Sexual and Gender Diverse Adolescents and the Failures of Traditional Education in Public Education: Post #3
* Third part of the term paper titled "Sexual and Gender Diverse Adolescents and the Failures of Traditional Education in Public Education." This post covers the Methodological Framework for Research, Preliminary Implications, and the Conclusion portion of the paper.
Methodological Framework for Research
In order to ascertain what information should be used to develop a comprehensive sexual education curricula to be taught in public schools, a firm baseline of knowledge must be developed. It is proposed that a 2 page survey with optional telephone or in-person interviews should be used for data collection. It is vital that a diverse geographic area be chosen which will ensure the number of respondents needed and also gives more legitimacy to the data collected. The area chosen for this study is Clark County, Nevada which has a diverse population in both very large metropolitan and rural areas and has the fifth largest school district in the United States. This county has almost sixty high schools (magnet and charter high schools included) which allows for the response of at least 70,000 students (full high school student population was estimated as 89,438 as of 2012 so student population might be higher or lower based on community growth.) (no author, 2013) This survey should be given to all students who attend any public middle or high school in the selected county. The survey will be multiple choice and should be electronically scored.
It is recommended that the survey be presented to students on a Wednesday during second period (to assure the most attendance by participants) and that students should be given fifteen minutes to fill out the questionnaire. This recommendation means that students will receive the survey during classes that may not be focused on health; however, this will assure that the full student population is covered if all potential participants are given the survey at approximately the same time.
Confidentiality should be stressed to the students and questionnaires should be picked up by the teacher at the end of the period. Survey questions will contain questions on age of sexual initiation, behaviors used, sexual orientation and gender identity, negative consequences of sexual behavior, and related content including racial identity, relationship development and positive life skills. A survey was chosen over interviews as the best form of research as many people feel more comfortable with answering anonymous questions; it is a less expensive method of collecting large forms of data; and helps to eliminate evaluator bias as every participant gets the same questions. By using such a large group of participants, students who claim sexual diversity can have their thoughts heard and research can get a general idea of what percentage of the student population is gender or sexually diverse.
There are a some potential implications for conducting this research and analyzing the results from data collected. As there doesn’t appear to be much research on diverse sexual orientation and gender identity, this study should give researchers a better understanding of what percentage of students who claim sexual or gender diversity other than heterosexuality. Current research tends to remove this data so the estimates of the statistics of sexual diversity are just that: an estimate. Having a better understanding of what the actual numbers are will give both educators and elected officials a real understanding of the human cost of ineffective sexual education for sexual diverse students. It is one thing to understand that sexual diverse students are most likely to have ‘negative consequences’ due to sexual behavior and imagining those consequences to be felt by a few or small group of individuals. It is another to recognize that the number of affected individuals is larger than assumed. If the numbers of sexually diverse adolescents tend towards the estimated population of American adults who claim sexual diversity, then the population would be estimated between 3.1% to 4.9%. (Gates, 2017) That suggests that possible numbers of sexually diverse high school students in Clark County, Nevada could be estimated as between 2,772 to 4,382 students. It must also be acknowledged that these estimates could be low as the negative social and economic costs to ‘outted’ sexually diverse adults can be quite high. This information should extend the research already collected on some forms of adolescent heterosexual behavior to a more complete picture on all forms of adolescent sexual behavior. Information gleaned from respondent data can then be used to develop a thoughtful and comprehensive sexual education curriculum for use in public schools. Having this information available to those who are attempting to create relevant and useful curricula for students is vital to their success. It is vital to recognize that there may be a small minority of students who will still not feel comfortable with the survey and may choose to not complete it or complete it with false information. However, it is hoped that due to the specific way that the survey is presented to students can help minimize this particular limitation in the data collected.
Another implication is that future researchers could feel more comfortable creating proposals that are more inclusive of sexual diversity rather than removing or throwing out the data collected. Sexuality has many forms and behaviors and limiting the majority of research to heterosexual ‘penile to vaginal’ intercourse leaves out a lot of sexual behavior for all sexual claimants. More research that focuses on sexual behavior in general- including sexual behavior that is socially distasteful such as bestiality- will create a solid baseline on human sexuality, theoretically creating new understanding of human relationships and behavior. The implications of a deeper understanding of human sexual diversity and behavior can be huge as sexual desire and behavior affects so much of ‘the human condition’ and can affect the research of many scientific subjects including biology, psychology, sociology, etc.
Other implications of this research are the ways that the aggregated data could be used to not only shape public school curricula, but also public policy towards education and sexual diversity in our society. In our current political climate and in many communities both in America and around the world, living openly as a sexually diverse individual can come with significant negative consequences from families, communities, and society at large. Using solid research to work towards greater understanding and tolerance of sexual diversity in our society can bring about higher levels of personal and economic success and reduce the negative consequences of sexual diversity that not only harm individuals, but our society as a whole. Civil protections for sexually diverse individuals in housing, the workplace, medical care, family and relationship development, personal safety, and social safety nets could have immense consequences for our society as a whole. Whether these consequences are positive or negative will be determined by the civil protections developed, implemented and disseminated to our society as a whole.
There are many assumptions made about the sexualities and sexual behavior of American adolescents. While there have been numerous studies of some forms of adolescent sexual behavior, there has been very little research on sexual diversity and behavior. I argue that the previous research performed and used to determine the curricula disseminated to public school adolescents is too limited and too politicized to create effective, comprehensive programs. Assumptions about the sexualities of teachers, religious preferences in teaching, how curricula is taught to students, the sexualities of students themselves, political viewpoints, and the needs for a stable society create hurdles for effective and positive sexual education. Assumptions are not always correct and can leave the majority of adolescents without any real information on how to make positive choices with their sexuality and behavior. These negative consequences- including disease and pregnancy-come at both an individual and societal cost. This research will be instrumental in changing the focus of sexual education curricula towards an effective comprehensive program for all students which can truly be used to minimize the negative consequences currently faced by American youth and bring the statistics of these consequences closer to the lower numbers found in other first world nations. As a foundation for further study, this research can be used to more fully understand the true spectrum of sexual diversity and behavior in our society and lead towards more tolerance and understanding throughout society as a whole.