Sex Education in High School
My paper examines the issues relating to sex education programs in high school which has been a controversial subject since its inception - Sex Education in High School introduction. It evaluates how the recent increase in sexual activity among teenagers indicates that the subject should be revisited for further inspection and scrutiny. It shows how opponents of sexual education in schools argue that the subject promotes promiscuity and liberal sexual attitudes in teenage students whereas supporters of sexual education programs believe that they often reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies.
It also looks at how these courses often usurp the role of parents in the education of their teenage sons and daughters as well as alternative programs such as abstinence programs which typically promote sex after marriage. Herlinda Garcia English 101 Professor F. Case May 5, 2010 Sex Education in High School Sexual education in high school has been a controversial subject since its inception. The recent increase in sexual activity amongst teenagers indicates that the subject should be revisited for further inspection and scrutiny.
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Opponents of sexual education in schools argue that the subject promotes promiscuity and liberal sexual attitudes in teenage students. On the other hand, supporters of sexual education programs believe that they often reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases as well as unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, these courses often take the place of parents who are reluctant to discuss sexual issues with their teenage sons and daughters. Both sides of the argument possess significant claims that support their arguments.
However, much evidence appears to support the view that sexual education does not increase sexual promiscuity as opponents of the program argue. As a result, it is important to note that high school students will benefit from the views of both sides if educators are able to find a way to marry modern sexual education in schools with a traditional abstinence-based message that respects the beliefs of many parents. In Risky Business, Anna Mulrine argues that children are engaging in an expansion of precarious sexual behaviors that have dramatically changed in scope over the past few decades.
In fact, the number of high school students who reported having sexual intercourse dropped from fifty-four percent in 1991 to a current figure of fifty percent. However, while young people are engaging in sexual activities at lower rates than in the past, they are engaging in a much wider assortment of sexual behaviors. Furthermore, they do not view many of these behaviors as true sexual activity, since they do not involve actual intercourse. For example, recent surveys indicate that as many as fifty percent of all teenagers engage in oral sex at one time or another.
Mulrine notes that in the Health Interested Teens Own Program on Sexuality at Princeton University, many teenagers are obtaining a diagnosis of gonorrhea of the throat as a direct result of oral sex. This shift is in response to the tendency of teenagers to turn to alternative sexual behaviors such as oral or anal sex in order to theoretically maintain virginity. Opponents of sexual education in schools raise several important and interesting considerations regarding sexual education in the classroom.
These groups argue that addressing sexuality in a comprehensive manner in public schools, including a discussion of contraceptives and graphic information regarding sexual practices, may result in an increase of liberal attitudes among teenagers. Ultimately, these liberal attitudes may result in increased promiscuity and the spread of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) (Fleming). Furthermore, opponents of sexual education in schools argue that it usurps the role of parents in the education of their children.
They also believe that sexual education in schools separates sexuality from issues of morality. For many parents, there is a disturbing difference between the ideas that they desire to teach their children regarding morality and sexuality and the education that is received in American schools. Opponents argue that issues surrounding sexuality are often closely linked to the values and morals that parents desire to pass onto their children. As such, hey contend that the current issues discussed in sexual education courses often violate parental values and infringe on their rights to raise their children (Fleming). Adversaries of sexual education also argue that the only sexual message that should be conveyed in school is abstinence for all teenagers. They argue that abstinence education in public schools will assist in discouraging sexual activity, thus decreasing the numbers of teenage pregnancies and the diagnosis of Sexually Transmitted Diseases among teenagers (Fleming).
Rob stein argues that abstinence only programs do work he also believes that sexual education classes promote sexual behavior amongst teens. He said only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active (Stein). Supporters of sexual education in schools also possess intelligent and compelling arguments that defend their beliefs.
Primarily, they note that sexual education plays an important role among teenagers who are already sexually active. It is evident that many teenagers are currently engaging in sexual activity. As a result, almost one in four teenagers will contract a Sexually Transmitted Disease by the age of twenty-one (SexAboutT. net). Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that adolescents are at higher risk of attracting a sexually transmitted disease because they are more likely to engage in sexual activity with multiple partners or high-risk partners in addition to unprotected sex (Panchaud).
Finally, adolescent females may be at higher risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease because they often engage in relationships with older, more experienced partners (Panchaud). Advocates of sexual education note that students will likely remain sexually active, and that sexual education in schools provides them with the information necessary to make responsible choices in their sexual lives. Those in favor of sexual education in schools argue that such education romotes sexually responsible actions, therefore reducing the incidence of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers. More importantly, sexual education may provide protection against unplanned pregnancies and STDs, according to The Sexuality Information and Educational Council of the United States (SIECUS). Furthermore, proponents of sexual education in schools often argue that parents fail to educate their children regarding sexual issues at home.
