During my quarter century public school teaching career, I often saw teachers making mistakes with curriculum, unintentionally teaching controversial lessons with honorable intentions. When called on their errors, they gracefully recognized them and made immediate corrections. In such cases, they merely slipped a toe over the boundaries of professional practice and community propriety, and no real harm was done. Keep that in mind as you consider this:
A Connecticut school under fire for sending eighth-graders an assignment asking them to compare their favorite and least favorite pizza toppings to their sexual preferences is now calling it a ‘mistake.’
The students at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Enfield recently received the ‘Pizza and Consent’ assignment, which asked students to compare their favorite pizza toppings to their favorite sex acts.
‘We can use pizza as a metaphor for sex,’ the assignment says, explaining: ‘When you order pizza with your friends, everyone checks in about each other’s preferences, right?… The same goes with sex.’
Keep that first phrase, the one about pizza being a metaphor for sex, in mind gentle readers. It’ll be important shortly.
It then provides the children with a section to list their favorite pizza toppings and their favorite sex acts, saying: ‘Here are some examples: Likes: Cheese = kissing, dislikes: Olives = Giving oral.’
Once the metaphor was complete, the eighth-graders were also asked to ‘draw and color your favorite type of pizza. What’s your favorite style of pizza? Your favorite toppings? What are your pizza no-nos? Now mirror these preferences in relation to sex.’
And ‘for those of y’all who don’t like pizza or sex at all, feel free to draw out another food favorite, or include non-sexual activities.’
The Enfield School District, after significant public backlash, took down the assignment in January, claiming it was “a mistake.” Keep in mind these are 13-14 year old kids. Despite the common assumption all kids of that age are sexually experienced, it has been my experience they mostly think they know what to laugh about, and as a society, we’d be wise to keep it that way.
One woman, only identified as ‘Amanda,’ posted a video to YouTube saying that if the Board of Education meeting on January 27 was held in-person, she would have asked: ‘Since when has it become acceptable for a teacher to ask a student what their sexual wants, desires and boundaries are?’
Others spoke out at another board meeting on Tuesday, with Jonathan Grande saying: ‘The assignment was crude, it lacked good taste,’ and Tracy Jarvis saying it ‘is prompting kids to become sexually active before their time.
‘Youth don’t even know how to navigate platonic relationships, so why introduce sexual relationships?’
‘We should not be encouraging youth to explore each other’s bodies with multiple partners in an open environment for any reason,’ she continued. ‘If somebody is doing that or asking them to do that they should tell a responsible adult, who then reports it.
‘I understand we need to teach kids boundaries,’ Jarvis said. ‘But you are giving them way more information than they are psychologically ready to handle at this age.
No kidding. Fox News adds detail.
After Parents Defending Education exposed the assignment on Monday, Enfield Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Drezek said during a school board meeting on Tuesday that the assignment was sent ‘inadvertently’ to eighth-graders, and said it was a ‘mistake.’
‘The simple truth was it was a mistake. And I know that there are some who may not believe that. I know there are some who don’t necessarily maybe want that answer,’ Drezek said. ‘In this particular case, I didn’t even get a chance to because the person who made the mistake jumped ahead of it before I was even notified that it had happened.’
He said that the content in the assignment was ‘inappropriate,’ and said that there’s no ‘hidden agenda.
‘There was no secret cabal to indoctrinate kids on something. They sent the wrong document,’ Drezek. And I’m not going to perpetuate this story any longer on their behalf. So that’s what happened. And none of us are happy that it happened. No one feels worse that it happened and the person that did it.’
Uh-huh. And who are “they?” In what grade or what possible discipline would asking kids to relate oral sex to pizza be appropriate, professional curriculum? What other possible agenda, other than malicious sexual indoctrination of children could there be for such an assignment? The school district, already in a deep hole, kept digging:
According to Parents Defending Education, the district’s Health and Physical Education Coordinator emailed parents and apologized for the error.
‘The incorrect version, as opposed to the revised version of this assignment was mistakenly posted on our grade 8 curriculum page, and was inadvertently used for instruction to grade 8 Health classes. I caught the error after our curriculum revision in June, but failed to post the intended version. I own that, and apologize for the error,’ the coordinator reportedly said.
A metaphor is when one thing is compared to another to demonstrate similarities. The entire purpose of this assignment was to compare pizza toppings to sexual practices/preferences. What other possible version of this assignment could there possibly be? Comparing pizza toppings with body parts? Comparing pizza toppings with favorite days of the week? Seasons? Dog breeds? Pop songs? What could a “revised version” of this assignment possibly look like?
People will not believe this was a mistake because it wasn’t. Drezek is lying.
There is no “version” of this assignment appropriate for public schools at any grade level. This is obviously true when we consider how little class time teachers have. Any teacher thinking this worthy of any of that ever more scarce time when so much basic material in every discipline is going untaught obviously has an “agenda.” This is particularly so when “distance learning” is involved, and something like this might be the only assignment kids get in a week. How could any teacher disseminate this assignment in any media without knowing precisely what was in it? To disseminate any assignment, a teacher must review it and determine which, if any, portions of the assignment will need to be removed or modified for their classes/students.
When I taught mythology, we used a college level text because it was the best and most complete text I could find. Most of the stories were identical to those a high school text might use. Even so, I had to frequently pause our group readings to explain history, culture, politics, even the biographies of characters involved. The questions at the end of each story were often very much college level. I virtually always had to eliminate some of the questions, spend time carefully explaining others, or write questions appropriate for my students.
Any teacher giving an assignment will need to know how they intend to discuss the material and grade all responses. Virtually all teachers now use software for grading. They’d have to know enough about the assignment to know how to enter it into that software, how to categorize it and assign point values for grading.
These days, in far too many schools, “mistake” means they got caught doing something they absolutely should not have been doing. Isn’t it interesting such “mistakes” virtually never involve anything that might be considered “conservative” indoctrination? Perhaps that’s because Normal Americans expect classical, non-controversial curricula, such things as reading, writing, math, actual science or other materials they believe are being taught in the schools they subsidize.
While it’s possible to discuss human sexuality, particularly at the high school level, it’s vital the curriculum and all discussion be limited. Going beyond the kinds of basic biological information traditionally provided in health classes constitutes a boundary violation, a trespass on the sole province of parents, a violation of the in loco parentis—in the place of the parents–doctrine.
Of course, if a given school district believe it owns all children enrolled, and their parents have no business involving themselves in their children’s educations, we see assignments where pizza toppings are a metaphor for sex, and far, far worse.
The parents of that school district are certainly going to have to keep a very close eye on everything going on in every classroom in every grade level from now on. And I doubt anyone there will ever see pizza in quite the same way.