Posted in HS4CC

Adult Content in College Classes

Minors taking college-level classes?  What kinds of “adult content” will your student be exposed to in college classes? In this post, we’ll explore a few things to consider and questions to ask yourself about your teen.

A college, obviously, is intentional in their presentation of opposing and provocative discussions. That’s all well and good if you’re an adult. Deciding whether or not your teen is mature enough to deal with adult content is a bigger question than asking if they can do college level work. It’s a common academic exercise in critical thinking to have assignments in which a person must argue opposing points of a situation. This is different from identifying truth or having an opinion.

Some parents are quick to point out “if your going to be a helicopter parent, your teen shouldn’t take college classes” but I think that perspective throws the baby out with the bathwater and lacks an understanding of the complexities of maturity. Your teen may be academically able to handle Precalculus, dedicated enough to learn Anatomy, creative enough to study Patisserie, or determined to learn TIG Welding. In fact, your teen may take a lot of classes that never challenge their maturity.

Maturity is a person’s ability to reflect internally about something, and their ability to put it into context and evaluate it in a meaningful way.

In some classes, especially the social sciences and humanities, topics are intentionally and deliberately part of the experience. This is not unlike choosing a religious college because the worldview is intentionally and deliberately part of the experience.

A better way to frame maturity in this context might be to substitute the word for “wisdom” as you consider these situations. Wisdom is having the experience, knowledge, and good judgment to consider the context of the meaning.

“When my teen discusses (fill in the blank) in class with the professor, does he/she have the wisdom to make academic arguments?”

Consider this sample college writing assignment:

  • Write a 3,000 word persuasive argument. Use the first 1,500 words to argue the “pro-choice” position, and use the second 1,500 words, argue the “pro-life” position.

In provocative college courses, your teen may have to participate in debates, discussions, or writing assignments, about abortion, genocide, rape, murder, slavery, sex trafficking, discrimination, anti-American, racism, marriage, religion, sexuality, and other topics that are both graphic and intense. 

Beyond the question about whether your teen knows what the topic is, whether it’s offense, how it intersects with their own values and how they’ll emotionally handle the content (all important too!) is the question of wisdom. Can they complete an assignment through an academic lens? When we were little, we learned the differences between facts and opinions, but does your teen the have the wisdom to sort out facts and opinions when coming from a figure of authority? It’s a big question, and it’s harder than it sounds.

Proactive parents should preview course syllabi and textbooks when possible, but remember that everything in class isn’t always scripted.  Spontaneous discussions and debates about topics pulled from the news headlines can be equally disturbing or challenging. Even when your teen is a shining example of tolerance, wisdom, and judgement- other students might not be.

Mature Content in the College Classes


In today’s Inside Higher Education news

Philosopher’s comments about pedophilia get him suspended from SUNY Fredonia. Some academics object, but others suggest there are limits to free expression and that Steven Kershnar crossed them…A number of philosophers and free speech advocates have jumped to Kershnar’s defense, arguing that his words have been taken out of context and that academic freedom means nothing if it doesn’t protect even dangerous ideas. (02/02/2022)


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit

4 thoughts on “Adult Content in College Classes

  1. Last year my high school sophmore read the Vagina Monologues for her English 1102 class. I am glad I was able to help her process it.

  2. My daughter has definitely run into this doing dual enrolled online classes! I tried to make sure I read a lot of the posts, got a feel for the teacher, and knew what the course was teaching . We have encountered many unexpected things!

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