The Lack Of Sex Education In The United States
Adolescence can be a very confusing time for young people. It is a time when children begin making important decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behavior. Decisions made at this age can impact one’s health and well-being for the rest of their life. Sex education classes being taught in high schools provides teenagers with the information, skills, and motivation to make safe and healthy decisions when it comes to sex and sexuality. Sex education classes cover the topics of human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, society and cultures. School’s would never not provide essential classes like math or English, so why are proper comprehensive educational sex classes being neglected in schools across the United States?
Comprehensive sex education is a value-based education that teaches abstinence as the best form of sexual protection, but also teaches how to safely have sex if you don’t choose abstinence. This class also helps teach teens how to choose their own values and goals in life regardless of peers and parents. These classes provide factual information about abortion, contraceptives, masturbation, childbirth, and sexual orientation. In these lessons religion and personal belief are also discussed. Comprehensive classes do not encourage teens to have sex; quite the opposite actually. Teenagers learn that abstinence is the only guaranteed way to avoid diseases and unwanted pregnancies, but if they chose to partake in sexual acts they are provided with all the proper information to keep them physically and emotionally safe. Studies have shown that teenagers who received proper and accurate information about safe sex were more likely to take the proper contraceptives steps during sexual activities, resulting in less teenagers with sexually transmitted diseases and/or unwanted pregnancies.
Abstinence-only sex based education does not provide teenagers with the information needed to be healthy and safe in sexual situations. In these classes students are taught that only one set of values should apply to all students. Students are taught that if faced with unwanted pregnancy, their only option is to carry to term and put the child up for adoption. Contraceptives are only briefly covered in the curriculum and are only talked about to mention the failure rates of individual contraceptives. These lessons are taught in a way that is meant to scare teenagers into thinking that sexual expression outside of marriage will lead to harmful psychological, physical, and social consequences. Data shows that abstinence-only based sex education classes are ineffective in preventing teen pregnancy, and may even be a contributing factor in raising teen pregnancy rates.
Sex is a natural part of human life, and it happens with or without being properly educated about it. By the age of nineteen, seventy-one percent of Americans have had intercourse. Sex is a fundamental part of being human, but less than half of the states in the U. S. require sex and HIV education classes in schools. In some cases, what is being taught is the practice of abstinence as opposed to the practice of safe sex. Between 1997 and 2008 the federal government spent over one and a half billion dollars on education classes that focused solely on abstinence. Only thirteen of the states that do provide comprehensive sex education, as opposed to abstinence, require the information taught to be medically accurate. That means that seventy-four percent of the states provide children with information that is not medically accurate, or with no information at all. Within the states that do provide classes, thirty-five of them have laws that allow parents to opt their children out of sex education classes. Sexual education classes teach some of the most important things you can learn in school, but children are being deprived of the educational classes due to parental values and beliefs. Morals should not obstruct learning.
The United States ranks first in both teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among developed nations. Schools and organizations have been pushing abstinence too hard, and it is time to begin pushing the need for safe sex. Sexual expression and orientation has a very negative connotation when it comes to teenagers, but it is a very natural thing. Studies show that receiving formal sex education before first sexual interactions is associated with a range of healthier outcomes among adolescents and young adults. The influence of sex education is not limited to the questions of if or when, but extended to the issues of contraceptive use and reproductive health outcomes. Making comprehensive sex education classes mandatory at schools across the country will be a step towards lowering teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates. Access to medically accurate comprehensive sex education, and reducing religious and moral based abstinence classes, should remain a primary goal for improving the health and well- being of teens and young adults.
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