When the subject is discussed, the information that parents provide may be outdated at best and inaccurate at worst. As such, they contend that sexual education in schools fills a void for a large number of students who would otherwise obtain suspicious and erroneous information from peers or parents, thus potentially increasing the numbers of teenage pregnancies and STDs (Masland). The previous discussion demonstrates that both supporters and detractors of sexual education in schools possess compelling arguments in support of their respective sides.
However, the current status of sexual education in schools favors those who support the action and its potential effects on the teenage population. Sexual education is a standard part of the curriculum in most American schools. Over ninety-three percent of all public high schools have courses related to sexuality and HIV in their curriculums (SetAboutT. net). Furthermore, the Sexuality Information and Educational Council of the United States (SIECUS) reveals that fifty-four percent of adults believe that teenage pregnancies would increase if sexual education was removed from American schools.
Nonetheless, the recent increase in risky sexual behaviors (including oral and anal sex) amongst teenagers supports the view that the general public as well as educators should reconsider the role of sexual education in American schools. Adversaries of sexual education in schools may attempt to demonstrate that sexually risky behaviors are increasing despite the existence of sexual education programs in most schools. Furthermore, the United States currently possesses the highest rate of teenage pregnancy of any Industrialized Western nation, and more than one million teenagers become pregnant each calendar year (SexAboutT. et). These facts reveal that the current state of sexual education in American schools is failing to adequately protect teenagers. As a result of the increase in sexually precarious behaviors and the continuously high rate of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, the argument for abstinence education by opponents of sexual education deserves serious attention. If abstinence increased amongst the teenage population, it would be logical that teenage pregnancy rates and sexually transmitted disease rates would decline. However, there are serious problems with this assertion.
Primarily, many sexual education programs in schools already support abstinence, and teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted rates continue to increase. Furthermore, critics of traditional abstinence-related programs note that they often refuse to convey information regarding condoms and other forms of contraception that may reduce pregnancy rates as well as STDs because if this information is readily available for teenagers, they are likely to be under the impression that people support their actions and that sex is an acceptable practice for unmarried persons.
Sex education is often considered a taboo subject in American culture because although sex is advertised and depicted all over the media in a variety of forms, it is still very difficult for parents to discuss this topic with their children as they are often very protective and do not wish any potential harm on their children. However, despite objections from parents and educators, it is difficult to ignore the fact that teenagers are especially curious about sex.
Since sexuality is displayed and glamorized all over the place, it is incredibly intriguing to many young people and as a result, teenagers often engage in sexual intercourse before they are mature enough to handle any of the potential consequences that may arise. Parents should be careful not to prohibit their sons or daughters from certain behaviors because rebellion is likely to ensue. The collaboration of schools and parents to develop a mutually beneficial sexual education program is the key to achieving success with the teenage population.
Since the 1960s, it is clearly evident that the United States has accepted and often embraced new attitudes towards sex that have resulted in increased sexual freedom throughout the general public as well as in the media. In today’s society, sexual topics are discussed in regular conversation, and media events that contain sexual material inundate the airwaves and television sets of America. Americans are willing to accept a greater openness towards sexual behaviors in the media, but when it directly affects their own children, their opinions differ dramatically.
Many possess conservative attitudes in which such honesty in the classroom is unnecessary and dangerous, and that any discussion of sex should wait until marriage (Irvine). Furthermore, opponents of comprehensive sexual education have been successful in their cause through the elimination of debates concerning comprehensive sexual education as well as other activities, and they have paralyzed much outspoken public opinion regarding comprehensive sexual education in the classroom through extensive outcry and public ridicule (Irvine).
On the other hand, many advocates of sexual education argue that too much is not enough, and many liberated citizens support the free discussion of sexual practices and easy access to contraception in schools, including condoms, either distributed freely by educators, or readily available in restrooms. However, most Americans are likely to fall in the middle on this issue, and it is clearly obvious that educators cannot please everybody since all persons possess different agendas.
According to recent studies, nine out of ten secondary school students will take a course in sexual education at some point between the seventh and twelfth grades (Kaiser). In many states, sexual education courses are mandatory, and the demographics will dictate the specific subject matter of those curriculums. The following are four different approaches to sexual education that are defined by the Kaiser Family Foundation (Kaiser): Comprehensive or “Abstinence Plus”: This curriculum is responsible for teaching both contraception and abstinence, but the strongest emphasis is placed upon abstinence.
