RM’s health curriculum is relatively progressive but still can improve


Graphic by Kat Chen

Safe sex and drug abuse are topics taught in RM's health curriculum.

Bence Szego, Opinions Writer

Students often find themselves asking why what they are taught at school is important, and how it will help them later in life. Health is a crucial topic for students to learn that despite the short length of the semester-long or summer course, serves to prepare their students for the “real world” in which sex happens, drugs are used, diseases are transmitted, and happiness is not assured. That is why it is more important than ever to make sure our health classes are accurate and realistic when compared to the real world.

In most ways, Montgomery County’s health curriculum is actually quite progressive and does its job preparing students for the world. For instance, MCPS teaches both the ideas of abstinence, and of contraception as two ways to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies, which is more than what some other places even discuss. The county doesn’t stop there, including a fairly comprehensive self-esteem unit, with notable discussions of stress and mental health, the former of which is an almost universal topic for students these days. For some reference, many parts of the country keep their health education confined to abstinence, and why it is so important, rarely discussing the human nature of its course subject, including sexuality, desire, and mental health, often leaving students unprepared for the outside world.

Where the county falls behind is in adapting its curriculum to meet the needs of a group of students not really represented well before, the LGBTQ+ student body. Topics such as safe homosexual sexual activity, and the medical needs of trans* students, especially, seem to be missing from the otherwise quite comprehensive health curriculum. However, this seems to be changing. Both students and health teachers note that the curriculum is moving as is, and has room to grow even further. 

What is important to note is that sometimes, the room to grow is not enough. “I was foolish and didn’t know that you could get STDs from lesbian sex until I looked it up, and that is something that I should not have to look up on my own, and instead is something that should just be taught in health class,” junior Lew Wedderien said, whose own experiences as an LGBTQ+ student were not mirrored in the health class. While this is a singular example, it underscores a greater lack of information and education about topics that for some students are a large part of day to day life, especially in a course that is supposed to prepare students for the rest of their lives.

The RM health curriculum is completely up to date other ways though, with a notable example being drug education. The curriculum covers lesser known drugs, and their dangers, which are often left out of health curriculum. The health curriculum also seems to be evolving to better fit the much more medical marijuana-positive world that we live in. “I tell the kids as much of the truth as I can find,” health teacher Coach Fahrner said, specifically in reference to recent discoveries relating to the medical benefits of marjiuana. 

While the class covers modern discoveries about the impacts of Cannabidiol on the human body, such as research by Sanjay Gupta which shows the potential for medical marijuana to heal and help patients, especially those suffering from seizures, it retains some caution for what is, after all, a drug. “Smoking marijuana is not good for you, at your [the students’] age.” Coach Fahrner said, making clear that still, marijuana is a drug that should be avoided while the brain is developing, much like alcohol.

The RM health curriculum is an interesting beast, in that in some ways, it has advanced, and reached a point where it almost mirror-perfectly reflects the truths of the outside world, while in others, it still has some growing to do. Even in these growth areas, it is clear that everyone involved is open to the work being done. “Are they [interest groups seeking change in the curriculum] satisfied is my question, and if they’re not satisfied then lets improve it to what is acceptable,” said Coach Fahrner. Currently, the curriculum is more than adequate, and as it grows, will exceed standards, as not only a path through which students can learn about the world, but also about themselves.