After I read “Why Sex Ed Isn’t Working” a few weeks ago, I thought it might be helpful to share my perspective as a public school graduate who experienced comprehensive sex education (as opposed to abstinence-only sex ed).
I’m in college now, but my high school health class promoted abstinence while also teaching us about available birth control methods, their relative effectiveness, and how to use them safely. We also learned about the biology and stages of pregnancy, different types of STDs, and relationship skills to help us discuss our beliefs about sex and our sexual histories with partners.
While it’s possible that somewhere, some teacher is throwing condoms to kids like candy, in my experience that was not the case. A teacher who “shows [teens] how to have sex and lots of it with just a condom” would be a blatantly irresponsible educator.
Everything in my class was presented from a strictly medical standpoint, anatomical diagrams and all—it all sounded about as exciting as assembling a model airplane. Students wanted to hear erotic details even less than the teachers wanted to talk about them—that is to say, we would have rather gouged out our ears with our number two pencils. Personally, everything “graphic” that I’ve been exposed to has come courtesy of the media.
The school brought in a professional abstinence advocate to speak with us. He was funny and approachable—a far cry from my preconceived notions about the type of person who’d make abstinence education a career. As a teen who’d already decided to save sex for marriage, I really appreciated his insights, which reaffirmed my decision and assured me that I was not alone. A second guest speaker was a single mom in her 20s who had given birth while attending our high school. She spoke frankly and honestly about her experiences, and her perspective was invaluable.
This might be surprising, but I also really appreciated learning about contraception. After all, unless they are opposed to all forms of birth control (which is a separate topic), even people who wait for marriage will need this information eventually. Having learned about this in school as opposed to secondhand from friends or online, I know that my information is correct. I feel confident that I will be able to make informed decisions when my future husband and I plan our family. I’m fortunate to have access to other sources of information through my parents and my doctor, but other students aren’t so lucky, and their school may be the best source they have.
I agree that a teenager with a box of condoms he has no idea how to use is a health risk. So, in my opinion, is a teenager who has compiled his own version of “sex education” from his friends because his teachers are legally compelled to teach nothing but abstinence.
I agree very much that today’s society is oversexed. Too many teens (and tragically, younger children) have begun to equate sex with maturity and adulthood. It is up to teachers and caring parents to show them what adulthood really means: making informed and empowered decisions for our hearts and bodies, regardless of the pressures of our friends, our partners, or the media. I believe that this is our best chance at reducing the rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.