Date of Submission

Spring 2012

Academic Program


Project Advisor 1

Allison McKim

Abstract/Artist's Statement

In this paper I explore how the predominant types of sex education curricula attempt to incite certain types of behaviors in young people. I analyse an abstinence only curriculum, Navigator: Finding Your Way and a comprehensive curriculum written by Peer Health Exchange. This is a study of the text of the curricula, not their implementation. I look at how the curricula adhere to mainstream conceptualizations of childhood and adolescence, and how these conceptions have led to the legal creation of firmly bounded worlds in which young people are separate from adults. The creation of the separate world for adults and young people is used to assign young people the position of at-risk before they are empowered by sex education curricula. The curricula empower young people by giving them tools to self-define and to construct a self upon which to act. I will also examine how the curricula teach young people to take their newly constructed selves and relate it to other people in their peer groups. Both curricula attempt to empower students against dependency, a character trait that can easily surface when a young person’s new and fragile self enters into a potentially sexual relationship. While both curricula use ideologies of childhood and adolescence in order to justify their empowerment programming, their opposing attitudes toward sexuality leads them to attempt to incite different behavioral norms in students.

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