Middle school students are learning who they are and who they are in relation to others. Children at any stage or age are developing their own ideas and interest and their development not only includes genetic factors, but also environmental factors. How we approach gender and stereotypes can have a huge impact on the way that they think about themselves and other people.
“Gender identity is the gender you feel inside and how you show your gender through your looks and behavior. It’s a feeling that begins early in life, long before a child gets to middle school. It’s important to keep talking about gender roles and stereotypes through middle school, too.” (Planned Parenthood)
It is dangerous to allow the government to control what children are taught in schools. Nonetheless parents and other family members find themselves in a predictment because governments control who teaches children and what content will be taught, especially in public schools. And learning diversity and addressing our own biases as teachers is not a bad thing. However, there are still many clashing perspectives when it comes to what is acceptable to teach children.
The most important thing that we can take into account is the students and how what is taught will affect them for the rest of their lives. Middle school students are finding out who they are and what they are interested in. They are making more decisions on their own, have more social freedoms, and are learning new things that will prepare them for high school and beyond.
Scientific research and education is used to teach middle school students about the sexual orientation that affects their bodies, relationships, and identities. Many social scientists believe that defining sexual orientations and sexual identities is important for children to understand that not everyone is the same or attracted to the same things.
Sexual orientation is all about who you’re attracted to. Who makes you blush and feel butterflies in your stomach? Examples of how people are different and how people are attracted to different people for different reasons is brought up in discussions of what it feels like to be bullied and what makes a bully. Teachers also talk about what it is like to deny feelings in an effort to try to fit in with the other students. A useful approach is to discuss how feelings stay with a person for a lifetime but how sometimes our feelings change over time.
Appearances are discussed from the perspective of how a person may be perceived by others and how a person perceives themselves. Physical and biological reasons why some people may look more masculine than others and how bodies grow and change around middle school are learned in classes.
Middle school is when children begin to have crushes on people that they are physically attracted to. Children’s bodies are changing so it is important for them to understand what is happening to them inside and outside of their bodies. They may begin to form attractions to other people and to develop romantic ideas. It is important for children to know that some of their feelings may last throughout their lives while other thoughts and feeling about things may change.
All children need love and support and someone they can trust to talk to about changes in their life so it is important that they know that the changes they are experiencing are normal and that they can talk about it. Middle school children may have questions about sexual orientation of themselves or other people and if they don’t, they will by the time they are in high school so defining sexual identities and sexual orientation is something many believe they should learn in school.
Middle school children may have questions about different sexualities such as heterosexuality, homosexuality, and even monsexuality. Defining sexual identities is a good educational tool to discuss respect for other people as well as respect and acceptance of one’s self.
It is also important for parents to process their own feelings about differing ideologies that children are subjected to, and Planned Parenthood is a good place to start because though half of the United States population does not want to fund them or have their ideologies taught in schools they are still a dominant voice in today’s American culture.
Planned Parenthood describes transphobia as “the fear and hatred of transgender and gender nonconforming people”. They suggest that transphobia and homophobia should be defined and explained in a way that makes respecting others important and so that middle school children understand the importance of accepting others for who and what they are. Negative attitudes, feelings or actions toward transgender, transsexual, or homosexual people should be addressed to prevent bullying, fear, aversion, hatred, violence, anger, and discomfort that may be happening outside of class”.
Everyone wants to be accepted for who and what they are so what are teachers being taught to teach? Discussions about race, sexism, classism, and gendering have become common even among the United States youngest students. Theologists, psychologists, and other social scientists engineered today’s early childhood educational content to include sex stereotypes, sex differences, and gender identity as part of the discussion alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic in American schools. More about this can be found in the Gendering in Early Education: A history of gender education. part of this series.
The science behind what middle school children are taught comes from research that shows a biological basis for sexual orientation that is believed to be a bias to heterosexual, bisexual, or homosexual sexual orientation that is determined prior to birth and influenced by social and cultural forces of nature that nurture sexual desires.
A combination of genetic, prenatal hormones, brain structure, and social factors is believed to determine sexual orientation. Studies related to the development of sexual orientation show that fetal neural development proposes that prenatal hormone exposure, maternal immunity, and other developmental factors determine sexual orientation. Other proposed hypothesis suggest that sexual orientation is controlled by genetic factors. There are also studies that suggest that cell number and size of various nuclei in the hypothalamus may determine sexual orientation. Hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, oxytocin, and vasopressin also influence sexual motivation.
The nucleus accumbens subsection of the ventral striatum (VS) is associated with motivational processes in neuroimaging studies of reward paradigms. Activity within the VS and hypothalamus have been specifically associated with the experience of stimuli as erotic, and correlate with degrees of sexual intensity. Dopaminergic stimulation of the VS shows to be closely related to desire, craving, or wanting so it is believed that hormones are the reason why sexual preferences differ from person to person.
Combining research from past experiments conducted in classrooms and experiments conducted by sex therapists has formed the content that is now taught to teachers that they teach to students in classes across the country. Research experiments generally involve both control and treatment groups in order to facilitate comparison and it is tough as a parent to think about what research experiment our own children are subjected to and often without any of us even knowing that the experiment is happening.
Diversity learning does not necessarily have to be a bad thing though. Teachers should work with parents to build positive relationships. That is their goal with teaching diversity to children so they should not have a problem practicing it in their own lives. Today it seems that many parents do not know what their children are being taught and many know and do not agree with the content of the curriculum. If teachers truly want to create a more understanding and accepting world than they have to start with working with the family as well as with the child. The privacy of classrooms is a serious concern for many parents and it should be addressed in a way that builds trust between the teachers and the communities they serve.