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Sex Education: Where Did It Go?

Sex Education: Where Did It Go?

Modern sex education in America first entered public school programs during the 1920s, but didn’t take off till some decades later. Prior to this, education (the term is used quite loosely in this sentence) suggested that young adults avoid sleeping on “feather beds” or eating “stimulating vegetables.” Sex education thrived during the 1970s, but by the 1980s it had become a matter of life and death. Even with the AIDs epidemic raging, various fundamental groups began to stress the need for abstinence-based sex-Ed programs just as other groups were urging emphasis on safe sex. These days, however, sex education plays a much diminished role in many schools throughout the country, and without education, there is no small degree of danger for young adults subjected to these ineffectual programs.

Why Is Sex Education Taking a Back Seat in Curriculums?

There are various reasons for the decline in sex education programs in the nation’s schools. Many programs that were either federally or state funded have been cut. With funding from other sources drying up, many schools have opted to rely on parents or guardians to inform their children about sex-related issues. Advocates for school-based sex education criticize the home-based discussions of sex because these are not “objective” settings where students can be educated in non-judgmental environments. In essence, advocates strongly believe that schools provide the ideal setting for dispensing essential information about all aspects of sex and sexuality.

Why Don’t Abstinence-Based Programs Work?

In recent years, researchers showed, with their nine-year study, that abstinence programs do not work. It could have something to with the fact that humans are sexual beings and sex is, after all, a primary function of life. Regardless, the study did demonstrate that comprehensive sex education programming did have a strong impact. This type of educational programming led to “delayed” sex (teens waited longer to have sex) and an increase in the use of contraception. Some of the controversies associated with abstinence-based programs are that they leave out discussion of safe sex, birth control, sexual orientation, chronic diseases, and consent.

The Benefits of Sex Education

Although one might think that the benefits of sex education were obvious, there are school boards who still do not sanction or allocate funding for the type of comprehensive sex education program that has been shown to work. Medically accurate sex education is associated with:

  • Delaying sex
  • Improved sense of body image
  • Increased use of contraception (i.e. condoms, birth control pills, etc…)
  • Improved relationships
  • Informed decision-making
  • Reduction in the practice of unsafe sex (sex without a condom)

Learning about sexually transmitted diseases is imperative if the spread of these diseases is to be contained. Moreover, a lack of sex education, according to researchers with The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, is regarded as a barrier to contraception and it leads to increased teen pregnancies.

If you are a parent or educator, it’s important to petition your school district to include comprehensive sex education programming in your regional schools. Be sure to present research that unequivocally demonstrates the problems with abstinence programs and how they are not only skewed away from social norms, they can pose a danger by ignoring information regarding safe sex practices. Comprehensive sex education does work–and this is its strongest selling point. It is associated with reduced unplanned pregnancies and increases in the practice of safe sex. To let these programs fall by the educational wayside allows school systems to willfully ignore programming that is essential to all students–every single one. By ignoring this need, today’s school boards and educators are creating risks for this generation of young adults.  That should not be acceptable to parents, families and communities.



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