Something most health classes leave out: Should safe sex be taught in high school health classes?

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Something most health classes leave out: Should safe sex be taught in high school health classes?

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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Photo courtesy of Google Images

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Sitting in a high school health class, one would expect to learn about human anatomy and ways to keep the body safe. One would expect education about taboo subjects like sex, something many kids cannot discuss with their parents, and would expect to get information about how to protect themselves and others. This kind of education would include how to obtain proper contraception and how to use it. Teaching students about condoms and birth control is a shameless way to keep students safe if and when they choose to have intercourse. This type of sex education is called “comprehensive”, meaning that the information given is complete and includes an open discussion about sex. The education taught in many schools around the nation is one that informs students of abstinence-only. Abstinence-only sex education is ignoring premarital intercourse and discourages teenagers from asking questions or getting help. This teaching method is combining church-and-state in federal rulings and is detrimental to a teenager’s health and lifestyle.

Abstinence-only-until-marriage has been a multi-billion dollar tax-funded education program created by the Reagan Administration in 1981 and modified under the Bush Administration.  According to www.siecus.org, Title V of the program gives $50 million in federal spending to states that accept the abstinence-only teaching program, under the Temporary Assistance of Needy Families Act of 1996. In addition, California was the only state that did not accept the federal funding due to Title V. This reform to the Social Security Act was created without public or legislative debate. Although the funding finally stopped in 2009, Congress still provides funds to conservative programs encouraging abstinence-only education such as the Medical Institute for Sexual Health. This goes directly against the separation of church and state.

Many people believe that abstinence-only education prevents harm, but the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies are up 60 percent in states that do not teach comprehensive sex education.

Title V states that the proper curriculum “teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems” and “teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the expected standard for all school-age children.”

New Mexico, the only state to have no sex education requirement in school, has the greatest teen pregnancy rates in all of the country. There are 19 million people who annually contract STDs in the U.S., and not informing youth about the benefits of condoms is extremely harmful to not only them but also their future partners. The people who are promoting abstinence are at the same time horrified at the rates of abortions, but they never stop to think that maybe the two are contributing to one another.

Expecting teenagers to refrain from sexual activity is ignorant and naïve. Teenagers, for the most part, do not think of consequences, and obtaining condoms is much easier than refraining from sexual activity altogether. Schools have a responsibility to teach students, not shame them or tell them how to conduct themselves. Shaming a person’s actions will not prevent him or her from doing said actions; it will only result in a lack of confidence. Advising students to choose abstinence is far different than teaching as fact that it is the only way to prevent pregnancies, STDs or abuse within relationships.

Developing healthy sexual relations and habits at a young age will continue into adulthood, and teaching about how to have healthy sexual encounters is important to the youth of today. To prevent further federal spending on a program that is clearly not working, Congressmen and women must first realize this is ineffective, discontinue unneeded spending and create a nation-wide program to educate the youth of this nation who are smart enough to make the right choices if the right choices are taught to them.

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