When examining the sex education curriculum of the United States and its various faults we should look to countries with leading comprehensive sex education programs and follow their lead.
As demonstrated by the case of a Texas high school where 15 percent of the student body contracted chlamydia, all while there was no policy on sexual education, it is clear that an openness in discussing sex and sex education is crucial for children and teens to fully understand sex and its consequence. A lack of comprehensive sex education can lead to an ignorant culture of sexual violence or latency when it comes to preventative measures that can/have become normalized in our culture. As far as education is concerned it is important to shine a global spotlight on sex education and consent advocacy. An example of implementing reactionary programming to combat cultural trends would be England’s attempt by the PSHE Association (Personal, Social, and Health Education Association) to implement educational programs to teach topics surrounding consent as a reaction to reports by the Office for National Statistics that stated that in 2014 there were over “7,000 sexual assaults against children aged 13 or younger, and more that 4,000 rapes of children under 16.” The result was an educational system to teach about the topic of sexual consent to children in schools as young as age 11. Programs such as this are critically important to communities and aiding children’s understanding of not only sex and inappropriate behavior but also in providing education on personal boundaries, which is something that we should try to replicate in the United States.
European countries, in general, have most of the world’s lowest teen birth rates with countries such as Germany, Italy, and Switzerland having less than 4 teen births per 1,000 people. This commonly low teen birth rate among European countries can be linked to a more common practice of progressive sex education. This further proves that American’s need to steer away from misguiding teens on the subjective dangers and moral implications of sex but focus rather on the positive and factual topics surrounding sex as to better inform their youth. This current fear mongering approach is far less effective as can be exemplified by the US having one of the highest teen birth rates of developed nations at around 30 teen births per 1,000.
As the call for comprehensive sexual education grows louder, the push-back against it only intensifies. Claims that comprehensive sex ed encourage and trivialize sex are rampant, with many arguing that informing students about birth control options, abortions, and sexual health provides students with a means of engaging in premarital sex. However, there is absolutely no evidence to support that teens who are taught comprehensive sex ed are more likely to engage in premarital sex.
This knowledge does not stop opponents from claiming comprehensive sex ed is fundamentally flawed. Lori Cole, executive director of the Eagle Forum, a conservative lobby group, argues that comprehensive sex ed sends mixed signals to students by giving kids more information about risky behaviors rather than simply teaching them to avoid those behaviors. She argues that teaching students about contraception yet advising them to wait to have sex gives students conflicting messages about when to have sex. The fact of the matter though, is that teens are already having premarital sex, whether they are being taught comprehensive sex ed or not. In fact, Mississippi, which predominantly teaches students that abstinence is the only responsible choice, has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country. We need to stop fooling ourselves with this idea that all young people are saintly virgins and start actually preparing them for the awkward, yet important, realities of sex. Teaching teens about contraceptives is not going to motivate them to have sex, because clearly they are already self-motivated enough; comprehensive sexual education simply gives them the tools they need to be safe.
Contrary to the beliefs of its opponents, comprehensive sex ed does not entail handing out condoms and saying “have fun kids.” It still promotes abstinence as the most effective way of preventing STIs and unwanted pregnancies. In fact, comprehensive sex ed is shown to reduce the frequency of sex by almost 30%. Furthermore, when people fight against comprehensive sex ed, they aren’t just fighting against contraception knowledge, they are also fighting against knowledge of healthy relationships, the avoidance of unwanted sexual advancements, and medically accurate information.
So, no, Lori, comprehensive sex ed does not send mixed signals or promote premarital sex, it just acknowledges the fact that teens are going to have sex so they might as well be prepared.