ABC?s and STD?s
In today?s society, there is an ongoing debate over sex education and its influence on children. With teenage pregnancy rates higher than ever and the imminent threat of the contraction of STD?s, such as HIV, the role of sex education in the school is of a greater importance now than ever before. Some opponents to sex education in school believe that it is not effective, and that it encourages children to have sex. They believe that sex education does more harm than good. However, I, like 90% of Americans, believe that sex education belongs in the education system. (Yahoo) I believe that by denying children sex education, you are in a sense sheltering them from the harsh realities they are bound to encounter. Sex education is a fundamental and essential part of an education, and by removing it, we are putting adolescents in serious danger.
During the teenage years, every boy or girl goes through major changes in their body. Sex education can help children cope with the many changes caused by the onset of puberty. Hormonal and physical changes in the body begin without warning and children need to understand why these changes are occurring and that these changes are completely normal. Learning and comprehending how one?s body works is a fundamental part in any persons life and the ability to gain this knowledge should not be removed by anyone including the United States government, clergy, or angry parents that believe it is better to use the don?t ask don?t tell policy. This information is needed to ensure that children understand why they are feeling increased sensitivity due to the opposite sex, and what these feelings are likely to lead to encompass.
At the beginning of puberty, hormones start rushing and all teenagers begin to experience sexual urges. Increased sexual exploration is not controllable by anyone, including parents or teachers. It?s a natural function of the body, which has been occurring since the beginning of time. Along with the hormonal rush, comes experimentation. Teenagers begin to explore their new bodies, and the bodies of others. ?You can?t prevent teenagers from having sex, no matter what you preach. If students are having sex, they might as well do it the safe way. It?s a way for schools to show that they actually care,? says Shauna Ling-Choung, director of a Brooklyn, New York school health center. (Richardson)
With sex education classes, students are taught about the various methods of contraception, including abstinence. By teaching students the options they have, they are more likely to find an option suitable for them, and this increases the chance of contraceptives being used.
According to Pamela DeCarlo, from the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, currently, out of all age groups, teenagers have the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases, with one in four adolescents contracting an STD by the age of 21. Including in the STD category is the HIV virus, which is finally decreasing after reaching the all time high in 1998. According to the Centers for Disease Control, teens are at a high behavioral risk for acquiring STD?s. Teenagers and young adults are more likely, than other age groups, to have multiple sex partners, to engage in unprotected sex, and for young women, to choose sexual partners older than themselves. The only way to discontinue this trend is with education. The information should be delivered through a variety of sources including parents, teachers, and clergy.
Through sex education, teachers are able to educate children with the correct information on the many types of sexually transmitted diseases that exist in the world today. Teachers are also able to dismiss misinformation about ways of contracting the diseases, symptoms and treatments of STD?s, and preventive measures. These dangerous misunderstandings are weeded out and students get the straight facts. Sex education should be taught in schools where parents are assured that their kids are taught the accurate information that is so critical to life.
Sex education is needed in schools today more than ever. The major reason for this is that the typical family structure in the United States has worsened over the last century. As the family structure of the 21st century has changed, so has the way children are being raised. Society cannot count on all parents to instill morals into their children and teach them the facts of life or even the difference between right and wrong. Besides, even if parents were around more often, the chances of a child approaching their parents about the ?birds and the bees? is unlikely. All children need to have a place where the information is provided to them without them needing to ask, without the need to feel awkward, scared, or foolish.
By denying that teenagers are having sexual relations, you are denying a fact of life. In fact, by doing this, this makes the problem worse. Human nature shows us adolescents are attracted to things that they can?t have, or are not taught the consequences of their actions. We also as a society cannot say don?t touch, because that is the first thing that a rebellious teen will run to. We have to supplement the facts, with the consequences, and the morality of pre-marital sexual intercourse.
Teenage sexual activity has been rising steadily for more than two decades now. A recent survey shows the first drop since the nineteen seventies. According to the Washington Post, in 1990 girls that had engaged in sexual intercourse was at fifty five percent, until 1995 when it dropped to fifty percent. The percentage of boys also engaging in sexual intercourse was also five percent. Over the same period, the use of condoms has tripled since the 1970?s showing young adults are safer about sex.
Most people, including me, believe that knowledge alone is not enough to change behaviors. According to E. Ubell from Parade Magazine, programs that rely mainly on conveying information about sex or moral precepts-how the body’s sexual system functions, what teens should and shouldn’t do-have failed. However, programs that focuses on helping teenagers to change their behavior-using role-playing, games, and exercises that strengthen social skills-have shown signs of success.
One look at the numbers will tell you that we have to do something to protect the children of this country. The United States is behind in the development of healthy and stable children. Adolescents in the United States, Canada, England, France, Sweden, and the Netherlands tend to engage in sexual intercourse at the same age. (Avert/ DeCarlo) However, these other countries are different in the fact that they don?t have the problems that we do with teenage pregnancy and the disease epidemic that we have. In fact, the rates are about half of that of the United States pregnancy rate. Where do the differences derive you may ask? The chief distinction between the countries lies in their education system. Sex education in these other countries is based on the following components: a policy explicitly favoring sex education, openness about sex, consistent messages throughout society, and access to contraception. (Avert)
Avert discovered that the most effective sex education classes had the six following characteristics:
1.Narrow focus on reducing sexual risk-taking behaviors that may lead to HIV/STD infection or unintended pregnancy.
2.Social learning theories as a foundation for program development, focusing on recognizing social influences, changing individual values, changing group norms, and building social skills.
3.Experimental activities designed to personalize basic, accurate information about the risks of unprotected intercourse and methods of avoiding unprotected intercourse.
4.Activities that address social or media influences on sexual behaviors.
5.Reinforcing clear and appropriate values to strengthen individual values and group norms against unprotected sex.
6.Modeling and practice in communication, negotiation, and refusal skills.
Studies show that sex education is helping today?s teenager to become more responsible for their actions. Being na?ve, or closed-minded does not make a problem disappear. Schools are meant to educate our children in not just one, or some, but all topics. Sexually educating students is just as important, if not more than math or history, because sex education can mean the difference between life and death.
DeCarlo, Pamela. ?Does Sex Education Work?? Center for AIDS Prevention Studies 4 November 2000 http://www.avert.org/sexedu.htm
Richardson, Lynda ?To the Students Free Condoms Seem Sensible? AEGIS
4 November 2000 http://www.aegis.com/news/ads/1997/AD971924
Richardson, Lynda. ?Condoms in School Said Not to Affect Teen-Age Sex Rate.? New York Times (Online) 16 October 1997. 4 November 2000
Ubell, E. ?Sex-education programs that work-and some that don’t.?
Parade Magazine. February 12, 1995:18-20.
Vobejda, Barbara; Havemann, Judith. ?Teenagers Less Sexually Active in U.S.? Washington Post (Online) 2 May 1997. 4 November 2000
?Poll: Americans Favor Sex Education in Schools.? Yahoo News. Online.
America Online 4 November 2000
?Tracking the Hidden Epidemics: Trends in the STD Epidemics in the United States? Center for Disease Control and Prevention Online 4 November 2000 http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/STD%20Trends.pdf