This design teaches that young people should be taught how to make responsible choices that will permit them to wait until they are emotionally ready for sex, including abstinence. In addition, the design promotes birth control and contraception for those who have already engaged in sexual intercourse. Abstinence-Only: This model emphasizes that abstinence until marriage is the only model that should be practiced by teenagers. In addition, no discussion of contraception should be addressed because it will send mixed messages to teenagers and may encourage them to engage in sexual intercourse before they are married.
The majority of the general public believes that a combination of education regarding abstinence as well as contraception will provide maximum benefits for teenagers seeking such guidance and support regarding their sexual decisions. Educators in most schools teach the comprehensive method to their students as a means of covering all areas and providing the most updated information available. In addition to providing information regarding sexual practices, sexual education courses may provide teenagers with a means to develop core skills, including the following (Kaiser): Practical Skills: Utilized in everyday life
Communication Skills: Giving and receiving feedback and listening to others’ in a constructive fashion Decision-Making Skills: Making practical choices based upon factual information, and acting responsibly when making individual and group decisions Inter-Personal Skills: Managing relationships effectively with confidence Problem-Solving Skills: Developing independence in thought and action Leadership Skills: Taking initiative and managing others
By establishing such curriculums in American classrooms, students will not only gain valuable information regarding sexual activity, but they will also be able to cultivate decision-making skills critical to life success. State mandates for sexual education courses vary widely. Some states suggest models for curriculum-based instruction for students, while others maintain a hands-off approach and strongly encourage educators to implement such programs in the schools (Kaiser). In addition, these policies may even vary across different grade levels.
Even further latitude is granted to administrators of local school districts. A 1998 survey indicated that sixty-nine percent of all school districts possess some form of sexual education coursework in their classrooms, demonstrating that a strong need exists and is recognized by school districts across the United States who hope to make a difference in their student’s lives. In addition to the input provided by parents and educators regarding sexual education curriculums, other groups possess a strong interest in this issue.
Members of Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs) and school boards provide their input regarding the topic, but more often than not, their contributions leave the curriculums unchanged (Kaiser). The federal government also possesses a strong interest in the issue, and in recent years, funding has been granted for the development of an evaluation of continuing efforts regarding abstinence (Kaiser). Other research efforts are also underway to establish that no clear connection exists between offering contraceptive information to teens and a resulting increase of sexual activity (Kaiser).
A recent study determined that the following factors are common and critical to effective sexual education programs (cpas. ucsf. edu): A concentration on reducing risky sexual behaviors that result in unwanted pregnancy or STDs Social learning theories that focus on the social aspects of sexual activity Experimental activities that permit the student to engage in a personal assessment of sexual interests and activities The effects of social and media influences on sexual behaviors The reinforcement of values that reduce the occurrence of unprotected sex Practice in communication, negotiation, and refusal skills
In order to establish a uniform rate of success in sexual education programs across the United States, each program must be individually evaluated and modified if necessary in order to increase awareness amongst teenagers of the risks of their sexual behaviors. A discussion of abstinence-based sexual education programs is often met with unexpected challenges. For teenagers who have experienced some form of sexual abuse in their lives, their perceptions of sex are often distorted due to their traumatic experiences.
As a result, abstinence education without contraceptive education may be potentially disturbing to an abuse victim since they may have unvoluntarily given up their virginity in the past. Furthermore, for teenagers who are confused regarding their sexual orientation, such discussion may be troubling because these persons are highly unlikely to ever get married. Educators may never know that these situations exist because their students may be ashamed and have not told the truth.
Therefore, if educators insist on providing teenagers with an abstinence-only program, they must exhibit sensitivity to students who may not fit the mold described in the literature. The ongoing debate regarding sexual education in schools is a complex issue to comprehend. Since so many viewpoints exist and the rules are not uniform across the United States, the decisions must be made by a number of bodies, including educators, parents, and the government. The major problem with all sexual education arguments is that they do not consider circumstances other than the expected norm.
Many Americans tend to forget that other populations exist that may not follow the typical formula of marriage and children. Therefore, they do not take into account any other possible situations, including gay and bisexual men and women. In particular, abstinence programs typically promote sex after marriage and consequently discriminate against those in this world who will never get married because of their sexual orientation or for their lack of interest in marriage.
Opponents and supporters clearly possess valid arguments that are under intense scrutiny by educators, parents, and even government officials. However, the final decision regarding sexual activity rests with the student, and only the most effective programs will result in responsible behaviors regarding sexual activity. Therefore, teenagers are faced with many difficult challenges during these years, and the influence of sexual education programs may act as a step in the right direction towards life success.