Sex Ed Conference Reflections from a Religious Educator

Tuli Patel

By Tuli Patel
Director of Religious Education
The Unitarian Church in Summit

This year there were no picketers, no loud angry voices, no police cars by the dozens. A little disappointing at first, but I was thankful for the lack of fear as I walked to my car in the parking lot in the dark.
I’ve been attending the Sex Ed Conference hosted by the Center For Family Life Education for five years or so. It’s always the highlight of the fall for me – I facilitate Our Whole Lives, a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum at my place of work – The Unitarian Church in Summit.
What makes these two days so special is to be in a room with like-minded people who are committed to sexuality education, regardless of venue. Instead of arguing where sex ed should occur – homes, schools, or houses of worship – we come together to consider how to make it better, more appropriate, and of contemporary value for our youth. We attend workshops that not only dispel some commonly held beliefs (not all teens are sexting- the statistic is actually only 1% if those over 18 are not counted) but also hear of new methods and techniques – not based on fear or abstinence, but on a real examination of values. Listening to Amy Kramer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy speak of how to use the MTV show “16 and Pregnant” to facilitate conversations among teens about their decision making is not only inspiring, but has real life applications.

The program I facilitate – Our Whole Lives – has been described as “The Gold Standard” in sexuality education. It is a publicly available comprehensive sex ed program in the US – and yet, it is a well-kept secret. I want its impact to be far more wide-reaching than it is; instead of reaching the 30 or so kids that go through it every year with me, I want to bring it to the millions. The conference reinforces my commitment and opens doors of possibilities in making this happen.