The SECS-C is a sexual ethics curriculum that is designed to be used in schools after a few lessons on sexual health have been provided by the school. The SECS-C focuses on ethics and as a practical philosophy curriculum, teaches students to think about other people and sex in society from an ethics viewpoint.
The SECS-C has been around since 2012 and is now in its 3rd incarnation: SECS-C 8-9-10. It is written for 8th, 9th, or 10th graders but lessons can be tweaked to work with younger and older students. We have taught the curriculum, evaluated it, and published articles on our evaluation of the curriculum. This new version is a CULTURALLY COMPETENT, less philosophically dense version. In it we promote the view that “CONSENT IS NOT ENOUGH.”
Typical health sex education curricula include factual data about how bodies function, reproduction, contraception, pregnancy, disease. Some contain information about abuse, victimization, and sexual decision-making. This curriculum, is in a broad sense, an applied philosophy curriculum; it is philosophy applied to the topic of sex. Its aim is to use philosophy to help teens to think about not only themselves and their own development, but also about sex in the world around them. Rather than taking a social skills approach—that is, an approach that teaches kids skills they can bring into the world in sexual encounters—we take the perspective that good thinking and reasoning about such issues produce good behavior. School districts are encouraged to make their own decisions regarding the kinds of health-related lessons on contraception, sexual decision-making, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases they want to be taught in their schools. There are many other courses that specifically address those concerns. It is our hope that reasoning about sex in terms of justice, human rights, consent, benevolence, and caring will encourage sound decision-making and subsequently prevent pregnancy, disease, abuse, and victimization.
It’s fairly clear to everyone that the world around teens today is full of sexual material. Students are exposed on a daily basis to narratives, myths, and information about what sex is and what it means to people. But the narratives they get are fairly narrow and don’t regularly address confusion, longings, fantasies, and questions about right and wrong in the broader world of sex and sexual relationships that the media presents.
Most curricula tell kids what to do or offer them exercises through which they develop and practice the social skills to “do the right thing.” This “right thing” might be obtaining consent before sex, asking to use birth control, or, in cases of abstinence curricula, learning how to say “no.” Findings from the field of moral development suggest that children and teens need to develop their own reasons for what they do. They need to develop critical reasoning skills to come up with the reasons for saying “no” or saying “yes.” Only then does the morality become their own. But, not all reasons are justifiable, and therefore this curriculum does not advocate an “anything goes” morality. What it does advocate is the need for students to justify—through reasoning, religious beliefs, and/or universal moral principles—the acts they think are right and wrong.
Table of Contents
This curriculum is not your typical sex education curriculum! This course starts students thinking about other people. This course starts students thinking about sex in society!
Lesson 7: CONSENT AND COERCION PART 2: LIMITATIONS
Lesson 8: CONSENT AND COERCION PART 3: RAPE CULTRE
Lesson 9: MEDIA AND OBJECTIFICATION PART 1
Lesson 10: MEDIA AND OBJECTIFICATION PART 2: HIP HOP
Lesson 11: SEXTING
Lesson 12: BODIES AND RIGHTS
Lesson 13: PORNOGRAPHY
Lesson 14: RELIGION AND SEX
Lesson 15: CHILDHOOD SEXUALITY AND SHAME
Lesson 16: PLEASURE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Extra Lessons, Readings, and Activities
Note to Teachers
We think that any classroom teacher should be able to teach the SECS-C, and will gladly provide training on how to hold discussions that center on ethics.
For this course, it is very important for teachers to not share their personal perspective, or at least to not share their perspective too often. In order to engage students in a kind of Socratic questioning that is necessary for them to understand their own moral viewpoints, teachers need to keep their own ethics to themselves. That is not to say that the teacher must keep quite about universal ethical principles and how they might apply to dilemmas and discussions. But the teacher’s primary role is to help students to work out their own positions and to justify them well. As students attempt to justify their positions, the teacher is a source of moral theory that can be used or which challenges the student’s point of view. This might sound intimidating but the ethics discussed are basic and simplified for high schoolers to understand. What the teacher needs to do also is to model respect for all views and to help the students to live up to their own goals of behavior in the classroom that they lay out in the first week of the class.
There are a few teaching methods that work well. One is simply asking questions for clarification as a student begins to work out her or his reasoning on an issue. Another is creating a hypothetical dilemma or a case that tests the idea. A third is asking the student what virtue or rule might be universalized from his or her perspective: "what kind of rule would you invent, based on that statement, that all people would have to follow?" If a teacher follows these three guidelines, he or she will be teaching from a philosophical perspective.
There are two additional reasons not to share one’s own opinion. The first is a solid pedagogical one in that it’s distracting to the student’s own thinking and carries more weight and power than any student’s opinion. Students need to challenge and learn from one another. It’s also important for a teacher to model inquiry without proclamation; that is, he or she presents as curious, as a learner without the need to assert his or her ethical view. A second reason has more to do with the delicate nature of teaching sexuality and the worries parents have. To preserve such a course in one’s school, it’s important for a teacher to be a good advocate for it. What one needs to advocate for is a space to consider in a reasoned and educated way dilemmas that involve sex and sexual behavior. If parents or school personnel are worried that the teacher is trying to influence teens regarding ethical matters, they can get quite upset and thus put the whole course in jeopardy. To preserve this space where students can play out certain ideas and develop their own ethical standpoints, it is thus really important for a teacher to be an advocate for that space and not for any one ethical position.
A final very important role for the educator is to monitor class level of stimulation. While you don’t want a class falling asleep reading ancient philosophy, you also don’t want the class making dirty jokes, hopping out of their seats, and speaking in a way that shows just how stimulating the topic is.
Some ways to modulate the level of stimulation in the class is to suddenly ask students to focus on writing a paragraph or two on a topic of discussion. Another is through a group self-reflection exercise, where a teacher stops the group and asks them to consider why all of a sudden the class is louder and more boisterous. If the answer describes increased interest or increased anxiety, the teacher can ask the students why they suppose there was such increased interest or anxiety over that topic.
Purchasing the SECS-C
We now charge $50 for pdf of the 8-9-10 curriculum. This is an update of the 8-session version appropriate for 9th grade which was evaluated using 7 9th grade classrooms (see Lamb & Randazzo, 2015, in The Journal of Moral Education, or write to us for a copy of the articles.) Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for payment and shipping.