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April 10, 2011

…but not fiction this time. FLASH is the acronym for Family Life and Sexual Health, a sex-ed curriculum put together by King County Public Health and the Seattle School District some 30 years ago. There were two sections, one for 5th/6th grades, one for 7th/8th grades. I taught the 5/6 for a number of years and always enjoyed it. The kids were eager to know about sex but  not for any prurient reasons. Just like when we were kids, rumors and misinformation circulated and they needed to know what it was all about. There were 12 units in the curriculum, starting with Families, Friendships, and Making Good Decisions and ending with Puberty, Reproductive Systems, and Pregnancy. There were some good ground rules for making this a safe experience for the kids. Many, for example, did not know the standard names for parts of the body so they could refer to a particular part by its street name once; when given the correct name, they were to use that word from then on. Kids could ask any question at all, and I mean ANY question. No one was required to ask or respond to any question—they could simply pass. (Fortunately, that applied to the teacher as well. One of the first questions I got was, “Mr. G., what’s a cocksucker?”)I declined to answer.) For those too embarrassed to ask a question, they could write them anonymously and put them in a sealed box I made. I would answer the question at the appropriate time. Here are some of the questions I got and answered over the years. Ask your self how you would have answered—it’s an interesting exercise.

Making Friends

When you make a friend and he’s a boy and you’re a girl and people think you’re crazy, what should you do?

• I have a friend who likes me in a different way, as a girlfriend. It’s normal to say “no”, right?


Does it hurt to have a baby?

• Does a menstrual period happen if you have a miscarriage?

• If you wanted a baby would you have to have sex?

• Why do men and women have sex to have a baby?

• How long does it take to get pregnant?

• How did people get babies a long time ago?

Sex Roles

• Why aren’t there more men on the streets selling their bodies?

• Why are girls and boys different?

• Why, on TV shows, do they show only women’s private parts (breasts) and not men’s? Not that I want to see anything but that’s not fair.

• Can homosexuals have sex with their own gender? If so, how? (Homosexuality and abortion were not part of the curriculum.)


• What if you started puberty and didn’t feel comfortable telling a parent or anyone else but you had really bad cramps and needed advice?

• What if you get you period at school? Where would you get a pad? And what if it goes through what you’re wearing?

•When people hit me where it counts it hurts so much I could burst out and cry. What should I do? (My answer: Cry!)

• Are we going to learn how to have sex? (I could have said, “Yes, lessons at 11:00 and 1:00.” but of course didn’t.)

•If youwanted to have sex at age 11, would that be appropriate?

• Is puberty something to be afraid of or proud of?

• Do boys get puberty?

• What do you do when you have menstruation during an earthquake?

• What is a cherry?

• What is jacking off?

• Why would a person get sexually excited? Do boys get more sexually excited than girls?

• When a man is having sex can he spit out his sperm?


• What is sex supposed to feel like?

• Why do you have to go to the bathroom when they kiss on TV? (Love this question!)

• Is sex harmful?

• How do you talk to your parents about this kind of stuff?

• What is the proper name for “balls”?

• Why do women go to the sperm bank? And what if they get the wrong sperm?

• Who was the first person to do it?

• Do people have to be naked to do it?

Then there was the day this happened:

I was teaching a lesson on puberty and menstruation to my class of 5th graders. The lesson went on for about an hour and was very thorough. Many question were asked and frankly answered. When we finished, I felt the whole class had learned a lot about both topics, boys as well as girls. About an hour later I was on playground duty when Monique came running up, quite obviously excited about something. She came up to me and breathlessly whispered in my ear, “I just went to the bathroom and guess what? I discovered puberty!”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. NRJ permalink
    April 12, 2011 5:38 am

    I think it would be very interesting to track down a few of these folks and have them answer the same questions thirty years later. Then, in 2041 you could use those answers in your next blog. As Mister Art used to say “kids say the darndest things” – always with both innocence and a new view – and maybe should have more input to our world before they grow out of their little world and into the big, brutal one we have out here.

  2. April 12, 2011 2:57 pm

    I remember a second grade girl telling me this once many years ago, and she was right on: “Mr. G., you know how butterflies start life as kind of an ugly cocoon and then become beautiful butterflies? Why are people just the opposite? People are like butterflies when they’re kids but when they get old, they turn into cocoons.”

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