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Sexual Education in Schools

Generations before us have grown up without any form of sexual education. The only way they could get this information is from their parents or friends. As a result, people were not only unaware of their sexuality, but were also ignorant to their health. Imagine how horrifying it would be to be a fourteen-year-old girl with her first period, and no knowledge of what it was. School systems soon started to educate students on sexuality and health in the mid-sixties. In 1996 a new form of sexual education was created. This was called “abstinence only” education. Is it true that teaching contraception encourages sexual behavior? Where the line should be crossed when teaching young adults about safe sex rather than no sex?

According to Roxanne Thomas in her essay “Importance of abstinence in public schools stressed by counselors,” the abstinence-only program teaches teens the only way to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs is by abstaining from sex. The program also teaches teens how to stay in control and make “the right” decisions when the pressure is on. She states that “about one million teens will get pregnant this year along with two to four million that will contract an STD.” High schools around the U.S. are catching onto this idea, 34% of them teach the abstinence-only curriculum. Thomas failed to mention any difference in statistics the installment of the program has made. In a perfect world, the teaching of teens to abstain from sex would eliminate the problem of unwanted pregnancy’s and STDs. The UCSF claim that the message of “just say no” is very important for young people to learn. A 1995 survey showed that 16% of girls who reported having intercourse before the age of 16 did not do so voluntarily. Abstinence only can teach teens to respect themselves, and to make sure the people around them respect the decisions they make.

When talking about this method of teaching the program S.T.A.R.S. comes to mind. S.T.A.R.S. is a program in this community that has teen leaders teach middle school students the importance of abstinence. The program has a very successful way of teaching because it lets the children know that not everyone has sex. In a way it sends a message that the cooler older kids know that abstinence is the only way to be safe. The leaders will teach the kids how to say no through role-plays, and show videos about people that have made the decision to have sex. Nothing about contraceptives in mentioned in any of the lessons. The only thing said about safety is “abstinence is the only %110 sure way to prevent pregnancy and STDs.”

But The UCDF claims that this kind of teaching will only draw teens to the rebellious act of sexual activity. Their statistic states that 93% of American men and 80% of American women ages 18 to 59 were not virgins on their wedding day. It is difficult to separate morals and information with sexual education, but drawing that line is necessary for effective teaching. When someone is told not to do something, his or her curiosity will grow. If everything is taught to a student about sex, they will have a better idea of how to make a good decision. Robert L. Johnson states in his essay “What can Schools do to Improve Sexual Education?” that when sexuality is taught from a biological standpoint, the kids can use the facts and information to make they’re own decisions. If it is done in a negative manner, the children will only try to find out more in ways that may not be safe.

Another way of teaching this lesson is called “comprehensive sexuality education.” This method begins with abstinence but also acknowledges that some teens will have sex, and the importance of being safe. This criterion will cover condom use, birth control, and other ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies or STDs. Dr. Johnson states that his is the best way to get the message about sex across. Yet he also emphasizes that the parents should not leave this sort of education up to the schools. The best place to learn things like sexuality is at the home.

The only thing I remember about taking health in elementary school is how funny it was to hear my teacher say vagina. Though the teaching has little effect on small children, it is best to make it familiar to them at an early age. Sexual activity is becoming more and more common among young teens. One may think that this behavior is due to the education of sex at an early age. But it can also be argued that these children’s bodies and minds are developing faster than any proceeding generation. It is obvious that these lessons need to be taught at an age acceptable for their growth, but what to teach is still an issue the entire country is dealing with.


Kaiser Family Foundation. The Kaiser Survey on Americas and AIDS/HIV. Menlo, CA:1998

Robert L. Johnson. Best Doctors. What can be Done to Improve Sexual Education. July, 2000.

Roxanne Thomas. Importance of Abstinence in Public Schools Stressed by Counselors.

UCSF. Should We Teach Only Abstinence in Sexual Education?. September, 1997.