I appreciate all of the comments and discussions brought up by my previous post. I would first like to clarify.
The ideal would be for sex education to occur only at home, starting young. We would not then need sex education in the schools taught by parents. I realize to get to the ideal will take work. I am not proposing that tomorrow we stop all sex education in the schools and leave it to parents – that would be a mess. But I do propose that parents begin to step up to their duty, so that someday, sex education would no longer need to be in the schools.
The schools do well in educating students about some aspects of sex – human reproductive anatomy, puberty, sexually transmitted diseases, etc… For me at least, my sex education was a weeklong unit during my health class in high school. It was not a focus, the teacher could have cared less to teach it and to answer questions; and I remembered leaving the class with tons of questions! Learning about sex should not be limited to a 50 minute class for five class periods; it is a lifelong learning process. So while I may have learned some basics about sex; my options became 1) go home to watch MTV, read Cosmo and Google something like “how to use a condom” or “how to talk to your parents about sex” or 2) actually talk to my parents about sex and the questions I had; which would have been much easier to do if my sex education began when I was young, not in school that day. Obviously, the present teenage pregnancy and STI rates reveal that something is not working with the current sex education system. A key part of this is that students aren’t learning what they need to know in the schools, and are resorting to Google, Cosmo and MTV. This can be solved with open sex education at home, with parents as sex educators.
Sex education is something that most parents hope to never have to deal with. Most don’t ever want to think of their children having sex. This is again where the taboo of sex comes in. We have to realize that our children will have sex someday; and when they do, it should be safe and healthy for them. It is a parent’s duty to educate their child, to prepare them for the big scary world, to talk to them. Yes, I realize some parents are busy, but that doesn’t mean at all that they can’t take some time to educate and talk to their children. Actually, the way that sex education at home would work isn’t that difficult or time consuming. It is not one big sit down talk, but instead answering questions accurately as they arise, making your children comfortable with their bodies, relationships and intimacy.
Sex education is something that needs to begin early. Opportunities arise all the times with young children to teach them about sex. The Mayo Clinic is an excellent resource for parents on educating young children about sex. Young children have questions; and it is your duty, as their parent, to answer them. During bath time, teach your children the proper names for their sex organs, discuss with them unwanted touching and privacy. Also, young children are very curious about self stimulation; here is an opportunity to not discourage them about their bodies, but to tell them it is completely normal, but private (www.mayoclinic.com). As children grow continue discussing love, relationships and respect over ice cream. Talk about dating, consequences and reasons to wait, healthy choices, birth control, etc… These are life lessons that parents have an obligation to teach to their children. Why should parents wait for schools to get on top of things and begin sex education in the teen years!? Sex education is a learning process; and beginning it in the teenage years may be too late.
Karen does make some good points on abstinence only education. At one point, though, she questions: “Besides some religious organizations, there is virtually no institution anymore that promotes the idea of abstinence. And with this constant bombardment of sex (from the media, their peers and even their role models) what are kids to think in this world? How are they to even know that abstinence exists as an alternative option to sex?” I am almost positive that most parents (these same parents who cringe at the idea of their babies having sex) hope to teach their children to abstain from sex, at least until a serious commitment like marriage. Children and teens who are able to sit down with their parents and discuss sex on a regular basis will know that abstinence is an alternative to sex. In a survey conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, “nearly 9 out of 10 (88%) teens say it would be easier for them to avoid sexual activity if they were able to have more, and more open conversations with their parents” (Albert). It is important for teens to learn morals and values relating to sex from their parents; not from a textbook.
I would also like to bring up that a key division on the debate over abstinence only vs. comprehensive sex education in the schools has a lot to do with whose morals are going to be instilled in these children. It is important to realize that no one’s morals are ever going to match up! People have different beliefs and values; we cannot expect the schools to cater to everyone’s belief system. The beauty of sex education at home is that beliefs consistent with the family’s are what will be instilled into the child.
To sum up; we cannot rely on the schools to teach everything. It is a parent’s obligation and duty to teach their child some of life’s more difficult things; sex included. This may seem like a daunting task; but really sex education at home is embedded in children’s questions, casual conversations, Friday night movie night! Parent’s just need to take these opportunities. Again, the BBC News: Health Survey showed that “just 9% of parents believed schools should be the main source of advice about sex and relationships … [and] while 90% of parents believed sex education was best done by them, many are embarrassed and uncomfortable to tell their children the facts of life” (BBC News). Perhaps, then, all that is needed is the realization that sex isn’t scary, and that talking about sex isn’t hard to do within your family and home (or at the ice cream place if you wish).
Albert, Bill. America’s Adults and Teens Sound Off About Teen Pregnancy: An Annual Survey. Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2007.