Research Proposal Post

Posted on

Research Question: How have traditional male/female gender roles been portrayed in sex education curriculum materials over time?

Relevance: As we have seen in Ed300 as well as in news broadcasts over the years, sex education in public schools is a discussion surrounded by a lot of controversy.  I was inspired by the reactions of my classmates when looking at the Anaheim Union High School sex education curriculum from 1967 to tackle the understanding of what educators see as traditional gender roles, and how these roles are conveyed through sex education.  For example, in the Anaheim curriculum, the “Are You a Good Date (for girls)” survey makes statements such as: “how is your personal appearance” and “are you considerate”.  For boys, the survey questions are: “do you use a ‘line'” and “are you on time”.  These roles leave males in complete control of the dating situation, where females are only expected to respond and react to the male’s plans.  I am interested to see how over the years these curriculum assumptions of male and female gender roles change, or not.  Not only is sex education significant in what we are learning currently in class, but it has been, and will always be, a hot button issue in public school education, especially with a growing acceptance of different gender roles and gender identification in society.

Research Strategy: Since I struggled a bit with finding a topic that has a significant number of sources, and something that I am interested in, I began my researching by simply typing “sex education curriculum” into Google and into the WorldCat search database.  In the Trinity College Library there were many books pertaining to curriculum and sex education in more recent years (2000 and later), which will be helpful.  However, I would like to get curriculum examples from sex education classes in the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s as well so I can get a better sense of how curricula have changed over time.  From 1970, there is a book titled “Sex education in the schools; a study of objectives, content, methods, materials, and evaluation”, which is available at both the University of Hartford and UConn, and I will ask a librarian to help me obtain because it is from the early 70’s and maps the sex education curriculum with chapters such as “The Vocabulary for Sex Education”, and “Myths About Sex”.

I have also used the Trinity library search website to find various articles on the subject of sex education and traditional gender roles.  An example of an article that I found with the search words “sex education” and “curriculum” in the Education Full Text Database is a 2012 article in Education Week is called “New Standards Aim to Guide Sex Education”.  I will try using keywords like “health education” instead of sex education, to see what kinds of different results are found.  Articles like the one above, along with many others, will be useful to provide a basis on which new sex education strategies are being made to support the changing ideas of gender roles in today’s society.

My final research strategy will be to ask librarians for even more sources after discussing obtaining books from other libraries via Inter Library Loan, as well as possibly using an interview from Professor Janet Bauer here at Trinity College.  She is an expert on discussing sex in public school classrooms, as well as society’s understanding of gender roles throughout history.  Her insight could bring a completely new understanding of my topic to my paper, as well as maybe even provide some insight into the future teaching of sex education in schools without emphasizing traditional gender roles on young males and females.

Looking Ahead: To ensure that I don’t get my topic confused and I stay focused on looking at how traditional gender roles are portrayed in sex education over the years, I need to make sure that as I am sifting through curricula throughout the U.S., that I am staying focused on searching for bits and pieces like in the Anaheim example, when women are clearly thrust into the woman role of making sure you look good for the man asking you out on a date.  By staying focused on areas of the curriculum like this, I will not lose touch with what my research question is actually asking.


  1. Donohoe, Holly, Michael Stellefson, and Bethany Tennant. “Advantages and Limitations of the e-Delphi Technique: Implications for Health Education Researchers.” American Journal of Health Education 43, no. 1 (February 2012): 38–55.
  2. Glanzer, Perry L. “Disestablishing Sex.” Phi Delta Kappan 93, no. 1 (2011): 59–61.
  3. Anaheim Union High School. “Family Life and Sex Education Course Outline: Grades Seven Through Twelve”. Anaheim Union High School District, June 1967.
  4. Schulz, Esther D. Family Life and Sex Education: Curriculum and Instruction. New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1969.
  5. Dinesh, D’Souza. Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus. New York City: New York Free Press, 1991.
  6. Shah, Nirvi. “New Standards Aim to Guide Sex Education.” Education Week 31, no. 17 (January 18, 2012): 1–13.
  7. Walcott, Christy M, Tiffany Chenneville, and Sarah Tarquini. “Relationship Between Recall of Sex Education and College Students’ Sexual Attitudes and Behavior.” Psychology in the Schools 48, no. 8 (September 1, 2011): 828–842.
  8. Kilander, Holger, Frederick. Sex Education in the Schools; a Study of Objectives, Content, Methods, Materials, and Evaluation. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

One thought on “Research Proposal Post”

  1. Ashley, you’ve identified a fascinating topic for this assignment, and I wish to offer advice on narrowing the scope of your research question and identifying the most appropriate sources to help you research and write your essay. In the RQ, you might remove the word “traditional” (since that implies a certain answer) and narrow the time period of your study. For example: “How have male & female gender roles been portrayed in US sex education materials from the 1960s to the present?” (Feel free to adjust the time period as you identify sources.)

    As we previously discussed, the 1967 Anaheim sex ed curriculum outline is a great primary source, but only if you can match it against similar materials from more recent decades. Your Kilander 1970 citation looks promising, but you would need to find primary sources from later decades to make this research strategy successful.

    There are also some secondary sources that you should consider, specifically historically-oriented books, such as:

    Jeffrey Moran, Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century (Harvard Univ Press, 2000), currently checked out of Trinity Library, but you can request a copy from Conn or Wesleyan to be delivered within two days. See also this extended book review

    Kristin Luker, When sex goes to school : warring views on sex–and sex education–since the sixties (WW Norton, 2006) – available via Conn/Wesleyan

    Susan Freeman, Sex goes to school : girls and sex education before the 1960s (U of Illinois Press, 2008) — ask a librarian about how to obtain this item; see review at

Comments are closed.