Pros and Cons of Sex Education – Is Prevention of Teen Pregnancy Possible?

The U.S. Educational system suffered in the last U.S. administration, especially in regards to the pros cons of sex education. When then president George Bush was still campaigning for more funding for abstinence-only education programs in November 2007, it was immediately following a national study found that sex education programs – which included contraception information as an integral feature – were most effective at preventing teen pregnancies. This focus on abstinence-only sex education flew in the face of the findings by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Today, we are hoping to see a positive increase in the awareness and habits of young people regarding abstinence and safe responsible sex. Unfortunately it remains the poor who lack the opportunity to get the help they need or have a voice as to what their opinions are on these issues that impact their communities. Polls show that most teen pregnancies continue to be amongst blacks and hispanics living in lower income regions of the U.S. The sex education curriculum must consider these findings in better reaching its audience.

Cons – Without Sex Education many young people will be left to the media and hear say to find answers to important questions. Questions – if left unanswered – can lead to unplanned pregnancy and the repetition of a continuing cycle of ignorance. It seems impossible to get an exact match on every parents core values when it comes to sex education, and so it is an ongoing debate more than a con or conflict.

Pros – With Sex Education, young people have the opportunity to learn a basic understanding of their bodies, human reproduction facts and pregnancy prevention techniques. There is no replacing parental, guardian and peer influences upon the behavior of young people. The sexual attitudes and low teen pregnancy statistics of many European cultures is a great example of progressive education. It is hopeful that the current U.S. policy toward sex education will be encouraged by the study of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

When I counsel families and couples, I try to encourage a proactive approach to learning about sex. There are two extremely good resources that I recommend to my clients for their knowledge of intercourse and hopefully have an impact on lesson plans in their families and communities. Having knowledge and wisdom about sex is an invaluable gift to share as a parent or peer of a young person who may not find the greatest sex advice elsewhere.

Abstinence Only Sex Education – Does it Work?

Does abstinence only sex education work? The United States government funded a nine -year, 7 million-dollar study, to discover whether abstinence only sex education classes are effective. Abstinence education encourages students to wait until marriage to have sex. The Bush administration financed the establishment of thousands of these programs across the United States and wanted to gauge their impact. The study found that students who participated in abstinence-only education programs were just as likely to engage in premarital sex as students who did not participate in such programs. This is not good news for the proponents of abstinence only education. It leaves one wondering what is the most effective way to teach teens about sexual behavior and its consequences. I decided to ask the ‘experts’, some high school students.

Most kids think that high school is way too late for sex education. Elementary school is when kids should be learning about abstinence only. According to the high school students I talked to, most sixteen year olds are already sexually active. Don’t expect them to listen to anyone teaching them about abstinence.

Most teens don’t like to be told what to do. They say if abstinence- only programs just ‘straight-out’ tell kids ‘don’t have sex’, they won’t listen. You have to provide teens with the facts and statistics. Tell them about the long-term problems that can result from having sex before marriage and then let them make the decision about whether or not to practice abstinence on their own.

A number of high school students I spoke to claimed the main problem is most teens don’t have a communicative relationship with their parents. So many parents are busy with work and social lives of their own, or they are divorced and don’t live nearby and so they don’t spend much time with their kids. Kids might learn the hazards of pre-martial sex if their parents were around enough to teach them. According to some high school students the government should be spending millions of dollars to teach adults how to parent, not on teaching teenagers how to stay abstinent.

One young woman wisely observed that teens are only doing what they see as socially acceptable. The problem lies with adults and the behavior they role model. They are showing the younger generation that it is okay to ‘sleep around.

I was reminded by many of the students I talked to that kids don’t like to be told what to do, especially by adults. Maybe if someone developed a sex education program that didn’t force a rulebook down teens’ throats they would listen and not just treat it as a joke. One girl told me she had decided to abstain from pre-martial sex but not because of a sex education program. All it took was hearing her mother’s story. Her mother had made mistakes when it came to sex that the girl certainly didn’t want to emulate.

One thoughtful young man said religion needs to play a greater role. He told me lots of kids believe they should be abstinent and save themselves for their honeymoon because of their religious values. He wished more religious groups would be outspoken about their support for abstinence.

Several kids told me lots of unprotected sex happens when teens are under the influence of alcohol and drugs. They are also a huge part of the problem.

The high school students I talked with had wise and insightful things to say about abstinence only education. Why spend 7 million dollars on a study when you’ll probably learn the most by just talking to the teens in your community?

Sex Education and No Child Left Behind

Since The Sex Ed Chronicles is fiction based around sex education politics in the past, I was compelled to look at how No Child Left Behind affects sex education in the present.

The most obvious impact is that there is less time to teach sex education; emphasis on language arts and mathematics skills and tests has taken class time from all other subjects. I imagine there is less time for sex education taught in public schools in 2007, just as there is less time for recess. We need more of both in our schools.

