Monday, December 28, 2009
An article popped up in my RSS Feed today from the Boston Globe about abstinence based sex education programs seeking financial assistance after federal funding was eliminated. Abstinence only education involves excluding all other methods of birth control and contraceptives, and proponents argue that sex should wait until marriage.
Now, I am personally against abstinence based sex ed. If sex is to wait until marriage, what about the student who does not want to get married? What about someone who is homosexual and cannot legally get married in their state? I am not against abstinence, only the notion that abstinence be taught in schools as the only method of birth control. Yes, it is the only method of birth control that is 100% effective. However, more often than not it's an option that is unrealistic due to curiosity, hormones, and "love."
If you would like statistical information about teenage pregnancy in the United States or in your state, the CDC has a great PDF available for download. I looked at the stats and I almost added them to this post, but this I think the numbers are only part of the discussion of teenage pregnancy and sex education.
What I don't like about abstinence based education is that it fails, in my opinion, to teach personal responsibility. Instead, it separates a behavior, necessary for the continuation of life and also a demonstration of intimacy, into a "bad" behavior category. By no means am I advocating that teenagers everywhere go out and start having sex. Most aren't ready for that. But, I think it's important to provide teenagers with all the tools, knowledge, and skills needed in case they do make the decision to have sex. You wouldn't let a kid jump into a pool without making sure they knew where the floaties are, would you?
Many people will say that talking about sex with teenagers about sex will lead to them having sex. Then, they expect health educators to talk about alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs without mention of their argument that "talking about it will cause teenagers to do it." Listen, sex happens. It's everywhere in our society, and because the media has a tendency to saturate our lives with it, teenagers are curious. Avoiding the issue does nothing to solve it. Why should we wait to deal with something until it's a big issue? (Here some will argue teenage pregnancy is already a big issue...they have a point)
With all health education, teachers and parents need to be proactive, not reactive. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (I lied, here are some statistics), 47.8% of high school students have had sex, but only 35% are classified as "sexually active" meaning they have engaged in sexual intercourse in the last three months. Another item of note from the YRBS is that 22.6% of high school students surveyed used drugs or alcohol before their last sexual intercourse. Drugs and alcohol affect decision making, which is why teaching responsibility and skills are so important for teenagers.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is a great organization with great goals and a very proactive mindset. I am in no way affiliated with the organization, but they provide education to males and females about unplanned pregnancy and teenage pregnancies. They are involved with politicians and advocate for the teaching of personal responsibility when it comes to becoming sexually active. Their website is filled with information from a variety of resources. Check it out!
People need to be more comfortable talking about sex. It's a part of life that cannot be avoided. I jumped around a lot in this post, and I'll try not to ramble in the future. I'm also going to try to focus more on the classroom in future posts.
As always, please comment or e-mail with arguments or any thoughts. As this gets off the ground (hopefully for real this time) I want people to share their points of view in healthy debate. Everyone brings something different to the table, and by sharing these everyone benefits.