By Jada Haynes
Most parents want what’s best for their children. Parents strive to provide for all their kids’ needs – sometimes their wants – and guide them to safety when danger is imminent.
Why is comprehensive sex education any different?
What’s comprehensive sex ed?
By definition, it’s a series of programs and discussions focusing on “age-appropriate, medically accurate information on a broad set of topics related to sexuality including human development, relationships, decision-making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention.” Throughout the program, students will have chances to both learn and develop truly valuable life skills.
It’s important to note that comprehensive sex ed programs don’t throw abstinence out the window. In fact, they stress its importance for preventing exposure to sexually transmitted diseases.
Well, what’s wrong with the current sex ed system?
It’s riddled with problems.
As of March 1, 2016, there are only 20 states that require sex ed to be “medically, factually or technically accurate.” As it stands now, sexually active teens in the remaining 30 states are put at higher risk for STDs and unwanted pregnancies.
Thus, the United States has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the developed world.
All of this is helped along by the fact that some kids may never attend a sex ed class. “Four states require parental consent before a child can receive instruction. 35 states and the District of Columbia allow parents to opt-out on behalf of their children.”
But won’t teaching teens how to use contraceptives/birth control make them have more sex?
Not necessarily. Essentially, telling teens not to have sex, full stop, is comparable to telling a vase not to shatter when dropped. Equipping those teens with proper knowledge of contraceptives and birth control is akin to taking out a warranty on that vase and getting the inside reinforced.
According to a 2007 study, programs that taught both abstinence and how to use contraceptives were very effective. “[O]ver 40 percent of the [successful] programs delayed the initiation of sex, reduced the number of sexual partners, and increased condom or contraceptive use.”
A study for the Journal of Adolescent Health supports this. Not only has the amount of sexual activity among teens between 2007 and 2012 been steady, but the sharp decline in teen pregnancy during that time “can be attributed to increases in contraceptive use.”
But kids don’t need to know about sex.
This is a good time to stress the “age-appropriate” section of the comprehensive sex ed definition.
These programs are useful in various other areas of life. They teach the importance of consent, healthy relationships, how different drugs impair decisions, etc. It could even stand to be more inclusive of gender and sexual minorities.
Okay, but will teaching kids about queer identities make them gay?
Not at all. In the cases of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth, they tend to be left out of educational discussions about safer sex. Fully including them would give them the vocabulary to understand and communicate their identities. For the other students, these discussions will give them a broader perspective on the people they share this world with. The purpose is to educate, not convert.
To help ease parents’ minds, it’s fortunate the benefits of comprehensive sex ed are vast and tangible. The lessons will help students strengthen interpersonal relationships, make informed decisions about sex and teach them the best ways to prevent STDs and pregnancy. With all the ways parents care for and prepare their children for the real world, shouldn’t comprehensive sex education be on the list, too?