There are a lot of immature behaviors and credulous misconceptions that people, over the peripatetic course of their childhood and adolescence are bound to outgrow. We hope. For instance, this made up person I know who definitely is not me used to walk around in a bathrobe with his forearms folded over each other under the sleeves pretending he was a Jedi, but he grew out of this after the last Star Wars movie came out because it killed all of his delusions about preparing himself for the day when he'd be magically transported to George Lucas' imaginary universe. There is another made-up person I know who, like probably everyone else at one point in their prelapsarian lives, used to believe that babies grew like beanstalks from beans that boys tenderly planted in a girls' belly buttons and watered everyday with a watering can. That child naivete also passed, and, thanks to the encouraging results of the first ever standardized test on health, physical education, and sex ed, it seems like lots of kids in the D.C. area also grow out of their whimsical misconceptions about human reproduction over the course of their incarceration in grammar and high school.
The Washington Post reports that the fifth- and eighth-graders in the District of Columbia are not so well-acquainted with the many secretions associated with human reproduction, though high school students were far more knowledgeable about reproductive health than their more guileless young counterparts (high school students in D.C. correctly answered about three out of four questions related to sex ed). Overall, notes the Post, students in D.C. know the peculiarities of the Rube Goldberg machine that is the human body pretty well — they correctly answered an average of 62 percent of questions about nutrition, wellness, disease prevention, and sex education as part of the nation's first-ever standardized sex ed and human health test.
D.C.'s Office of the State Superintendent of Education developed and administered a 50-question exam last spring to more than 11,000 students in D.C. public and public charter schools. Critics perhaps overly concerned with the prospects of recreational space travel quipped that the District might better allocate its resources improving D.C. students' lagging math and reading skills, but proponents of the exam such as executive director of the community health organization Metro TeenAids Adam Tenner praised the exam as progress in the effort to improve the city's state of public health. D.C. is plagued with high rates of childhood obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, and teen pregnancy.
"In a city with such high rates of HIV, teen pregnancy and STDs," Tanner told the Post "- let alone obesity and other diseases that plague our community - we're not where we should be." Getting a handle on how well young, developing adults know how their own bodies work seems like a pretty reasonable first step in trying to improve a community's public health outlook.
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