Sex Education in Schools

Khyana: There are two main purposes of sex education: preventing sexual transmitted diseases and preventing pregnancies. Today there is so much talk about abstinence that the topic of safe sex has diminished. Abstinence is a valid solution to the purpose of sex education, but sexual activity is envitable; therefore, there is need for safe sex being taught in sex education and the purpose could very well still be met without abstinence.

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Regan: Abstinence only programs should not be taught at schools. Abstinence is a religious view point, and public schools should not be teaching that if we are separating church and state, but the government only funds abstinent only programs. The fact is that sex is a normal part of life. They way abstinence only programs teach sex education makes sex seem like a scary and/or sacred thing, when really sex is a necessary need of all human beings. So why do they teach it the way the do?

Lauren: Although abstinence can be traced back to reveal religious roots, its connotative meaning has been altered over time. Teens are becoming eager to grow older and become more mature which sometimes leads to bad life choices. It is agreed that sex education should have more detail and should give students a better understanding of sex and what the consequences are of being sexually involved. However, teens are hard to get through to and like to make their own life decisions, and that is where abstinence comes into play. Many would agree that abstinence is taught in a “sex is no good” type of manner in schools, but with regulations in the school system, teaching both abstinence and preventative measures gives the students options and details on what can result from having sex or choosing to wait until after marriage.

Khyana: Why do they teach it the way they do is clear; even though abstinence could be considered to be a religious viewpoint, it is also clear that abstinence is the most effective method for preventing pregnancy and STDs. Although sex is indeed a normal part of life; I understand why there are some worries that the increase in abstinence-only instruction will leave many teenagers who are already sexually active before its time for them to really understand abstinence will than be stuck in the dark about how to protect them. So we don’t need to leave out education about safe sex because that is an alternative way to prevent these pregnancies and STDs for those who are too late to abstain from sex.

Regan: The vast majority of Americans support abstinence from sexual activity for school-age children, especially younger adolescents. Yet, abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, currently being taught in many schools, are at odds with what most Americans want schools to teach. The public supports a broad sex education curriculum that stresses abstinence as the best way to avoid unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) but that also conveys complete and medically accurate information about contraception and condoms. Abstinence should not however be taught. It should be up to the parents to decide if their kids need to follow that. Students need to be taught about safe sex, what sex is, and the different things that can come from having sex. Most abstinence-only programs only teach that sex is bad. Plus only half the information is true and it does more scaring than teaching. A study done by the minority staff of the House Government Reform Committee on 13 commonly used abstinence only programs showed that out of those 13 only 2 were correct. The other 12 programs blended science and religion to provide false or religion based opinions onto the children. Because abstinence is a religious ideal, it is hard not to blend the science and religion, so it should just not be taught at all in schools; only facts should be.

Lauren: As stated earlier, teens need choices. They are at a very vulnerable age and are surrounded by sexual imagery from a very young age. All these images and messages being shown to them at such a young age can be difficult for them to comprehend. Then to make it even more confusing, they are in a sex education class that doesn’t clear anything up. What is right and what is wrong? How do I know if I have an STD? Will I be made fun of if I choose to abstain from sex until marriage? In order to clear up all their confusion, they need a well rounded sex education course that includes the teachings of abstinence and contraception. Without teaching both sides of the debate, children are left confused and often participate in sexual activities without proper knowledge of the consequences and/or options. It has been said that around 65 percent of all Americans who contract an STI this year will be under the age of 24 and one in four of new HIV cases this year will be contracted by those younger than 22 years of age. This clearly opens the eyes of many to the fact that the sex education programs are not getting across to the students. By teaching abstinence, you give the children the ability to be 100% sure they will not get pregnant and will not contract an STD. But on the other hand, contraception and preventative measures should be taught to give them more detailed information about the consequences and other factors they should be conscious of if they so choose to partake in sexual activities. And wouldn’t it be better for the children to learn about sex from an educated adult rather than have them look up false information on the internet or learn it from their misinformed friends?

Khyana: Eliminating abstinence only will then open the door for the teenagers who aren’t sexually active to become active since they learn that they could be safe while doing it. Leading me to believe that abstinence should continue to be taught but making room for lessons about safe sex would give them the option to remain abstinent and wait until marriage to become intimate and eliminating chances of STDs and pregnancies or to be active and know that they will also have a way to be safe from STDs as well.

Regan: I understand where both of you are coming from, but the government is currently funding only abstinence-only programs. The constitution clearly states we need to separate church and state. Them funding only abstinence-only programs does not separate church and state at all. Public schools just need the basic facts and statistics about sex, not some person’s view on why you should wait until marriage.

