Sex Education at McKinley High
Sex education, which is sometimes called sexuality education, is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, relationships and intimacy. Tom Kiske has written his interpretation of Dr. Bert Glassberg's sex education. It is also about developing young people's skills so that they make informed choices about their behavior, and feel confident and competent about acting on these choices. It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education, partly because it is a means by which they are helped to protect themselves against abuse, exploitation, unintended pregnancies
For many, the Sixties are fondly remembered as the advent of the sexual revolution: the pill, bra burning and free love. However, those of us who attended McKinley High early in that decade might be forgiven for feeling we’d been left behind in a sort of cultural backwater when it came to The “S” Word. To their credit, the public school system administrators did catch a glimpse over the horizon of what was coming and even took a somewhat courageous initiative in attempting to provide a modicum of formal sex education. For McKinley, this experiment in enlightenment took the form of a single “aud” lecture by a certain Doctor Glasscock, a gentleman hired by the school district as a sort of itinerant sex preacher, traveling the high school circuit dispensing the gospel of procreation.

Others of the era recall the good doctor’s name more benignly as Glassberg or Glassman, but in my recollection it is always the vaguely ribald Glasscock. Not that there was anything even mildly suggestive or lascivious about the older gentleman chosen to provide us the keys to The Great Mystery. On the contrary, the balding professor was exceptionally stern of visage and demeanor and would brook not the slightest hint of an inkling of monkey-business during his antiseptically factual presentation. Anyone who recalls the cruel headmaster of Lowewood School in the Orson Welles film “Jane Eyre,” has an accurate picture of the grim Doctor Glassballs.

Needless to say, the school had to take proper precautions for such a controversial lecture. First, boys and girls were strictly segregated, with separate auds held for each “gender.” Presumably the doc worried (perhaps based on prior experience) that if boys and girls were permitted to intermingle, the titillating nature of his subject matter might incite a spontaneous eruption of copulatory frenzy, forever defiling the propriety of the stately McKinley auditorium - and possibly leaving stains.

For the boys’ lecture, proctors were stationed thru-out the aud to ensure order. These guardians of decorum were, without exception, the huskiest, most stalwart of male teachers, coaches and vice-principals, including the formidable enforcer-in-chief, Mr Collins. Boys at this time - at least McKinley boys - were still tainted by the “snails and puppy-dog tails” image that rendered us perpetually suspect of being prurient scoundrels-in-the-making, an assessment more often than not borne out by actual events. Regardless, the fact that not even female teachers were allowed into the boys’ session is testimony less to our comportment and demeanor than to how recently the school had emerged from the Victorian era. Sure, we had a woman principal, but even she was forbidden entry to our aud. What - she didn’t know this stuff? Still, perhaps the rule was not entirely frivolous, given the current abundance of scandals involving teacher/student liaisons.

As we settled into our seats, Collins took center stage and harshly admonished us we’d best sit quietly with our hands folded, else punishment would be swift and severe. Appropriately cowed, we silently awaited what we thought of as our initiation into adulthood, or better yet - wink, wink - adultery. Summoning himself to his full height and dignity, Doctor Glasswang prefaced his remarks with a few desultory “harrumphs,” then launched into a laboriously detailed description of both male and (gasp!) female anatomy. So many facts, so many polysyllabic clinical terms!

My friend Warren sat beside me in rapt attention. We were being “good boys,” but Warren had the misfortune of noticing at an inopportune moment that one of his shoelaces was untied. As he bent to remedy the potential tripping hazard, Glassdong pounced like a hawk on a fieldmouse. “Get that boy out of here,” he screeched, assuming my friend guilty of the worst - the unforgivable offense of “cutting up.” Poor Warren, mortified and innocent of any wrongdoing, was summarily marched up the long center aisle flanked by two imperial storm troopers, and cast into the outer darkness, condemned without hearing or counsel to remain ignorant of the finer points of hubba-hubba.

In truth he didn’t miss all that much. Glassnake’s material was as dry as desert sand and as sterile as an autoclaved test-tube. This was what sex was all about? It seemed about as much fun as a root canal and it was made amply and graphically clear that engaging in premarital “relations” could have only two possible outcomes: either the girl would get pregnant or you’d get one of those dread “venereal diseases,” leading almost inevitably to an important body part falling off.

Yikes! Why would anybody do this? Why would anyone do “it?” Well, of course we all knew better. Still, we emerged from Doctor Glassweenie’s dismal sermon feeling vaguely cheated and misled. We hadn’t wanted a gloomy technical lecture on Fallopian Tubes and Vas Derens, we were more interested in the Vast Difference (you know, the one between guys and gals), as well as perhaps a sense of “vive la difference.” In our callow youth, we perceived little correlation between Glasschwantz’s soporific description of the mechanisms of ovulation and our far more exciting quest for nookie. We didn’t want a lesson on human anatomy, we wanted to know how to put those special organs to use. When it came to matters erotic, we cared little for the science of it; the art was everything. We craved clarification of the allure of the tight skirt, the clinging sweater. More, we hoped for advice on how we might get to explore what lie beneath those fascinating garments. We were looking for tips!

But Glassrod didn’t even allow questions. How frustrating! I’d always wanted to find out if there was any truth to the rumor that a girl’s elbows were in fact an erogenous zone. A little guidance then could’ve saved me hours of misdirected rubbing. No, instead of ol’ Glassdork, we’d have been better served by a Maurice Chevalier type in a velvet lounging jacket, reclining in a comfortable easy chair and smoking a cigarette. “Well, boys,” I could picture him saying with a knowing smile, “You turn the lights down, put on some Johnny Mathis, maybe do a little slow dancing, and . . .”

We’d have learned more from the kind of lecture Mel Brooks delivers in his film “High Anxiety,” where the presence of young kids in his audience requires the distinguished psychologist character he plays to refer to certain body parts as the “woo-woo” and the “pee-pee.” Heck, we might’ve gotten as much from a Road Runner cartoon. At least those depicted the sort of teasing and chase it didn’t take a Sigmund Freud to interpret. There’s a reason the term “venery” refers to both sexual desire and the practice of hunting game.
Meep-meep, indeed!

At length, after enduring the torments of the Inquisition, Warren was finally paroled by the authorities, and he demanded we fill him in on what he’d missed of the Cockamamie lecture. And of course being guys we led him to believe he’d missed the best part, when they brought an actual live female model on stage - nude!
I do not know what was covered - or uncovered - in the girls’ auds, but I remember things were pretty tense between the sexes (whoops, genders) for a couple of weeks afterward. Still, the tale ends well regardless of the shortcomings of our formal schooling in the arcane art of romance, and it is possible I’ve done Doctor Glassknob a disservice. Somehow we did manage to find our way our way thru the perilous jungle of feelings and physiology that is human love. Many stumbled, to be sure - there are more tripping hazards along this twisted way than just an untied shoe lace. Yet we succeeded in bringing forth yet another generation, thereby ensuring the perpetuation of both the species and that Great Mystery which at once divides and unites male and female.

And despite Glasspecker’s warning, I doubt any of us had to suffer the trauma and indignity of losing that important body part.

--Tom Kiske
kiske1@chilitech.com