What are public schools in Philadelphia missing? Besides concrete details like textbooks, calculators, and other supplies, students are actually lacking an important piece of their education.
The topic of consent is often never brought up in the conversation of curriculum, and students at Central High School are trying to change this.
The school’s Women’s Week Committee recognizes the importance of educating students about their right to exercise their “no.” One of their main objectives is sending a proposal to the School District of Philadelphia on requiring a consent class to be added to the sex education curriculum.
If the group succeeds, its effort could spark a change in sex education throughout Pennsylvania. This was discussed during this year’s Women’s Week, on Thursday, March 7. 2019.
Many students find themselves at a loss on where to get accurate and helpful information regarding sex and its counterpart, consent. For some, school is their go to.
Tahir Johnson, a student at Central, says, “Ain’t nobody going to go out of school to learn it, so..”
Yet, only 24 states in the US require sex education, and Pennsylvania is not included on this list. Out of this figure, a mere eight mention consent.
Students continue to be misinformed on this subject throughout young adulthood.
Michael Atemie, a junior attending Abraham Lincoln High School, points out that, “The knowledge of how the body operates and how and what safe sex is, is fundamental. Most guys and females think if the opposing person does not say no that it’s okay. That’s not the case.”
A change this big would impact the lives of students in the public education system. However, not everybody is on board with this.
In a recent series of Instagram polls conducted on February 11, 2019, the responses were mixed. When asked about making sex education mandatory in schools, 3.5% of participants voted No, or 8 out of 229 people.
Compare this to the 6.8% opposition towards introducing the topic of consent in schools, where 15 out of 221 rejected the idea.
Seth Ramos is a junior at Northeast High School who does not have sex education as a class, nor does he believe it is really necessary.
He suggests, “Advertising – just like how we advertise for drunk driving and smoking. If people really are uneducated about safe sex and consent, then advertise these things on TV, Instagram, and other apps.”
Fortunately, for opposers of sex education (including consent), WWC has accomplished other goals.
Entirely student run, they took charge of a series of exciting events during March 4-8, 2019. Each day promoted the theme of female empowerment and gave students an opportunity to hear speakers from a diverse pool of backgrounds. Highlights include an LGBT panel, a women’s drive, and a three hour long symposium on Thursday to tackle the issue of teaching consent.
Women’s Week Committee is a fresh and original club who has worked hard in the past few months to ensure the success of this year’s event. According to Kenneth Hung, sponsor of the club, it first appeared in the 1990s and has been shaky ever since.
In the 2017-2018 school year, it simply did not exist. Members hope that 2019’s Women’s Week could mark the beginning of a stable Central tradition.
Bigger than Central is the literal state of Pennsylvania’s sexual education. If WWC is successful in their attempt at getting consent recognized as a valid topic to be taught at schools, sex education and our current curriculum can look very, very different than how it does today.
As Klaire Zhan, a prominent figure of the committee puts it, “Talking about the issue is the foundation – because how are you going to solve a problem without even talking about it?”