More

Kids don't usually learn about the birds and bees in kindergarten. Unless, of course, they're Dutch.

The Netherlands' comprehensive sexuality education program starts in kindergarten. But what are those kids actually learning?

Oh, kindergarten. Finger painting, ABCs, and sexuality education.

Wait, sex ed!? Yep, you read that right.


WHAT ARE THESE CHILDREN WORKING ON, SEX WORKSHEETS?!?! (JK, probably not.) Image via Thinkstock.

Welcome to sex ed in the Netherlands. It starts when kids are 4.

As reported by PBS NewsHour, the Netherlands follows a program called “comprehensive sexuality education."

As part of the program, schools feature a week of classes in the spring focused on everything from love and healthy relationships (for the little kiddos) to safe sex and birth control (for the teens). The week is called “lentekriebels," which translates to “spring fever."

So wait, are 4-year-olds learning about sex in school?

Not exactly. But they are having open conversations that will make it easier to learn about those topics at a later age.

In one classroom, PBS filmed a clip of kindergarteners discussing hugging. “When do you hug someone?" asked the teacher. One student responded, “If you love someone."

Young kids talk about what people do when they love each other. Image via PBS NewsHour.

In later years, the students do learn specifically about sex: how to have sex, how to choose contraception, how to deal with resistance to using a condom, all sorts of things you'd typically think of being covered under "sex ed."

Even for older teens, sex itself isn't the only focus. Students also learn things like ... how to find (and enforce) their own boundaries.

But even for older teens, sex itself isn't the only focus. Students also learn things like how to communicate with their partner, how to find (and enforce) their own boundaries, and even how to use the Internet safely.

A class of 11-year-olds talks about what it's like to be in love. Image via PBS NewsHour.

OK, so spill the stats.

Does the comprehensive sexuality education program actually work? That depends, of course, on what you're measuring by.

Research shows that teenagers in the U.S. in the Netherlands first have sex at around the same age — about 17 for American teens, about 18 for Dutch teens.

But the U.S. has significantly higher rates of teen pregnancy and birth. In the Netherlands, 6 women out of every 1,000 aged 15-19 will give birth; 14 out of every 1,000 will get pregnant. The U.S. numbers are 4-5 times as high: 30 women out of every 1,000 aged 15-19 will give birth, and 57 will get pregnant.

"66% of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time."

The statistic I found really striking, though, has to do with how teens felt about their "first time." PBS NewsHour reports that in the Netherlands, most 12- to 25-year-olds "say they had 'wanted and fun' first sexual experiences. By comparison, 66% of sexually active American teens surveyed said they wished that they had waited longer to have sex for the first time."

Plenty of American movies show someone's first time as being after prom and ... not great. Image via Thinkstock.

The big deal isn't exactly what they're talking about, it's the fact that they're talking about it at all.

The Netherlands is known for having an incredibly open culture when it comes to discussing sex. No, I'm not saying that all parents in the Netherlands are telling their teens to have sex all the time, but the topic of conversation is far less taboo than we're used to in the U.S.

Open conversations, less shame when talking about sexuality, and ultimately more information overall? A culture like that means teens can actually gather the information to make smart choices that are right for them.

Sounds like a win to me.

Want to see it all in action? Check out this clip from PBS of a classroom full of 11-year-olds talking about what it's like to be in love. My favorite line here is when a young girl responds to the question, "What is really being in love?" with the wise words, "You find someone nicer than just regular nice." So true, my friend. So true.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less

Believe it or not, there has been a lot of controversy lately about how people cook rice. According to CNN, the "outrage" was a reaction to a clip Malaysian comedian Nigel Ng posted as one of his personas known as Uncle Roger.

It was a hilarious (and harmless) satire about the method chef Hersha Patel used to cook rice on the show BBC Food.


Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Picsea on Unsplash
True

It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.

Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.

How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less

You can put this one in the "win column" for those who believe in equal pay. Leslie Odom Jr. took a stand and was not going to settle for anything other than what was fair.

The Hamilton star, who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of Aaron Burr in the most successful musical in modern history, simply sought a similar wage to white actors who had comparable roles in other musicals. As he explained to Dax Shepard on his podcast Armchair Expert, they did not contact his agent at CAA until after the announcement of the shows filming. When the offer finally came, it was disappointing.


Keep Reading Show less