2 Sex Ed Approaches—Which One Works Better?
- Abstinence-only sex education
When I first saw the headline, I thought it was too ironic to be true: Texas school teaching abstinence-only sex ed suffers chlamydia outbreak.
I would’ve probably even laughed if I hadn’t realized quickly that it was not only true, but that it meant dozens of kids now had to deal with the discomfort and potential long-term harm of a sexually transmitted disease. These are kids that were clearly not practicing abstinence and were ill-prepared for real-life sexual encounters. It isn’t the fault of these kids, either.
It is irresponsible of school systems to teach abstinence-only sexual education and it should be illegal in public schools.
Should abstinence be taught as the only sure way to avoid things like unplanned pregnancies and STDs? Of course it should because it IS the only absolute way. But that abstinence extends beyond basic sexual intercourse. Students need to understand exactly all the ways they can be harmed by unprotected sex and then given the power to protect themselves.
The argument that parents should be the only ones to talk to their kids about sexual options just doesn’t cut it because it is elitist. It only works for students whose parents have the time or concern to actually sit down with their kids and have that talk. It leaves out the many students whose parents won’t actually have this talk with their kids or the ones who will preach abstinence-only. Schools have the responsibility to educate to their best of their abilities, and let’s face it: abstinence-only sex ed fails that mantra miserably.
- Starting early
Talking about sex to a classroom full of five-year-old kids is likely to make some teachers and parents uncomfortable. But that is the approach that the Netherlands is taking and it is working.
According to studies by the Word Health Organization and the World Bank by way of pbs.org, the dutch have “one of the lowest” teen pregnancy rates in the word and “nine out of ten Dutch adolescents used contraceptives the first time” they chose to have sex.
While kindergarten may seem too early for sex ed in America, starting early has its merits.
A sex education program called “Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education that Works” targeted at middle schoolers (6th – 8th grade) reports success at reducing the amount of sexually active teens who take the course. More than 150 schools have implemented the program in Texas, Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts.
The program focuses on accurate medical information regarding sexuality, and is designed to work in conjunction with parents as the main front for talking honestly with their kids about sexual activity. It is not an abstinence-only program, but does provide advice on encouraging kids to say “no” to sex.
According to the program site, 15 percent less girls and 16 percent less boys who take “Get Real” classes engage in sexual activity, compared with their peers. The numbers are even more impactful because the program is targeted at middle schools where students are at a higher risk for engaging in sexual activity.
A study released by New York University’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health and Planned Parenthood found that by the time children reached age 21, only 1 in 5 parents had a discussion with their kids about birth control, saying “no” to sex and where to go for sexual health information.
The survey also found that nearly one-third of parents have never talked with their kids about where to go for reproductive health care.
Programs like “Get Real” are a necessity in our K-12 schools, and definitely by the middle school age. Waiting until high school means that kids have had several years of exposure to misinformation, and may already been sexually active. Age-appropriate, heath-based sex education is the right way to go — and I hope that “Get Real” spreads to more schools.
Abstinence-only education has not helped in lowering America’s teen pregnancy rate or reign in the growth of STDs among teenagers. Continuing the closed minded approach about sexual education works to the detriment of our students and we will continue to reap the benefits of the bad educational decisions we’ve made, which may be an increase rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.
Further, young men and women should have access to questions that pertain to reproductive systems but don’t directly mention sex. Topics like cancers and ovarian cysts and more should be discussed when students are still young enough to feel empowered with the knowledge.
What do you think? Should public schools be required to teach safe sex practices? How early do you think sex ed should be taught?