This is the second in a two-part series describing WYA’s innovative Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC). Please click here to see part one.
The HDC is an effective personal development education program, patterned on proven strategies, which impacts student behavior in measurable ways. The HDC teaches social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, and moral competence that foster self-determination, self-efficacy, and clear and positive identity. The HDC thus represents a positive vision for integrating sex education into a broader framework of character education.
Best practices in personal development and sexual education programs recognize that a clear personal awareness needs to be developed as a meaningful part of an individual’s worldview, consistent with reason and human experience. This opens opportunities for future and goal-oriented thinking. Once students possess a fundamental understanding of their own dignity, they have a basis from which to address the big questions they encounter in their lives as well as to see how they contribute to the community and world in which they live. Each lesson focuses on the “big picture” theme of how a proper understanding of the human person leads to human flourishing—helping students to understand and develop healthy habits, good decision-making skills, and a strong sense of meaning and purpose.
The HDC represents a positive vision for integrating sex education into a broader framework of character education.
A sexual education module is introduced with the sixth grade (ages 11-12), but is preceded by seven hours of instruction in personal development and is integrated within a commitment to achieving human excellence in one’s own behaviors and choices. TeenFEMM offers an integrated approach to health that better meets the internationally agreed-upon understanding that reproductive health is itself a factor in overall physical and mental health.
The first important takeaway from the international consensus documents is that they propose a holistic vision of sex education. The HDC grounds sexuality in the psychological and biological development and functioning of the human person. It shows how knowledge of human development and reproductive functioning may be used to recognize and attain health, regardless of one’s particular aims or state in life.
Another point of international consensus is “opposition to prejudicial traditional practices” like discrimination against menstruating women. By teaching that menstruation as part of an ovulatory cycle is a sign of health, teenFEMM gives young women conceptual tools to oppose such prejudices.
International standards rightly insist that sex education should involve international cooperation, modern teaching methods, and be sensitive to the needs of developing countries as well as age-appropriate. HDC uses a validated direct-instruction paradigm known to be the best method for pubescent-age learners and has adapted its program as a result of feedback from its pilot programs. Rather than offer one generic program, HDC offers tailored modules for each grade level.
The most fundamental tenet of sex education is that it must provide comprehensive and factual scientific knowledge. HDC/teenFEMM achieves this through its extensive reliance on scientific research (including the physiology of reproduction and reproductive and sexual health). The program provides information women typically lack and this helps them achieve informed consent with respect to their reproductive capacities and their state of health, including avoiding sexually transmitted diseases and seeking medical care as informed participants.
HDC recognizes that adolescent sexuality does not occur in a vacuum. Its emphasis on integral development within the context of the family recognizes the centrality of the family in international law and achieves improved sexual health outcomes.
Finally, HDC recognizes that adolescent sexuality does not occur in a vacuum. Its emphasis on integral development within the context of the family recognizes the centrality of the family in international law and achieves improved sexual health outcomes.
The HDC was developed by the WYA in collaboration with a research and development committee of experienced educators, curriculum developers, and medical doctors, and is designed for implementation at local, national, and international levels.
International standards are grounded in the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC), passed in 1990. CRC explicitly applies rights taken from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other agreements to children. With relevance to sex education, it provides that:
Sex education received a non-binding expression of political will at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo. The participating States proposed:
These goals were further elaborated at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing the following year, which stated that:
[Sex education should take] into account the rights of the child to access to information, privacy, confidentiality, respect and informed consent, as well as the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents and legal guardians to provide, in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child, appropriate direction and guidance in the exercise by the child of the rights recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and in conformity with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration. Support should be given to integral sexual education for young people with parental support and guidance that stresses the responsibility of males for their own sexuality and fertility and that help them exercise their responsibilities. ¶267
[States should] ensure education and dissemination of information to girls, especially adolescent girls, regarding the physiology of reproduction, reproductive and sexual health, as agreed to in the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and as established in the report of that Conference, responsible family planning practice, family life, reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV infection and AIDS prevention, recognizing the parental roles referred to in paragraph 267. ¶281e
Brother R. Thomas-Martin Miller is an Intern for WYA North America.