Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sex-Ed in Jewish Schools

The New York Times featured this article about Rabbi Haskel Lookstein's ongoing sex-ed class at Ramaz that he calls, "Sex with the Rabbi". (Thanks to Hirhurim for pointing it out.)
While some might like to criticize, I applaud Rabbi Lookstein, although I'm not sure why the class merits a piece in the NYT. I also wonder whether the class would be better taught in a separate setting. Still, this class and others of its kind are a critical component for children growing up today.
During my last year in Detroit, I taught halachah to a small group of tenth grade boys once a week. After a couple of months of Hilchot Shabbat, I decided to study hilchot Issurei Bi'ah (forbidden sexual relationships) of the Rambam, specifically chapter 21, which deals with many of the issues young people struggle with as they grow: sexuality, prohibited behavior, marriage, objectification of women - it's all in there, really. (Needless to say, the change of subject addressed the lagging attendance issues.)
What emerged was clearly a necessary class: these kids have seen everything - or at least they think that they have. What they have not seen is a healthy sexual relationship - and that's because you're not supposed to see one. It's supposed to be private. But what they have seen - and I don't care how frum you are and what school you send your kids to - is the objectification of women, the value of sex as an act, not as a covenant, the expectation that every woman have a certain body size and type. The list goes on and on. And still schools cower from fear that they might "corrupt" the kids. The kids are already corrupted. What they need is a sense of balance that a Torah perspective on sexuality can give them.
So if your school has a class like this, thank your lucky stars. And if it doesn't, it should.