To her consternation, Jenny has finished her "module" on astronomy in science, as astronomy is one of Jenny’s interests, and is now onto "reproduction". Grim indeed, from her perspective, not least because she has a male science teacher, but also because this squirm-inducing topic was rammed down her throat in year 6 of primary school via 3 repeats of a government mandated video, including sex and childbirth (both "disgusting"), and she thought she’d seen the back of it for a while.  She was mortified, however, by tonight’s homework:

"Imagine you are a sperm cell. Tell the story of your epic journey from the testes, where you are made, to the woman’s egg. Describe the structures you pass through, and explain what happens when you finally meet up with the egg and get inside."

The horror. (And is it just me, or is it rather disturbing to mix anthropomorphism with biology education in this way?)

11 thoughts on “Mortification

  1. Wow. That is impressive. Like something out of a Monty Python skit, actually.
    Rebecca, on the other hand, had to sit through some school assembly on black history month the other day–something that she finds as repulsive as I do because it is innately racist. So the children were made to cheer, cheerleader-like, Give me a C! C! Give me an E! E! And so on to spell out CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY MONTH. I told her to be happy it wasn’t called African American History Month, as it would have taken that much longer.

  2. Oh dear, that is pricelessly funny and awful, progressive education gone terribly awry: please give Jenny my heartfelt commiseration!
    (A mock-epic style would seem to be appropriate in this case, better have a look at “The Rape of the Lock”…)

  3. I find it difficult to believe you are being serious Maxine.
    Perhaps they will be shown Everything You Wanted to know about Sex but were afraid to ask with Woody Allen? In one of the scenes he and others are dressed up as a sperm!
    Now I know why I have met so many teachers who want to retire early, or have had breakdowns.
    On the subject of Black History month it seems in children the UK are to be taught a module on the “Slave Trade”. I do hope it will be properly taught, and include modern day slavery, the Arab slave trade and white Christian slavery in the Barbary States.
    The Atlantic slave trade was indeed foul and a disgusting blemish on our civilisation. But Britain and the USA did at least eventually accept this and then do more to fight slavery than other nations.

  4. I actually remember one of the first books on sex ed. — I saw it in the library where I worked in high school. Title was something like: “Olivia Ovum Meets Sammy Sperm.” Anybody else remember this? Woulda been the late ’70s.
    Sex ed. is certainly an embarrassing course for preteens, partic. as the sexes are mixed when they learn it: At least in my son’s middle school. And here’s how retro some of the other teachers are. When Mark was asked in his history class to read aloud a passage on the Aztecs, he put back in a phrase his teacher had marked out: The phrase was “virgin sacrifices.” Mark was admonished afterwards for reinstating it and the teacher told him “virgin” was a dirty word (she had substituted ‘young girl’ for ‘virgin’). “No it’s not,” he retorted. “It just means someone who hasn’t had sex yet. We learned about it in sex ed.” The history teacher was not mollified and Mark got a detention for talking back. (They had a later altercation over the etymology of the word “cocky,” but that’s another story….)
    I wish I were Jewish, because these are the things that make me want to say, “Oy, vey ist mir!”

  5. That’s interesting about the virgins, Susan. A friend of mine stopped being a scientist and retrained as a chemistry teacher. She was teaching some 15/156 (ish) olds reaction kinetics and discovered they had never heard of logs. Obviously you can’t understand reaction kinetics without knowing the logarithmic scale, so she quickly explained it and moved on. A couple of days later she got hauled over the coals by the head teacher for teaching something that 15/16 year olds weren’t supposed to know yet, and anyway, she wasn’t allowed to teach maths in chemistry. Which kind of brings us to Norm/Uriah’s point! (And also I remember learning logs at age 11, so it is bizarre to me that something so basic is so unknown for so long).
    Also interesting about Black History week (oh no, month!), Debra. I suppose I can see where they are coming from, but it is a bit sickening all this ghettoising. I am a “woman” (last time I looked) but why should I have anything in common with the other 50-ish per cent of the planet (eg Victoria B?) for that reason alone?
    Norm/Uriah, I am quite impressed by the history they teach my other daughter (older). Admittedly it is modern stuff, but she has got a good overview of Europe post 1914 — eg at the moment she is studying the Vietnam war and I haven’t yet spotted any political correctness, all seems un-spun and to cover the complexities. And her teachers assure her that A level (which she’ll be doing next year) is a whole different ballpark — so I will cling to my optimism! But it is sad, the ways that a child can be “put off” science, by this ludicrous heavy-handed approach. Thank heavens I was on homework duty last night and not Malcolm, as she’d have been even more embarrassed than she was already.

  6. “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single sperm in possession of a good fortune shall be in want of an egg.”
    The rest is up to your daughter, Maxine.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  7. Sorry Peter, but I have to disagree a little, a lot, possibly.
    “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single sperm in possession of good stamina shall be in want of an egg and have good chance of making its destination.”
    “Good fortune” doesn’t come into it – as far as I know. It’s the powerful little up front and overly ambitious raider that makes the grade eventually. With good power of tail, Mr Hittin-it Sperm outdoes all his rivals in the vicinity and zaps forth to make a new life.
    “Good fortune” does play a part in the case of perceived infertility. When the odds are down and the awful truth is known, luck is all you can hope for.
    Regardless of what life teaches us as the norm; life pursues many variables. His bits or her bits sometimes present difficulties to the accepted norm. You fight them with more difficulty or you accept them, perhaps after a long haul of disappointment.
    That ever powerful sperm may not be enough to make the grade.
    Let’s be blunt here, and this is not for 13 yr old learning Jenny, right now.
    Men can have a low sperm count for all sorts of reasons; they can produce sperm that does not make the grade when it comes to medium-term travel; women can have all sorts of reasons to make ovulation difficult or absent.
    When I looked at the facts some time ago, in today’s age, I thought it was unlikely we could ever produce. But somehow we manage it.
    It’s really hard for some to make the family they aspire to. Easier for others.

  8. Interesting, Crimeficreader — I remember learning in some biology class once that what made it hardest for humans to reproduce is our bipedalism — but of course I’m so old that this was before the days of women “leaving it too late” to try to conceive.
    Jenny is only 11, not 13, which may add further weight to the point of view that all this graphic sex and reproduction is rather — to use an apt metaphor — “over-egging the pudding”.

  9. Oh, I like that “over-egging the pudding.” I shall put it in the folder with “a curate’s egg.” I wonder if anyone has ever done a comparison of food metaphors, cross culturally. And, if so, I wonder if G.B. has the most food metaphors involving eggs.
    Not sure what America’s central food metaphor would be: Something with red meat, probably.
    Peter, I liked your pun on “Pride & Prejudice.” So interesting that sperm are so single minded when the fellow harboring them is often anything but.

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