In the United States, a high school biology teacher is under investigation by an Idaho "professional standards commission" for using the word vagina. Meanwhile on a completely difference plane in Germany, parents are "irate," according to the international news site Spiegel, after a Berlin elementary school used a book containing illustrations of condoms and descriptions of orgasms for a very frank discussion about sex.
After the local press picked up the story and complaints from parents of the first-graders shown the book reached the Berlin Senate last week, the controversy has revived a debate over the evolving standards of what counts as "appropriate" -- one that's local to the city, but which resonates for all educators, politicians, and parents grappling with how best to teach kids about sexual health.
The book, Where Do You Come From? (Wo kommst du her?), depicts the sexual relationship of young German lovers Lisa and Lars. Fair warning, cartoon penises ahead:
Conservative politicians joined in the outcry over the school's use of the book, though to give them credit, their opposition was mostly focused on the book's "unnecessary zeal."
How "explicit" can we really consider depictions of genitalia -- and the things loving couples like to do with them -- to be? Actual studies have proven that six-year-olds' imaginations can be just as graphic as the images in Wo kommst du her?, only less anatomically accurate:
That's from a 2012 study that asked children in the U.S., the Netherlands, England, and Sweden to draw pictures explaining where babies come from. The Dutch boy who drew the above picture did better than most -- American kids got nowhere near as close to understanding what was going on, and invariably invoked God in their explanations. One U.S. boy said, "I think [babies] are made by a mom and a dad, but I am not sure how; maybe during special time when they are alone."