Leave it to the States: A Refutation

education-2

Just as some may argue that sexual education is decision made by parents, it can also be argued that it the curriculum should be decided on by each individual state, because if we’re being honest, America’s public school system is failing us. In 2010, a documentary titled Waiting for Superman showed viewers the shortcomings of public schooling in urban areas specifically. Desperate parents and educators are turning to public charter schools, which serve their children better than the public schools, where allegedly, their teachers don’t care. As our argument is for a comprehensive sexual education across the nation, we are arguing for a standardized education, one that is not left up to the states. (In this article, we will present arguments for standardized education as a general movement, but our applications and examples will focus on standard ized sex ed.)

In 2015, Jeb Bush argued in this Washington Post op-ed that state-decided education is better tailored to the needs of students. National education policy is so muddied up that the true purpose of education is being pushed to the side. Educating students, not payroll, tenure, should be the priority. Bruce Fuller’s book, Standardized Childhood: The Political and Cultural Struggle Over Early Education writes that the education reform movement is an orchestration of elitist society to “push a normative way of raising children.

While our public school system may be suffering, the answer is not to abandon it, and certainly not when it comes to a sexual education program. Sexual education is not a cultural preference, nor is it “normative.” Young people need to know about their bodies and their reproductive functions and processes. Bush argues that education today is not focused on students anymore. Sex ed is wholly about students. It is at least one thing students learn in grade school that has application outside of a classroom or job setting. Sex ed. is purely for the student’s benefit- it is not about “the future that liberals want.” It is not an erosion of culture. Safe sex education, knowledge about STDs and your natural bodily functions and processes are universal necessities. Regardless of what state, and even what country they live in, people are prone to the same dangers and misconceptions about sex and their bodies. Our push for standard comprehensive sex ed. is not pushing against cultural values either: sex ed is applicable to you whether you are unmarried or married, and whether you are straight or gay. All people deserve education, and sexual education is included in that.

STD-USA-Map
Check out this interactive map of STDs in the United States by city.

Knowing this, it seems clear that allowing states to be in charge of sexual education standards and curriculum is not to our benefit. However, if this is not convincing enough, look at this issue from a socioeconomic standpoint. Waiting for Superman explains that schools are funded by the taxes, and in urban lower income areas, schools are getting less and less. Without a national standard for sexual education, there is nothing to prevent a school from cutting it altogether and leaving students totally unaware of what is happening with their bodies. This not only affects the students, but their potential sexual partner(s) or children as well. In schools with abstinence only policies, rates of teen pregnancy are much higher. If we can agree that teenagers are not ready to be parents, then we can agree that they need a comprehensive sex ed which includes more than just the “facts.”

Finally, proponents of states education believe that when states and school districts have control, the needs and wants of parents and students can be better addressed in the curriculum. This sounds lovely if you are living in a medium to high income area where a lot of parents have had an education and understand the value of schooling. In lower income areas, parents may not even have the time to be involved in their child’s education. Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) are a luxury for people who have time. Other barriers that require consideration are language barriers and education levels.  State/district decided education is great for privileged people, but it is not great for everyone. College educated parents who speak English and have stable well paying jobs with predictable hours are better equipped to help schools develop a curriculum because they understand what is being considered. Parents who spend all their time working to support their families are counting on the schools to take care of education of education for them. Even college educated parents are expecting this- my parents expected that what I learned in school should be enough. Standardized sex ed. circumvents the differing home views on sexual education as well. Different cultural backgrounds can affect parents’ comfort level or choice to talk about sex with their kids. If there was no sexual education offered at school, my parents would have taught me themselves, or maybe they wouldn’t have. But because my school did offer it, we never needed to have “the talk” at home. If all schools implement the same sex ed. program, then regardless of parents’ position on it, and regardless of their involvement in the school process, students will leave schools with the necessary knowledge and tools.

State-decided education in the end, is a cop-out. If our national school system is suffering, the answer is not to pull kids out if it, but to improve it. In a society of so many disparities, education should be an equalizer, not a magnifier of disadvantage. Yet, state-decided education falls heavily in favor of more affluent states, and within them, more affluent districts. Standardized education touches on far more than just sexual education, but it’s the same as teaching kids how to read- they will all need it at some point in their lives. Superman isn’t coming; it’s up to us to save our own education system. So this is our demand of those in charge of education: give us a standardized sexual education program, or we will give you rising STD and teen pregnancy rates.

 

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