Last night I went to a preview of the UCA’s new show, Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind. Some of you may be familiar with the musical version, but Spring Awakening, which premiered in 1906, follows the sexual awakening of a group of 14-yr olds. This show was so boldly honest that it was not performed without censorship for sixty-three years. Spring Awakening is about the springtime of life, and it is clear that being a teenager a century ago was no easier than being a teenager nowadays. The 13 members of the cast may speak in starchy language and wear old-fashioned clothes, but sexual discovery, parental pressure, and youthful angst are entirely recognizable.
I left the show in awe of how daring and provocative it was, and also how well it was performed. I’m familiar with the entire cast and I was blown away by their performances. I truly recommend this play! It did get me thinking though, about how sex education is portrayed in our schools and I am curious to know about how you were taught.
In the play, the young girl asks her mother to explain to her about sex and her mother is so embarrassed that the only way she can tell her anything (not even the truthful explanation of sex) is by having her daughter hide under her apron so that she doesn’t have to look at her. I don’t think that any of our parents have made us hide under aprons, but the entire conversation of the “birds and the bee’s” is awkward in itself. I don’t remember having this conversation with my parents, but my mom worked for AIDS prevention and so by the age of 3, I was very familiar with how babies were made and safe sex. I remember that I had a book called, “Mommy Laid An Egg” where the kids ask their parents how babies are made, and the parents respond with things like, “your mommy laid an egg” and the kids realize that their parents have no idea, so the kids draw them pictures to explain. It was very funny and informative!
In the play, because of the lack of information, the 14 year olds experience things that they don’t even have a name for. They experience guilt and shame and sometimes don’t know how to live with themselves or deal with their desires all because of a lack of education on a “hush hush” subject.
Let’s face the reality: given the culture and all the advertisements and such, even if the schools don’t talk about sex at all, kids will know about it and get into the troubles anyway: do schools teach drinking, smoking or taking drugs? I think the kids need to know about the hard facts (nothing wrong with them), and they also need to understand the real consequence – the possible danger in all different aspects: health, the issue of babies (arguably could be addressed by “safe sex” practice), and mental psychological impact ( how sex might skew and spoil a healthy relationship, etc, or in other words, how “safe sex” practices might not be as safe as they think).
It’s not exactly something one can teach effectively just by formal classroom teaching – I think all aspects, including abstience education, health impact (STD), and possibe safe sex practice should be taught so that kids are informed.
However, I think beyond informing them, we need people who can really feed their heart – From what I observed, teenagers really need is someone with big hearts whom they can communicate and trust, probably someone only slightly older than they are (perhaps us college folk) who really have the heart. Let’s face it again, most people, be it kids or adults, even if they know something it’s true, they tend to be able to genuinely accept and take actions if the advice/suggestion comes from peers. What do you think?
Spring Awakening was directed by Garrett Ayers, a guest director and will be performed Oct. 4,5,6,7,11,12,13,14,18,19,20,21 at 7pm in the University Theatre of the UCA. Click HERE for a slideshow of the performance.