Lauren: You are correct in saying that church and state need to be separated. But these days abstinence doesn’t have to be viewed as religious. Many choose to stay abstinent for a number of reasons other than religious reasons such as moral, legal, or health related reasons. If taught in schools, along with safe sex and contraceptives and NOT just the basic facts and statistics about sex, abstinence can be a valuable lesson. It will give students another option if they feel they are not mentally or emotionally ready to be sexually involved. It is said that in the United States around one million teens become pregnant each year and about 80 percent of those pregnancies are unplanned and almost 50 percent end in abortion. Abortion should not have to be the answer for teens who aren’t mentally or emotionally prepared to bear a child. If teens receive the proper education and understand their options when confronted with a pressure filled situation, they will be  better prepared to make what they believe to be the right decision, whether it be to remain abstinent or to use protection and face the effects of their actions.

Khyana: Eliminating abstinence only would separate church and state but you could also separate church and state by making safe sex more important than or just as important as abstinence or even just by showing that abstinence is another option but it isn’t the only choice. Lauren brought up the point about abortions; and I agree that it shouldn’t be the answer to teens that have come upon that situation. Teenagers often feel pressure to make friends and fit in with their peers; which led to them being pressured to make decisions about having sex and they do not have a full understanding about the consequences that are associated. I agree with you Regan students need to know the basic facts and statistics about having sex just so that they are aware of what may come even if they are strong enough to stray away from the pressure. The Kaiser Family Foundation states that more than 29 percent of pregnant teens reported that they felt pressures to have sex and 33 percent of pregnant teens stated that they felt that they were not ready for a sexual relationship, but proceeded anyway because they feared ridicule or rejection. I also agree with Lauren that there needs to be education on how to use protection the correct way and be able to handle their actions; that way everyone will be protected in someway and wont feel the need to have to choose on or another.

Regan: Also studies have shown that students who received abstinence only programs, had not difference in sexual behavior from those students who received basic “sex class.” They also had the same infection rate of STIs according to sociologist Hannah Bruckner and Peter Bearman. So, why teach abstinence at all if it isn’t helping the students? If anything, abstinence-only programs make students (girls especially) feel worthless whom have already had sex, because they perch about staying pure. It makes the students feel that if they have had sex willingly or unwilling they are not wanted by their families, friends, and/or future spouses.

Lauren: It is understandable that abstinence only should not be the only idea taught in sex education classes. But with the addition of abstinence teachings to the lesson would greatly improve the course. Abstinence has many great benefits, and if taught correctly, those girls and even boys feeling worthless will see there is nothing to be ashamed of. Even if they have had sex they can be abstinent. Being abstinent means not having intercourse or being sexually involved, so even if they have had sex, abstinence is still an option for anyone for any reason. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation explains that there are different ways to define being abstinent, and that being abstinent is the only way to prevent diseases. And being embarrassed about having sex is better than having to explain to your future partners that you contracted a sexually transmitted disease or you have a child and you are still a teenager because you weren’t aware of the effects of becoming involved in sexual activities. Most teens and even adults would prefer to avoid having to explain this to future partners and it all stems from proper sex education, including abstinence lessons and safe sex and contraceptives.

Khyana: Just talking about abstinence may not have helped them and they have had the same infections maybe it the way that it is being taught that affects the students. There is research that suggests that pledging abstinence helps some adolescents to delay sexual intercourse. With the account of peer pressure and just wanting to fit in teens are somewhat forced to become active. In this specific study some pledgers delayed sexual activity up to 18 months; and they also found that those who did pledge were one-third less likely than the non-pledgers to use contraception when they did become sexually active. So if they do become infected you have to just think about the age that it happened. I’m not saying there is a good age to have a STI, but there is a benefit to having abstinence being taught even if they don’t go through with it completely. Yes, those boys and girls will see there is nothing to be ashamed of because they waited longer than the rest and they had the will power to do so.  There should also be an option whether to be abstinent or to be active, people have different opinions and different ways that they want to live and should be given education of both ways. Here are some statistics for you guys to think about: About 3% of Americans successfully wait until marriage to have sex, in highly religious groups up to 20% wait until marriage successfully, and 60% of women wait but there are 40% of men wait so there isn’t a just women out there waiting until marriage. So even though the percentages aren’t high they had the option, so I believe everyone should have the option to learn each way to be safe when it comes to sex.

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