Comprehensive Sex Education in the schools

Both Karen and Leah presented strong arguments for their approach to sex education, but there are some important pieces of information that were left out.

Referring back to Karen’s first post, she questioned why the Obama Administration would end the grant for abstinence-only sex education, but it is clear that it did not fulfill one primary purpose of sex education—educating students how to prevent STIs and pregnancy. As the ten state study showed, the implementation of abstinence-only sex education resulted with none of the states demonstrating evidence of long-term success in delaying sexual initiation, and even resulted in some negative impacts on teen’s willingness to use contraception (Advocates for Youth: Five Years… 4). What other evidence is necessary to prove that this approach is not worth funding?

While one concern about comprehensive sex education is that teens will have more sex or become sexually active, it is FALSE.  Studies have proved that providing teens with the necessary tools in preparation (not encouraging sex) for if they have sex has had the opposite effect. Some sex and HIV education programs have been shown to delay the onset of sex, reduce the frequency of sex, or reduce the number of sexual partners (Abstinence Only v. Comprehensive Sex Education, 9), so why wouldn’t we implement comprehensive sex education?

But what exactly would this approach look like? It would be an abstinence-plus program, including information about sexual anatomy, abstinence, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, and contraception to reduce STIs and/or pregnancy rates, including condoms, dental dams, and birth control. Information about Plan B and abortion would also be included. To address Kaitie’s statement that pregnancy information would be irrelevant for gay and lesbian students, I would have to argue that all the topics covered would not pertain to every student, for example those choosing abstinence or pro-life students. But simply because some topics are not relevant to every student, the broad range of discussed topics would relate to a variety of students.

Although some parents would not agree with the program, there would not be an opt-out option because it is important information for every youth to learn and it would be nearly impossible to regulate what parents are teaching their children. Sex education does not ban parents from talking about sex with their children. Parents can discuss their beliefs, opinions, and expectations of their children regarding sex if they are concerned that they will forget their morals. The primary goal of sex education is to educate them about safe sexual behavior if they do become sexually active, not about encouraging youth to have sex.

One interesting idea Karen proposed was that schools are essentially encouraging youth to break the law by educating them about something that is currently illegal for them. But don’t youth learn about things all the time that they aren’t legally old enough to engage in these activities? While Keisha stated that the DARE program is not a logical comparison to sex education, the topics of alcohol and driving are similar to this issue. Even though teenagers may not be legal driving age, they take courses that educate them about the ways to safely drive a car. Can you imagine teenagers driving without any prior knowledge? Or look at drinking on our campus. There is a specific program—the Peer Assistants—that creates alcohol workshops primarily for underage students to learn about safe drinking behaviors if they decide to drink. Programs educate students how to engage in safe drinking behavior and how to prevent dangerous situations that alcohol could lead to, but the workshops do not encourage or state that they should drink. If the school eliminated educational programs for underage students about safe drinking behaviors, how well do you think students’ drinking behavior would be? More high-risk drinking behavior would most likely occur. Similarly, not educating teens about safe sexual behavior will lower contraception use, as the ten-state study found (Advocates for Youth: Five Years… 4).

One aspect of this debate that deserves more attention is why sex education should remain in the schools. Several commenters proposed moving it out of the classroom and did not believe it was the best place for youth to receive sex education. If you consider one of the primary goals of sex education in schools to reduce the number of HIV and STIs, we must meet the needs of the youth at the highest risk. The Collins article explained that the youth at an increased risk for these infections are the sexually experienced, sexually abused, homeless and runaway, and gay and lesbian young people (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 11), but removing sex education from school would be harmful.

If sex education is taken out of the schools, can we cannot ensure that teens are learning accurate information. By leaving sex education up to the parents, as Leah proposes, many students would be excluded. What are working-class families where the parent(s) work long hours or work shifts when their children are home after school supposed to do? Assuming parents have the time to teach their children, how would they attain the necessary information? If they were expected to search the internet, only those with a computer and internet access would benefit. Not only are the minority groups listed above at elevated risk, but young lesbians, gays and bisexuals are more likely to have left or been abandoned by their families (Collins, Alagiri, Summers, 11), so how would they be taught? By taking sex education out of the schools, we would only be perpetuating the problem of not guiding the high-risk youth. Why only accommodate those who are already privileged when they are not the youth at highest risk?

Yes, abstinence works 100% of the time to prevent STIs and pregnancy. And yes, condoms do break and The Pill doesn’t work every time. But those facts do not eliminate the reality that teenagers are having sex and that condoms and The Pill work the majority of the time when used appropriately. The argument that we should not educate teens about contraception because it is not 100% effective is like telling students to not wear their seatbelt because seatbelt use does not save lives 100% of the time.

We cannot ignore the numbers supporting comprehensive sex education nor can we remove sex education from the classroom due to the amount of students that would be lacking access to adequate information about sex.

Advocates for Youth, “Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Education: Assessing the Impact”

Chris Collins, Priya Alagiri, Todd Summers, “Abstinence Only vs Comprehensive Sex Education”

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