To: All District Personnel
From: Ruskin Middle School Director of Curriculum
Subject: Sex Education Visual Aids
By now, you have heard about the unfortunate mishap at Ruskin Middle School in which two students were exposed to graphic information about sexual development and reproductive processes. A boy, who apparently has also not yet learned the function of eyelids, threw his shirt over his head to avoid seeing the educational materials. A girl went home in tears, much like other girls who come home in tears fearing they will bleed to death after experiencing their first period.
As a result, Ruskin has received unwanted publicity, and lost two students to home schooling for the coming academic year.
I am sorry to declare our experiment with post-1880s sex education a failure. We will revert to the wise principles of visual representation of sexuality as exemplified in the life of our school's name sake. (For those unfamiliar with the seminal role John Ruskin played in advancing young people toward loving and mature sexual relations, please see the attachment.)
Effective immediately, the following changes are to be implemented in visual aids used in the district's sex education curriculum. The proscribed visual images are listed below. Acceptable substitutes follow in parentheses.
- Naked males and females in various stages of development (clothed prepubescent males and females in various stages of development) NOT chimpanzees or other primates in any state of dress!
- A bra (gingham sun dress; basketball jersey over a sports bra; Brenda Starr comic strips (Dale Messick version only). Note: Realistic images featuring deep cleavage, even with a prominent crucifix, are not acceptable.
- A tampon (an out-of-focus shot of a personal hygiene products shelf; an out-of-focus shot of a rest room vending machine; a calendar with the date circled) Note: The Tampax web page How to use a tampon is now blocked from all district computers.
- An infra-red demonstration of an erection (Until further notice, there are no approved substitutes.) Need I remind you of the Kielbasa Incident? And if you have information as to how the DVD of Boogie Nights got into the library's sleeve of "Conjugating Spanish Verbs," please notify the assistant principal.
- A live birth (bird's eggs hatching; still images from the State Fair's Miracle of Birth Center) Absolutely NO SHOW AND TELL home videos.
- Vaginas and those whatchamacallits (a halved peach; the flower paintings of Georgia O'Keefe)
- Condoms (At this time, the only accepted alternative is a Playtex Living Glove filled with water, while reciting condom failure rate statistics provided by the Minnesota Family Council.) Our pilot program with Clyde the Condom Clown was not a success. Some parents failed to appreciate the balloons on bananas as a metaphor, and some boys went home in tears when the banana broke.
It has also been brought to our attention that the program materials have stripped sex of its larger context of meaning and beauty. Effectively immediately, you are instructed to:
- Remind students that, while reproduction is a biological process, sex has a larger context of meaning and beauty, provided you are a monogamous human being and not any other form of mammalian life.
- Play the cassette tape "Handel's Greatest Hits" during all Health Education classes
- Refrain from answering questions about the immaculate conception, the sexuality of Jesus or the relationship between Viagara, Bob Dole and Britny Spears, if any. Refer students who have questions not explicitly addressed in the curriculum to their parents and/or their minister/priest/rabbi/imam
While ignorance has not been proven 100-percent effective in preventing pregnancies among 11- and 12-year-olds, I know you share my goal of preventing teen pregnancies at least until 9th grade. Thanks for your cooperation.
John Ruskin was a renowned British Art critic who pioneered the use of visual aids in sex education during the mid-1800s. His parents, of Scottish descent, were first cousins who were so concerned that he have a appropriate orientation toward the meaning and beauty of sex that they arranged his 1848 marriage with Euphemia Chalmers Gray and accompanied the couple on their honeymoon.
Six years later, the marriage was annulled on grounds of "incurable impotency," although Euphemia Ruskin had by then fallen in love with the painter John Everett Millais, whom she then married. There is scholarly disagreement over the precise reasons for Ruskin's marital non-consummation. As leading proponent of the idea that painting must convey "truth," Ruskin may have mistakenly believed that the idealized female forms painted by the masters were biologically accurate. He was therefore horrified on his wedding night to discover that Euphemia's nether regions sported hair instead of the widely painted, but ill-defined, bald mons venus. Some theories hold other natural feminine processes may have been involved.
Naturally, a little less parental supervision and more accurate information might have avoided this unfortunate outcome. For the rest of his life, Ruskin tried to make up for this gap in his schooling.
Four years after the end of his marriage, Ruskin met and became enamored with Rose la Touche, an intensely religious 10-year-old who may have reminded him of his devout mother. He proposed when she was 17 and for years afterward, until he was finally rejected in 1872 and the young woman died.
Ruskin also repeatedly asked children's book illustrator Kate Greenaway to draw her "girlies" without clothing:
- Will you – (it’s all for your own good – !) make her stand up and then draw her for me without a cap – and, without her shoes, – (because of the heels) and without her mittens, and without her – frock and frills? And let me see exactly how tall she is – and – how – round. It will be so good of and for you – And to and for me.
That quest to share accurate but not-too-explicit information about the developing bodies of children continues to animate Ruskin Middle School. Go, Aesthetes!!