I had the pleasure of seeing Spring Awakening on Tuesday. I had never seen it, nor had I read a full plot description. So while I knew it was one of those things I needed to see, I didn’t have any preconceptions or really any details at all.
What I found in Spring Awakening was a portrayal of a deep understanding of the emotional lives of teenagers.
There are many points I could talk about from Spring Awakening, and I might go into all of these over time, but first I want to talk about the opening song: Mama Who Bore Me. Listen to this song, it’s amazing:
And you can read the lyrics if you’d like. Although it’s really no substitute for listening to this haunting song.
There are, of course, plenty of good reasons not to give too much good, comprehensive sex education too soon. And as soon as that starts being a problem on any kind of large-scale here in the US I’ll start railing against it and begging parents and teachers to – for the sake of the children – wait until later elementary or middle school.
As it is, this is not often a problem. Far more common is for parents to ignore their children’s development, both emotional and physical, and to leave these conversations until it is too late. In Mama Who Bore Me, Wendla Bergmann asks her mother why she has not given her the critical information about sex that – later in the musical – might have kept her from getting pregnant. While most young people today find out from a variety of means, if not their parents, what exactly causes pregnancy, plenty have no idea about condoms – most importantly how or where or even if it’s legal for the young person to access them.
Wendla begs her mother in a very straightforward fashion to give her more information, her mother tries her best, but ends up balking. Most parents don’t have the pleasure of a child begging for more information – they have only silence and evolving winces and giggles between their child and his or her friends.
Sex education is not something that can be ignored in the family – it has to start there, even if the child has a really great comprehensive sexuality education program to attend out of the home. Indeed, sex education both in the home and in the classroom are really necessary in order to fully and completely educate and support a young person in their sexual development.
Listen to that song again. It is the pain of a young person who doesn’t have the knowledge she needs. In the end, and through a botched illegal abortion, Wendla dies because of her lack of knowledge. Sex education is a life-or-death matter, both emotionally and physically. Our children need us – they depend on us – to teach them what they need to know. I have never seen this dire reality portrayed as vividly or deeply as it was in Spring Awakening. It is all the more disheartening that the original play was written in 1891, and yet we continue to fight the same issues – and in particular this one of parental neglect of proper sex education still holds so strong.