The question on what public schools should teach in sex education is raising debates across the United States. Recently, the government has supported abstinence-only programs. They’ve insisted that adolescents be taught to remain abstinent until marriage. Opponents contend that abstinence only programs are failing and are accounting for the high pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease rates in the United States. Both sides of the issue want to see decreases in premarital sex, teenage pregnancy, and sexually transmitted diseases. With controversies flaring, it is time people consider what is truly best for the health and protection of the young people. Therefore, public schools should adopt a comprehensive sex education curriculum with a strong focus on abstinence as the only sure way to prevent against STDs and pregnancy.
While the government still supports abstinence only teaching methods, the clear majority of citizens recognize that this method is impractical. The republican view remains, “the fact that some teens engage in unhealthy behavior should not discourage us as a society from promoting moral conduct” (“Sex Education”). The word ‘some’ does not accurately portray the large number of sexually active teenagers. Moral conduct can still be taught in schools while teaching comprehensive sex education. The majority of the public realizes this. A study done by the University of Pennsylvania found that “approximately 82% of respondents indicated support for programs that teach students about both abstinence and other methods of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases” (“Results of Recent Studies”). Citizens want their children to be educated on contraceptive methods and STDs. However, citizens have paid over half a billion dollars since 1996 on abstinence only education (Brody). It is the job of the government to take into account the feelings of the public. The government needs to realize that Americans do not want abstinence only methods being taught to their youth.
The main reason for parents’ objection is that abstinence-only methods are not effective. Adolescents are not abstaining in the United States. In a 1993 study done by the Centers for Disease Control, they found that, “more than 43% of ninth grade boys and more than 31% of ninth-grade girls report having had sexual intercourse” (“Sex Education”). These alarming numbers show that teenagers are having sex and not waiting until marriage. With the average man having sexual intercourse ten years before marriage and the average woman seven years, teens expect to have numerous sexual partners in their lifetimes. “College men indicate that they would ideally like to have 18 sex partners across their lives, whereas college women report that they would prefer only 5 partners” (Weiten 388). Since teenagers are having sex earlier and with more sexual partners, the public cannot deprive them of valuable information to protect themselves. Depriving them of important sexual education may be partially to blame for the high pregnancy and STD rates. Three million teenagers become infected with a STD every year in the United States and over a million teenage girls become pregnant (“Sex Education: Statistical Update”). With comprehensive sex education, the school would teach the students about different types of birth control and STD prevention methods. The education would still focus on abstinence as the only sure way to protect both you and your partner. Given that the majority of teenagers do not have one sexual partner and do not wait until marriage, all teenagers should receive comprehensive sex education.
For every teenager to get the most out of a sex education class, it needs to be tailored to the appropriate audience. Sex education can be a cumulative process. As Douglas Kirby, reviewer of CDC analysis, says, “for younger, sexually inexperienced youth, an effective message is: ‘Wait until you are older to have sexual intercourse.’ For older kids: ‘Avoid unprotected intercourse--the best way to do this is abstinence; if you have sex, always use protection.’ For high-risk groups, most of whom are having intercourse, an effective message is: ‘Always use condoms; otherwise you might get AIDS’” (“Sex Education”). This method allows for education to expand as the child ages. A comprehensive sex education class will not teach ten-year olds how to use condoms. It will slowly increase their knowledge on sex, STDs, HIV, pregnancy, and contraceptives while pressing abstinence as the best option at every step. A failure with abstinence only methods is that they leave out a part of the audience. Where does that method leave homosexuals, people who choose not to marry, and the non-religious? When do they learn about sex? By teaching all students comprehensive sex education, the entire population is included. Populations and cultures differ around the country. It would be senseless to teach abstinence only in inner city, urban environments. These teenagers grow up with a high risk for teenage pregnancy and STDs (“Update: Teen Pregnancy”). They need to be taught comprehensive sex education to protect their future health. By teaching a comprehensive sex education program, all ages, minorities, and cultures are included.
With all teenagers involved, a comprehensive sex education program that includes preaching abstinence is a more real world approach. No individual can be forced to practice abstinence. “Critics say that those who promote abstinence-only education are denying reality” (“Abstinence-Only Education”). It is and will always be his or her choice when they want to have sex. Whenever this time comes, it is in best interest of the public that the teenager was taught safe sex practices. Especially with today’s technological resources, an immense amount of information on sex is circulating. As Kreinin, president of the Sexuality Information and Education council says, “young people are going to learn about sex and our question has to be where do we want them to learn? From the media? From their friends? Or do we want them to learn from an educated, responsible adult?" (Masland). By providing adolescents with correct information, we enable them to make the right choice. “Respecting students means that they will make the right choices when they are informed of all the relevant facts” (“Sex Education”). It is not realistic for the government to dictate when the right time is for adolescents to have sex. But by putting faith into the younger generations, we can give them the available information and the responsibility to make the correct decision. Since expecting abstinence from the youth is not realistic or practical, we must educate with appropriate comprehensive sex education methods.
Teaching students comprehensive sex education will lower the pregnancy and STD rates among the sexually active students. There are many different types of contraceptive methods available to females. Females and males should be taught these methods, how to use them effectively, and their failure rates. They also need to be aware that abstinence is the only way to be 100% sure you will not get pregnant. The high pregnancy rate can be lowered with this knowledge. The high teenage pregnancy rate is associated with another very controversial subject, abortion. Since a third of all teenage pregnancies end in abortion, “people on both sides of the abortion debate agree that educating adolescents about how to prevent unwanted pregnancy is a major step toward reducing the need for abortions” (“Sex Education”). Therefore, teaching students about contraceptive methods could in turn lower the abortion rate in the United States. The use and effectiveness of condoms would be discussed in this program. “The lack of knowledge about how to use a condom effectively and the lack of motivation to use one every time mean that condoms fail much more often than they otherwise would” (“Sex Education”). When condoms are used consistently and properly there is only a 2% failure rate. If teenagers are taught about condoms then they will be able to use them effectively and greatly decrease the risk acquiring a STD. Sexual behavior is the number eight modifiable cause of death in the United States (Schneider). Many of those deaths are attributed to STDs and AIDs. Teenagers need to be educated so preventable deaths, STD transmission, and pregnancy rates can diminish.
Educating adolescents with a comprehensive sex program is the best way to protect the public. Scientists and the general public support comprehensive sex education meaning that the government needs to change their abstinence-only policy. The current policy does not include the entire audience, leaving some adolescents unsure of where they fit. Expecting all teenagers to abstain until marriage is an unrealistic teaching method. Comprehensive sex education would still focus on abstinence as the safest and most ideal choice for every student. However, it will teach contraceptive and STD prevention methods. This could then lower the pregnancy and STD rates among students who choose to become sexually active before marriage. Public schools need to adopt a comprehensive sex education curriculum with a strong focus on abstinence to best educate teenagers.
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