When I researched sex education policy for The Sex Ed Chronicles, I read transcripts from state board of education hearings from 1980, the year that mandatory sex education, politically known as Family Life Education, passed in New Jersey, my home state. Those transcripts explained an overlap between sex education and health/physical education, home economics, biology and social studies. With less time available to teach these subjects, there is also a possibility that the units related to sex education get the short shrift. There is also a good chance that there is less oversight over sex education; politicians have a natural tendency to ignore policies that they cannot afford to enforce.

I cannot say that the legislative architects of No Child Left Behind saw a connection between their motives and cutting back on sex education. I have seen no evidence in the press and I was not around when the policies passed Congress. However, in states with abstinence-only or abstinence-until-marriage sex education policies, the public schools could technically out-source sex education to outside organizations, such as True Love Waits, or anti-choice groups–and comply with state education laws.

Outsourcing sex education in abstinence-only or abstinence-until-marriage states is not impossible for me to believe; community and faith-based groups receive more federal funds to promote abstinence-until-marriage than state governments by a ratio of approximately three to one. The school boards can hire outsiders to deliver their message and be compliant, without hiring certified sex educators, and they spend the money they would allocate for sex education towards something else.

This gives age-appropriate, medically accurate, sex education the short shrift. State governments, like New Jersey’s, that have adopted a more comprehensive approach to sex education, a more balanced approach (abstinence and contraception, for example), have been given the short shrift by the Bush Administration.

In New Jersey, Governor Jon Corzine refused to accept federal money for abstinence-until-marriage programs last November. Community and faith-based groups in New Jersey can still apply for federal funds through a different budget line to teach their message. Garden State residents, legislators, sex educators, parents and students, however, must pay more to get the sex education they want; they must fund the programs, pay the educators, and confront the competing words of the messengers who have been aided by our president.

That is sticking it up the buttocks, or whatever medically accurate name you prefer to call a backside. Not to mention the confusion it causes for parents who want their children to learn sex education in school.

While I would bet that conservatives would love to see all sex education confined to the outside instructors or home schooling, that is unrealistic. It denies parents and children the information they really need to know.

Sex Education: Its Importance and Need in the Society

Sex Education, as the term clearly indicates, refers to education which is based on human sexual behavior. Parents, schools or caretakers offer it in some parts of the world to educate the children, who are stepping into their adolescence. If formally received, sex education is either taught as a full course at high school or junior high school level or in biology, health, home economics classes. Teaching sex education is rather a controversial issue; debates have been going on for several decades discussing if it should be taught formally in schools or not. Sex education in schools should exist without any doubts and apprehensions as it offers many benefits.

Adolescence is called the “age of storm and stress”. The young teenagers, during this phase of life are under deep psychological pressure. Mainly, this psychological pressure is the result of one’s growing sexual needs and the biological changes and hormonal effects on the individuals. During this time, most of the children are observed to become easily irritable. They find it difficult in most situations to deal with the family members. They might not want to talk to them about the natural changes taking place in their body and mind. In such circumstances, one highly suitable option is that of the teachers who are able to teach them to control their urges until a proper age. In schools, trained teachers would help the students to know how to deal with their sexual impulses. This role can not be replaced by parents or other entities. A classroom discussion and lesson would make them feel it is natural, and they would also feel that they are being understood by someone. However, taking them individually to psychologists or other trained educators would not help. In such a situation they might consider themselves to be different and misunderstood by family and people around them. Therefore, it becomes crystal clear that the best way to offer sex education is always in school.

It is a psychological phenomenon that children at young age are under an immense peer pressure. Something that they learn in the class with their peer group is what makes a better impression on their minds than otherwise. They are more focused in the lessons that teachers offer and are more eager asking question to clear their ambiguities. They might feel embarrassed and uneasy questioning their parents about it, but it always differs in case of the teacher in the class. This is because everyone in the class is going through the same stage. A class discussion becomes healthy source of learning as it helps in enhancing the knowledge on the subject.

Many people advocate that sex education should only be restricted to families, that is, that parents should personally educate their children. This view is totally illogical and holds complications and questions. The first point is that not all the parents would be willing to do it or would be able to do it. Secondly, this education needs a proper channel through which it should reach its required learners. There could be many possible problems in the families so they might not be able to take the role of a teacher in educating their children regarding sex. The demand of annulment of sex education from the schools is highly conservative.

Most importantly, there are many single parents, how would they take up this challenge of educating their children on their own? Parents can not properly educate their children about sex also because they lack details that qualified sex educators convey in schools. Thus, the stance of abolishing sex education in school is not a favorable thought. In many observed cases where parents or children are embarrassed about talking over sexual matters with each other, it is most likely to be uneasy situation at both the ends. This keeps the children from learning the answers to the questions they might have in their minds. This can be a great flaw of shifting the duty of sexual education from teachers to the parents. It will leave the children only half or less educated about the issue and as they say “Little knowledge is a dangerous thing”, this might end up in grave situations.

