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Could you teach sex ed without saying this word?

Vagina. Can you say that word out loud? Go ahead, give it a try. I'll wait.

I know, I know, anatomically correct, scientific body part names are difficult to say out loud. Don't even get me started on pelvis, femur, ulna...

Sound ridiculous? Just wait: A science teacher in Dietrich, Idaho, is "under investigation" for saying the word vagina - in a sex-ed class, of all inconceivable places. In a week of bizarre anatomy-related news (Jon Hamm's penis, Justin Bieber's lack of shirt) this could be the most ludicrous story yet.

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According the Magic Valley Times-News, parents have launched a complaint against Tim McDaniel's teaching of the reproductive system, in which he dared to discuss the biology of an orgasm and use the word vagina.

"As a parent, I want to be notified in advance that this content is going to be taught in class," Katie Norman, who has four children in the school system, told the paper.

"It's important to teach this to kids," McDaniel rebuked. "Hopefully, the students are being abstinent but most of these students will be getting married a year or two after graduation and they need to know about this."

What would be a fireable offence, I'd imagine, is trying to teach 15-year-old kids about sex without using the word vagina. Every synonym out there is a less favourable option.

So many questions: Isn't Grade 10 a little late to be learning about vaginas? Why are they teaching teenagers, through implication, that the vagina - or at least the word - is something to be ashamed of? Did the teacher say "penis," and were we all okay with that? What about - gasp - ovaries?

What's even more stupefying about this story? McDaniel - again, a science teacher - is covering the sex education course in the first place because the school's health teacher is "uncomfortable" with the material, according to the area's superintendent Neil Hollingshead.

It's a strange, scary world out there. High school students have many things to fear, but let's not make a female body part one of them.

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About the Author
Editor in the Opinion section

Amberly McAteer is an editor in the Opinion section at The Globe and Mail. She has been a homepage editor, online editor and community editor in Features - including Life, Travel, Style, Arts and Books. She's written columns about her quest to run a 10K and find the perfect dog. More


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