Documentaries: The Education of Shelby Knox

In putting together my blog’s tabs, I’ve been trying to incorporate documentaries I’ve found useful or informative or interesting. This one, The Education of Shelby Knox, is fascinating. It’s about a high school aged evangelical girl who realizes that abstinence only sex education isn’t working in her school and works to enact a change. Little does she realize that she will herself change! Sorry I can only offer you the preview!

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Feel free to share your thoughts!


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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Noelle

    What is taught in an abstinence-only class? Is it everything but the how not to get pregnant? Do they get all nitty-gritty on the different hormones and the connections between all the different glands, organs, and cells? Do they go through puberty and developmental psychology of attraction? Is it a bunch of STD stuff? I find a wide discrepancy in how much adults of both genders know about their own bodies and that of the other gender. If you don’t teach it in school, when do they expect people to learn it? Most evangelicals aren’t against contraception for married people. When were they expecting the married ones would figure it out? Even catholic school teaches natural family planning, and you need to know some physiology and math to figure that out. I’ve discovered how little people understand about reproductive physiology in the last few months. Most people have no formal education beyond high school. If it’s important enough to learn math so you can do your taxes some day, then it’s important enough to learn basic body functions. I don’t see where being pro-education automatically equals liberal. The converse that being conservative equals anti-education isn’t exactly fair. I know many intelligent conservatives. The more you learn and take the secret and mystery out of something the better. Especially sex. Why is that a political issue?

    Not that I had good sex ed when I was in school in the 80s and 90s. I moved a lot, so maybe I missed it in between a transfer. Most of what I learned was self-study until I hit college and med school after. My grandma got me books on girls and puberty from the library one time when I was visiting her when I was 11. She was the youngest of 13 kids, and no one ever bothered to tell her anything. So when she did have her first period, she thought she was bleeding to death. She wanted to make sure I was well-informed. I don’t think she read the books before she handed them to me though. They were both out of date in completely different ways. One was in a groovy know-everything honesty style of the late 70s. It was awesome. You were supposed to get out some markers and color all the female body parts as they were discussed (green polka dots for the inner labia, ladies). That was one of the best books I ever read. The other was ridiculously anti-feminist and talked about wearing pink and smiling a lot to attract boys. As it had no juicy information on sex, I did not finish it. After that, I read everything I came across from trashy romance novels to women’s magazines. I learned a lot from Cosmo. I’m thankful that I had a mother who never censored my reading materials.

    • Becca

      your sex education sounds a lot more informative and interesting than mine was. we had years of the super-awkward teacher who blushed when she had to pass a condom round the class, and then year of this….weird teacher who used to come out with the most random stuff, like ‘if your parents dont have sex 3 times a day, they are not in love’, and ‘lots of women like to do it with horses’.
      They were extremely surrela lessons…..

  • GreenRider

    I got the your body will change & develop when you hit puberty talk just before jr high, then in jr high when mom tried to talk to me about sex I told her I already knew. She wanted to know how, posters and pamphlets in the exam rooms at the hospital where she worked. She did prenatal care so all the material was sex related, I went into high school with far greater knowledge then my peers and was confounded by how little they knew. Later they surpassed me and taught me more practical things.

    I even did the True Love Waits program twice, 1st time was willingly, I spent most of the time wondering when they’d actually talk about sex, condoms, birth control, STIs. Nope it was all scare tactics, rape stories, ruined dreams from teen pregnancies, peer pressure to do it, and how god wanted you to remain pure. 2nd round was forced, mom got uncomfortable when she realized I was kissing. If it wasn’t for my earlier exposure I probably would’ve developed a fear of sex from that joke of sex ed they were selling (& they were selling it, had to give them a check at the door).

    I’m glad I had an informal sex ed to start with, because of it I was able to develop my sexuality at my own pace. By the time somebody thought to develop it for me I’d already armed myself and was able to ignore their quackery.

  • Darryl

    I just watched the full doc on Netflix. (It’s streamable, at least here in the US. I don’t know about elsewhere.) It’s really interesting to watch Shelby’s growing awareness and her astonishing determination. It’s also fascinating to see how her very conservative parents adapt and adjust to her unstoppable activism. (They didn’t stand a chance of changing or silencing her, and they can’t help but have at least a little enlightenment rub off on them.) Shelby is an inexorable force of nature here, and it seems she was just born to be this particular person, no matter how all-encompassing her Evangelical surroundings. This film was made six or seven years ago. I checked out Shelby’s blog, ( and she’s sure enough radical as can be. (I don’t yet know if she ever went atheist, but I’m guessing she sure as heck isn’t Baptist anymore.) I never would have found this without the link, so thanks, Libby-Anne.