Questions over sex education raise eyebrows

KIRSTY JOHNSTON
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2013

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A boys' puberty quiz asking whether a lack of chest hair indicates a man is gay is raising eyebrows among sex educators.

The question was included in a test given to intermediate-aged boys at an Auckland school last week, and came from a sex-ed kit provided by healthcare giants Johnson&Johnson.

The school's principal says the question was designed to "start a conversation" but experts say it has the potential to cause more harm that it's worth, and is another example of the shambolic state of New Zealand's sex education curriculum.

Boys aged 11 to 13 at Glen Eden Intermediate were given the 21-question quiz as part of a "positive puberty" session.

It required true/false answers and included other statements such as "the hormone testosterone causes a boy's voice to deepen" and "wet dreams are caused by eating fatty food".

Question number 20 read: "If a boy has no hair on his chest, he is homosexual."

"That question could potentially worry some boys," said Family Planning's director of health promotion Francis Bird.

"All boys have no hair on their chest when they're developing. But it could also start them asking - my dad doesn't have hair on his chest, is he gay? Is my uncle gay?"

Green MP Kevin Hague, who has been pushing for a improvements to the sex education system, said the question "raised his eyebrows".

"I would want any question like that to be backed up with some very good guidance."

Glen Eden's principal Terry Hewetson said the quiz was designed to provoke a discussion. Many of the questions were put up as "mythbusters" to give teachers the chance to tell the children the facts.

Hewetson said, like all schools, Glen Eden was required to consult with the community every two years about sex education, so parents knew what they were teaching.

There had been no complaints from parents about the quiz.

He pointed out the reason they were using a Johnson&Johnson quiz was because there was a lack of resources from the Ministry of Education.

Educators said that was a problem identified in a 2007 Education Review Office report, but little had been done to fix it.

Executive director of the Aids Foundation Shaun Robinson said the chest hair question was a good example of where teachers were "well intentioned" but through a lack of resources were teaching "ad hoc".

"Sexuality is such an underdeveloped topic with young people.

"It's something that needs to be approached with more background."

He said five per cent of the boys in that class would be gay and they deserved to have the information they needed to keep themselves safe just the same as heterosexual young people.

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A Ministry of Education statement said schools were best to make the choices about their students' learning.

- Sunday Star Times

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