Pop QuizSecondary Education

Pop Quiz: OK Class, Everyone Collect a Plastic Penis from the Front Desk.

A couple of years ago I went through a rite of passage that is notorious with staff throughout my school. It involved a bag of condoms, a plastic penis and a room full of teenagers.


Bear with me.


We have a sex-and-relationships education programme that almost all staff deliver during a designated period each week. It’s an opt-out situation for staff and the vast majority are quite happy to teach it. Likewise, parents are given the option to withdraw their children from the programme if they want to. The lessons start at age 11 and go on until 16, 17 or 18, depending on when each individual pupil leaves school. In my view it’s a fantastic and well-designed programme and I’ll be writing a fuller post about it sooner.


In this programme there is one lesson that has gained legendary status amongst staff . It happens in S3, which is our equivalent of 8th Grade. We call it the “Demonstrator” lesson, and it involves demonstrating how to safely put on and remove condoms. We’re given a few plastic penises and a bag of condoms, and the pupils spend most of the period applying one to the other with varying degrees of success. I admit to being terrified before teaching this lesson for the first time, but it wasn’t anywhere near as mortifying as is could have been. It ended up being funny, light-hearted, and (hopefully) educational. The lesson is part of a series on various types of contraception and there’s a lot of very direct discussion involved, as well as the obvious practical bits.


I’ve described this lesson to friends and have received various responses, from amusement to curiosity to outright shock and horror. Some people have said that they really support the idea of doing practical sex ed. like this with young people, but some are appalled at the idea of using resources like this with 14 year old teenagers. People who express these views often bring up the fact that the age of consent in Scotland is 16.


What kind of sex education have you experienced in schools, either as a student yourself or as a teacher or parent?

What do you think about sex ed. lessons like the one described above, with very practical elements?

What are your views about age with relation to sex education? Is any age “too young”? Should education like this start before the majority of students are likely to be sexually active?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

Previous post

RR: March 14, 2013

Next post

RR: 17 March 2013



Alasdair is a high school English teacher in Scotland. He's a passionate skeptic and science fan, which is why he runs a discussion club for young skeptics in his school. He loves space and astronomy more than pretty much anything and is studying for a physics degree in his spare time in order to become qualified to teach science.

He lives with a cat made of distilled hatred and spikes.

1 Comment

  1. March 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm —

    I went to school in the southern US, so I got abstinence-only, and mainly used sites like scarletteen to learn practical sex-ed. I don’t really think any age is too young for information to be presented (obviously, it should be presented at comprehension level).

Leave a reply