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Sexuality textbook suggests students take ‘field trip’ to preschools to observe potential ‘sexual interactions’

Unclear if schools, parents would be notified of visit

A college textbook that explores human sexuality suggests that instructors take their students on “field trips” to local preschools and elementary schools to observe possible “sexual interactions” between students there.

The textbook is part of a course titled “Psychology and Sexual Behavior” offered at the University of North Texas. That course made headlines last week when the news website Big League Politics reported on it, specifically what appeared to be a presentation in the course exploring “sexual pleasure and response in infants.”

Big League Politics reported that it obtained a copy of a “lesson plan” from the course instructor. That document appears to be drawn from the 13th edition of Our Sexuality, listed as the course textbook on the class’s syllabus.

One section of the document, titled “Teaching Ideas,” suggests that instructors take students on a “field trip” to observe children possibly engaging in “sexual interactions” during recess hours:

Take the class to a local elementary school playground, or ask permission for a few of your students to attend various school playgrounds, preschools, or daycare centers during recess to observe behaviors of children. Ask students to note interactions between same-sex and mixed-sex groups. Which group was more frequent? Which behaviors were most frequent? What kind of touching did children engage in? What about teasing behaviors? Were there any overtly sexual interactions? What was the age range of the children being observed? Have students write a report comparing their observations with information in the text.

The lesson plan does not appear to suggest that instructors notify elementary schools before showing up at them, though it does direct instructors to “ask permission for a few … students to attend various school playgrounds, preschools, or daycare centers.”

Book’s editor says she wants the activity removed

Robert Crook, one of the textbook’s editors, passed away several years ago. Karla Baur, listed as one of the editors of the textbook’s 13th edition, told The College Fix that neither she nor Crooks had a hand in writing the instructor’s guide of the textbook.

“[The publisher] typically contracts out that part of a revision. From my perspective, this ‘field trip’ seems rather odd, potentially problematic and fruitless.  I’m not aware of any professors having assigned it – but I’d certainly be interested in students’ reactions to the proposal!” Baur wrote.

Baur said she retired from editing the book after the 13th edition was published. She directed The Fix to Laura Widman, the book’s current editor and a professor at N.C. State. Reached via email, Widman told The Fix: “I can say that as an instructor I have never used that activity and I would be quite surprised if any instructor has asked their students to observe children on a playground.”

Widman told The Fix that she has requested that the activity be edited for future editions of the book. When asked if she had requested the suggestion be deleted from the book, Widman replied: “Yes, I would remove that activity altogether.”

The Fix reached out to Terry Davis, listed as the course instructor on the syllabus for “Psychology and Sexual Behavior,” to see if she has ever taken her class to any local elementary school, and if she notified the school or schools in question prior to doing so. Davis did not respond to multiple queries.

The University of North Texas’s media relations department did not respond to emails asking about the textbook. Reached via phone, a university spokeswoman directed The Fix to the school’s psychology department. A spokeswoman there said that the department did not comment on textbooks.

This article first appeared at The College Fix.