Educating Our Youth: The Importance of Comprehensive Sex Education

Sex education in America is a very controversial topic due to the many different cultures, religions, and personal beliefs people have. In education about sex in public schools persuasive essay this topic will be discussed. The Federal Government does not regulate or require sex education to be taught in schools, leaving this decision up to the individual states, districts, and schools to make. The people of America may find the currently rising national rates of STIs in the teenage population troubling, but is there any way to fix that if there is no way to make sure our youth are educated on sex?

As it currently stands, there is no federal regulation on the curriculum or even requirement of sex education in public schools. Only 29 states mandate sex education, and far less have any regulations or requirements for what exactly is taught in schools. There are specific standards schools use to keep their curriculum similar across states. Even education on drug and alcohol prevention is used almost nationwide, so why is sex education excluded in this?

Teenage pregnancy has been dropping in recent years, about 10% for ages 15-17 in 2016, according to the CDC. This may seem like it should not be a problem anymore, but the United States still sees far more teenage pregnancy in comparison to other western industrialized nations. Cases of STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis increased for males and females ages 17-24 from 2017 to 2018. Numerous studies have found time and time again that a scientific-based approach to sex education can reduce the rates of STIs and teen pregnancy.

Some may argue that sex is a topic only parents discuss with their children. However, this is currently not working and we can see that reflected in teen pregnancy and STIs. Teens are more likely to seek information on social media and online than through their parents. Trained professionals will know more about sex than parents will, and letting the child learn the basics of anatomy, contraception, and pregnancy will allow the parents to focus on teaching the child their specific values or religion. This being said, no one should be forced to learn about a serious topic that they or their guardian do not think they are ready for, so an opt-out option is very necessary.

Many think that by not educating our youth on how to take precautions if they chose to decide to have sex, that there would be no attempts at doing it. However, with the amount of sexual media and pornography readily available to youth, many teens may feel that they are educated enough to make this decision based on observing the false representation online or on television alone. Abstinence does not and will never be able to cater to every child’s lifestyle, the same way every adult navigates their personal decisions around sex and relationships differently.

Leaving children in the dark about sex could make it come off as “new, cool, and dangerous” potentially attracting those who are seeking after these sorts of things, much like the coolness and risk of skateboarding or sports. Sports have given instruction in contrast to sex education.

Our goal is to keep youth safe. We educate them on drugs, alcohol, bullying, among other topics that are considered risks that they need to know about so they can keep themselves safe. It seems that because of religion and personal belief that our country is holding back on sex education for all. America has tried the approach of letting parents handle “the talk” and no results have come from it.

Abstinence-only programs can be harmful. Statistically, abstinence-only education fails at both preventing teens from having sex, as well as rates of pregnancy and STIs. AE programs purposefully withhold information about sex and contraceptives while also shaming those who choose to have sex before marriage or other long-term commitments. They can reinforce outdated gender stereotypes and even specifically target girls’ virginities by claiming that having sex will decrease their value as partners. This is especially harmful to youth who have been assaulted and/or exploited sexually, worsening a tragedy by making the victim feel like they are lesser because of it. According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations, having access to accurate sex education is a right all humans should have (yes, that includes teenagers). This lack of information could also lead teens to think that non-vaginal sex is safer or not as shameful, leading them to engage in these practices even if they aren’t having vaginal sex. It also leaves those who engage in non-heterosexual sex without the tools they need to be safe.

Evidence-based sexual education provides medically accurate information on anatomy, reproductive development, contraception, and more. Not only does this give youth the ability to make informed decisions, but it gives them a reference of what is normal to be experiencing which can put them at ease in this confusing time of their lives. It also lets them know that something may not be normal (ovarian cyst, heavy periods, etc) so that they can seek medical help if necessary.

As it stands, there is currently no standardization for sex education programs in schools across the United States. We have evidence of what is effective and what is not, and yet we continue to allow our rates of STIs and teen pregnancies to be severe without solution. If we want to solve this health crisis, we need to get with the times and allow our youth to get the education and safety that they deserve.   

10 October 2022
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