach students about their health, the more likely they’ll find that information on their own or will stumble upon it. And that “information” they’ll find is in drama shows that perpetuate rape culture, romanticize mental illnesses and continually allow these negative beliefs to cycle through the high school hallways.
Future programs like this don't include things like D.A.R.E (which has been proven to be completely useless by articles and journals) or any program that tries to scare students away from drugs. Using the scare tactic for health topics, talking about the worst that could happen or has happened to someone only works with students who grew up with someone that suffered.
As an Elementary Education major, legislative initiatives like CONSENT (ED) MN are things for which I will always campaign. We know how much children and adolescents are influenced by their family, community and society and how impossible it is to shift their views if they're incorrect or lacking in information. I know how hyper-masculinity bears the blame for the lack understanding about consent and how these toxic masculine ideals start as young as early childhood.
We shouldn’t be teaching grown adults about consent. We shouldn’t have to explain why hesitation doesn’t mean "Yes."
You can’t blame your alcohol intake on the trauma you create for someone else. Doing worksheets and reading textbook chapters is not enough. You need actual discussions--things that won’t sail over a student’s head because it’s just another assignment to add to the growing pile of work they have to do.
We need CONSENT (ED) MN as early as middle school. And we need it now.