Tackling difficult topics in education has always been a tough line for teachers to ride. The concept of taboos in education is nothing new, it’s just that the things people were afraid to talk about fifty years ago were different than they are now (although, admittedly, not much different). Nowadays, there are certainly still things that make educators hesitant to address, for fear of repercussions from students or parents, or even for the fear of losing their job.
Is it not the place of education to discuss some of these challenging ideas and put them in context for children, though? Whether we like it or not, kids learn about the things we’d rather keep from them, the only choice that we have is whether they are going to learn it from us, or from sources beyond our control. Here are several taboo topics that we should tackle more in education, today…
Drugs and addiction are both hot topics, largely because addressing requires looking into the face of the misery that both these things have left in their wake in our own communities. However, it is important that children understand what substance abuse is and how addiction is able to take hold of a person. Most states do have drug resistance education, but it has proven horribly ineffective. One major problem with these programs, such as D.A.R.E., is that they fail to explain why people get addicted in the first place. The harsh reality is that most of these dangerous substances make people feel amazing, but that is precisely what makes them so dangerous. Just trying to hammer it into kids heads to say no does little to mitigate their later actions.
Our understanding of what addiction is and how it works has changed over the past decade, largely due to the need to better understand an epidemic that continues to grow in the United States and around the world. New programs that better teach children why drugs are dangerous and why they should avoid them are sorely needed, today. Some states have already addressed this problem by starting more effective drug education at an earlier age.
Sex has always been the taboo education topic for the ages, with fierce debates being fought both for and against sex education’s place in general curriculums. It’s understandable that sex is such a difficult topic to broach. Some people feel there is a loss of innocence, or even an encouragement to participate in sex, when sex is tackled in an educational setting. However, it’s important to not be naive enough to think that these kids are as clueless about these subjects as we think they are. Whether we want to believe it or not, kids are going to find out about sexual topics, and their minds are going to fill in the gaps.
Comprehensive sex education isn’t about promoting having sex to kids, it’s about making sure that they aren’t having unsafe sex that increases the number of teenage STIs and pregnancies. Studies have found that abstinence-only education, which have cost the federal government billions of dollars in the past 20 years, have proven to be entirely ineffective at producing abstinence as a result. For this reason, we shouldn’t allow our squeamishness about talking about sex to get in the way of building a better and safer world for our children, and we should do more to ensure that comprehensive sexual education is available to every student throughout the United States.
Did you guess Rock n’ Roll? Sadly, you were mistaken. However, that would certainly be a topic that leads to much less tension, in today’s society. Racial relations are at a complicated place, today. Many people believe that racial tensions are higher than they used to be, but the reality is that there is probably just more awareness of the racial problems that have already existed for most people that race relations actually affect.
To be fair, most public schools will address the issue of race, but it will be viewed from a very distant lens, usually towards slavery and Jim Crow laws. While these are definitely important topics to learn about, in order to understand the context of racial problems today, schools should do more to put the world around students in context, so that the things they learn can actually help them navigate the problems of today.