One of great issues of debate for parents once they are passed the breast or bottle, cloth or disposable diaper phase of life is whether sex education should be taught in school. And of course, this debate amongst parents is often one that is fought on in the political arena. Recent statistics of teenage pregnancy and the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among teenagers only seem to heighten the debate on both sides. Conservatives normally believe that abstinence should be the ONLY policy taught in schools, while liberals feel that statistics showing increasingly risky behaviour amongst teens indicates a need for sex education in the school system.
While parents and school systems debate about the right way to handle and deliver information about sex to their children, around 68% of high schoolers are engaging in sexual experiences according to a recent survey. Every year, the average age of first intercourse becomes younger and younger according to report released by MSNBC. And no one can deny that kids today, from a very young age are bombarded with racy sexual imagery and innuendoes from nearly every facet and angle of life.
The question is, should sex education be taught in schools?
One of the reasons that parents and school systems sit at odds over the debate is because many parents don’t feel that comprehensive sex education courses at school will teach the individual beliefs of each and every set of parents. Often, adults mixed up in the debate worry that teaching sex education is like giving kids a green light to engage in sexual experiences. Educators believe that educating about sex, from the basics of the birds and the bees to how to engage in safe sex, is an essential life skill, and that this education is not about the debating belief systems of individual parents. And in nearly every single United States approved sexual education course – the theme of abstinence is presented clearly to kids.
In the United States, there are only 20 individual states that require schools to provide a sexual education / health class for students. The curriculum is based on one that is approved by the United States Board of Education, and preaches abstinence. The course also teaches kids how to take care of their private life, what to expect during puberty and beyond, gives young kids basic tips and information about remaining healthy as well as dives into the ABC’s of intercourse and sexuality. And while many parents are up in arms over the fact that their children are learning about sex in school – the truth is that the classes are not pornographic or sexually charged at all. They are informational and resemble more of an anatomy lesson than a sexual education class. And, parents are required to sign a form that permits their child to take the class.
For many parents signing a form, and knowing that their child is going to learn the basics of sexual education without mom and dad having to cross that bridge on their own is a godsend.
The bottom line is this. Parents and educators can debate the issue of teaching sexual education as long as they want to. Meanwhile, there are many kids who are not getting the right information about sex. There are millions of kids in this world who are relying on Facebook, or internet information to teach them what they feel they need to know about sex. And while certainly, there are plenty of parents who keep an open door policy when it comes to communication with their children– even with touchy subjects such as sex – the vast majority do not. This equates to many kids not having the correct information that they need to make educated decisions about sex. And even those that have been taught abstinence from a young age – are going to at some point be naturally curious.
The thing about sex is that it is part of who we are as a human being. Our sexual self is not one that can be denied. Teenagers are experiencing a lot of feelings and emotions as well as hormonal surges that they quite frankly, do not understand. By teaching children to embrace the sexual side of a human being – and providing them with pertinent information that takes their wellness into consideration first and foremost, kids will be more prone to make better decisions and not feel ashamed about sexuality. At some point, sex is going to happen. While ALL parents, regardless of where they sit on the sex education in school debate, would rather see their child involved in sex later rather than sooner – the truth is at some point a teenager is going to have questions.
As the world around our children becomes more sexually charged and explicit, it is the parental responsibility to see that a child becomes educated about sex one way or another. By providing the education in school systems, more kids are sure to benefit, many of whom would never have received the information at home. Parents should handle sex education in the method that feels most comfortable for them. That being said it is not fair for this debate to become inundated with ‘my way or the highway,’ type of thinking patterns. Do what is right for your family, and allow other families to do what is right for them.