The United State of Sex Education
Scrollytelling data narrative exploration of U.S. sex ed
Taking the quantitative and qualitative data regarding sex education and turning them into an exploratory narrative
The current state of sex education within the United States is abysmal.
Having been a high school educator, I witnessed first-hand the affect that the lack of comprehensive sex education had on my students. Combined with my own lived experiences and observations of my peers, I knew that there exists a systemic issue with the way sex education is taught in the United States.
To complete my masters of interaction design at Northeastern University, where I concentrated in usability and development, I wanted to focus on programming my own exploration of sex ed in the U.S.
Through my formal and anecdotal research I came to realize that parents, administrators, and educators all need a reliable resource to help them understand the current state of sex education, its (lasting) impact on real students, and advocate for better educational programming.
- researching the subject
- interviewing participants
- teaching myself D3.JS
- debugging my code
- writing the narrative
- designing the overall site
- testing for errors
- presenting my thesis to my program faculty, and later to my classmates
- Aarthy Kannan Adityan
Because this was my thesis project, I came up with the concept, researched the topic, designed it, and built it from scratch using D3.JS and CSS (but with a lot of debugging help from my thesis advisor and a few friends!)
I conducted a lot of research in order to effectively create this project.
In addition to scholarly articles and books specifically on the matter, I also found non-biased resources for factual information regarding the state laws around sexual education. I then interviewed educators, high school students, social workers, sexual health experts, and young adults (old enough to know how their education or lack-thereof affected them, but young enough to remember what they were taught and when) to better understand the effects of these laws.
WHAT I LEARNED
Of the public education in the 50 states, only:
- 37 states require information on abstinence
- 33 states require information on HIV
- 26 states require information that is age appropriate
- 18 states require information on contraceptives
- 13 states require information that is medically accurate
- 8 states approach it without a race/ethnicity or gender bias
- 8 states allow it to be inclusive of sexual orientation
- 2 states mandate it must not promote religion
- Additionally, 87% of schools nationwide allow students to be exempt from sexual education courses
Meanwhile, regarding sexual assault:
- Only 16% of students report having any form of sexual assault education from their school or parents
- Roughly 18% of women in the US report being victims of sexual assault
- 80% experience it before 25 years old
- Sexual assault is viewed as an “epidemic”on college campuses, and yet only roughly 5% of cases are actually reported
I chose to use D3.JS because I felt it would give me the most control over the way my data would be presented.
Overall, I divided each part of the project into goals, and each goal into bite-sized pieces. Something I’ve learned about myself is when tackling a programming problem, I need to start small so as not to overwhelm myself — but also because it makes it easier to debug!
For the design of my project, I wanted it to look inviting. Sex education is a topic that can easily turn audiences off (pun intended). By making the color palette soft, I hoped that it would invite more intrigue and exploration.
As an experience, I wanted this to be an interactive resource, something that audiences could browse and explore at will. I wanted everyone to find something in this that spoke to them, whether it be the importance of consent, sex and gender exploration, or the role of religion in the classroom.
I broke the narrative into three interactive chunks:
- The current laws on sex education illustrated on a map
- In their own words, the lasting impact on children
- How this affects concepts like consent and sexual harassment
After testing, debugging, and more debugging, I had an end site that I was proud of.
Below is a video of the project in its final form, but you can explore it yourself via this link. Please note that it works best at full screen on a desktop/laptop in Chrome.