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Fact Based Sex Ed
Evergreen State College Student
Moral and social disagreements over the teaching of sex education in public schools has caused the current system to be composed of a variety of approaches including abstinence only education, and in some districts the class is not offered at all. Sex Ed classes based on social opinions and moral persuasion often fail to offer scientific facts about sex, pregnancy and STDs; this lack of knowledge leads to teens making uninformed decisions about their sexual health.
Fact based sex education is intended to supply teenagers with the most current research information available concerning contraception, STDs, vaccines, and other sexual issues. Armed with accurate information teens will be more prepared to make responsible and safe sexual choices.
Discussion In the United States the argument over sex education boils down to the fact that while some believe that being frank and honest about sex will allow teens to make good choices, others believe that teaching anything but abstinence will lead to promiscuous, dangerous, and immoral behavior.
Currently, 86% of schools offering sex ed classes require that abstinence be promoted as the best choice and 35% of these schools require that abstinence be portrayed as the only option. There is a wide regional discrepancy when it comes to these policies; while more than half of the schools in the southern U.S. only allow abstinence only education, only one in five schools in the N.E. have this policy. Due to these local preferences and policies there is not a nationally comprehensive plan for offering sex ed and while thirty-five states require that sex ed be taught in one form or another, the class formats vary widely. Some states have passed legislation requiring that schools provide sexual information that is research based and free of racial, gender, or sexual orientation biases but this type of legislation is uncommon.
Statistics show us that sex education classes that cover a wide range of options in a scientific and accurate way enable the teens who experience them to avoid pregnancy and STDs. Furthermore, these same statistics tell us that abstinence only education tends to promote choices that lead to dangerous activities and poor sexual health. For example, the number of unintended teen pregnancies has been declining since 1995, 86% of these pregnancies are estimated to have been avoided through the use of contraception while only 14% were shown to have been likely due to abstaining from sex. Also, it has been shown that abstinence only education does not seem to delay teenage sexual activity, but research has shown that children educated with this curriculum are less likely to use protection when they do engage in sexual activities.
Despite this statistic and others like it, abstinence education has been on the rise for a very long time. In 1988 only 1 in 50 teachers taught that abstinence was the only way to prevent pregnancy and STDs; in 1999 the number was 1 in 4. Also on the rise is the rate of American teenagers infected with an STD. Nine million new STD cases in teenagers are reported every year, a shockingly high number…especially when compared to the infection rates of other countries that offer more comprehensive sex education.
The combination of huge amounts of exposure to sex in the media and a lack of information is clearly a dangerous combination. While 66% of teens have had sex before their junior year in high school and yet 63% of teens reported that they knew little or nothing about oral contraception and 30% reported that they had only minor knowledge concerning condom use.
As teenagers mature sexually they develop many questions about their sexual identity and practices that are not currently being met by sex ed curriculum. This absence of information is unlikely to override raging hormones and cause these teens to forget about sex until they walk down the aisle; what is far more likely is that they will turn to their friends. The simple facts of hormone levels and media exposure make it impossible that teenagers are going to stop thinking about and having sex, so when it comes down to it do we want our kids receiving potentially life saving information from a professional…or from their friends?
The young people of our country require access to a comprehensive and clear sex education curriculum in order to start making healthy choices concerning sexual health and activity. Until we have begun offering a more fact based curriculum it is important that colleges supply the education that people did not receive in high school. Teenagers need access to clear and fact based information in order to make the choices that will allow them to be healthy and happy.
Verbiage for pattern card:
Sexual education in American public schools is varied and often morally based. Recent statistics concerning pregnancy and STDs in teenagers show that these policies are not doing their intended job. Curriculum changes need to be made that use scientific data to explain sex, pregnancy, STDs, and other issues.
Information about introductory graphic:Introductory graphic from Stand Up For America website