Sex Education: What’s the Best Option?
There’s been a lot of talk lately about sex education in schools, more specifically, whether or not abstinence-only education is the way to go.
Abstinence-only sex education (the oxymoron of the decade) is basically the idea that if kids are taught to be responsible and to wait until they’re ready for sex, then they will make smarter decisions. Sometimes people view it as teaching kids to wait until they’re married to have sex, which can be true some of the time. But bottom line, it’s about teaching abstinence rather than providing options for safer sex.
A few years ago, a study was conducted that showed that abstinence-only sex education was relatively ineffective, and that students who had abstinence-only education had just as many sexual partners as those students who didn’t. This isn’t just one study, but three: the oft-cited Cochrane Collaboration; a study from 2007 by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.; and a very recent study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Three different studies that show that abstinence-only sex education is failing? Pull the plug, right?
Not so fast–a study that was just released showed that proper abstinence-only sex education can actually reduce the number of teens that are having sex at an earlier age. The study was conducted in urban schools with over 600 African-American students, and the results are pretty fascinating: fewer students having sex, with fewer sexual partners, and the kicker of it all is “[a]bstinence-only intervention did not affect condom use,” which means that those students who did engage in sex used protection.
What does this mean for abstinence-only sex education? It means that there is something rethinking that needs to be done. An editoral from yesterday’s New York Times shows that it is not because the program was abstinence-only, but rather how it was presented: under the Bush administration, this type of program would have had to emphasise that sex outside of marriage is wrong, and that waiting for marriage is the “expected norm,” whereas under the Obama administration, the emphasis is laid on maturity, and letting the kids know that if they are going to have sexual intercourse, they had better be thinking about every possible consequence, be using protection every time, and to be fully mature enough to handle any consequences.
While I’m not entirely keen on abstinence-only education, it is nice to see that the emphasis isn’t on the wrong thing. I still believe that education students on proper uses of birth control should be manditory, but if it is preceded by well-reasoned and scientific examples of why it is okay to wait, then by all means, teach it to the kids.
Sex is primarily about responsibility and maturity. If you aren’t responsible enough to engage in safer sex, then you are definitely not responsible enough to handle the consequences.