According to research, most of the parents also feel uneasy because they know that they are not equipped to provide the apt sexual information to their children. They also fail to comprehend what details and information should be concealed and what should be revealed, keeping in mind their children’s age. On the other hand, there might also be parents who would feel comfortable talking to their children about sexual matters, but only when the children bring the matter up.

Most parents, around the world, may also lack role models to look up to as they would not have talked over sexual issues with their own parents in their adolescent. This makes them inefficient to trigger their roles of educating their children in an effective way as the assigned teachers are able to do in schools.

Sex education is not limited to only a single branch of knowledge. This education focuses on a number of significant sexual matters that are offered with especially designed courses and programs. Sex education covers the education of relationships, sexual abstinence at a certain level and teaching to practice safe sex to the level of children who are thought to be sexually active. Therefore, its claim for being appropriate and guiding holds strong base.

At a certain age of adolescence, growing children have problems facing relationships and controlling their personal emotions. Conflicts related to such matters persuade many youngsters to commit suicides or take part in other immoral activities. Proper sex education in schools also concentrates in making the youngsters emotionally stronger and in educating ways to cope with relationship problems. This argument strongly shows the immense benefit of sex education in schools.

Sex education is an important health strategy and this cannot be denied. AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases can only be controlled if people are aware of precautions and have a vast knowledge in this case. This knowledge is conveyed through sex education, and if sex education is banned in schools and if parents have to educate their children, then it would not be as beneficial to the individuals and the society on the whole as teaching in school could be.

Sex education does not exist in all parts of the world. Asians are commonly regarded conservative when compared to westerners. It is not a part of their course in schools; this does not in any way mean that their teenage pregnancy rate is any lower if they are not exposed to sexual matters openly. In fact, this is one way how peers can mislead most of the youngsters and persuade them to bask in young age sexual relationships without any attempts for safety. This has resulted in serious problems such as the spread of fatal diseases like AIDS and has also increased rate of illegitimate births.

Researches have shown that the cause for ramification of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) in the eras of 80s and 90s in the US and the UK is the lack of knowledge and information provided about sex in schools or home. Home and family has never and will never play an integral part in conveying sex education to teenagers, therefore to rely on the option of home, is to deceive your own self from the expected exigency in the future.

Some conservative groups assert that to discuss sexual issues openly is to devalue religion. No religion in the world abstain its followers from spreading the information that is so essential for human lives. Sexual behavior is natural and takes place through biological changes and this cannot be questioned as this is a part of human life. Thus people who take refuge under the religious shelter, to make their arguments strong, are misinterpreting religious ideas and laws.

Modern time is the time of internet and powerful media. Teenagers are exposed to Hollywood, TV and internet. These sources offer demonstration of sex which is highly thoughtless and casual; in this situation it is almost illogical to leave the teenagers on their sexual choices. They are young and fully excited; therefore they can not make a favorable choice. Sex education in school offers the information and knowledge they need to understand to know the responsibility that is accompanied by sexual relationships. The teacher in school helps the students to know the difference between a thoughtless and thoughtful sex. Having an urge for sex is not a problem; it is a natural process showing that the young people are developing to become adults; however the problem is having unsafe sex and hurting people through sexual choices.

People who claim that sex education in schools have more cons than pros, often come up with the statements suggesting that sex education in classroom should be avoided because the most effective tool for offering sex education, according to them is TV, films, magazines and media. Such people fail to understand that trained sex educators under especially designed programs teach sex education to children in schools. They are thus able to handle children’s problems and clear their ambiguities in the best possible way, whereas magazines, films, TV and other channels and mediums of providing sex education are be reliable. They are most of the times urging the young people by encouraging their sexual promiscuity rather than effectively teaching and educating them. This wrong approach damages the society and the individuals in disguise of ameliorating them.

People contradicting the notion insist that sex education always makes the learners have sex and experience it personally, once they learn about it in school. The reality is that sexual urge for any human being is a natural occurrence. When children reach to a certain age, whether they find people to educated them about sex or not, they do have natural instincts about it, and therefore if provided a chance they would surely want to satisfy their urge. This natural reaction can not in any way be related to the outcome of sex education in schools. In fact, the best time for letting sex education play its role is when the sexual urge increases and the teenagers want to find a source for its satisfaction. It offers individuals with the required knowledge so that they are careful. It is only then that they understand the consequences of sex leading to child birth as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Thus sex education is basically a warning and a caution for such children who are stepping into the phase of life where they would need to know all this.

Some people who go against the topic also argue that even though sex education exists, it has still not decreased the rate of teenage pregnancies. I would rather not go deep in to the moral issue of the topic, but it is important here to discuss and point out the shortcomings of our society. Social values that insist that being single, pregnant and teenagers is fine, is what has to be changed. Through educating the children and making them aware that it is just not ‘cool’ to be pregnant when single or teenager, and just because ‘others are also doing it’ does not in any way justify their actions, this change can be achieved. There are many sexual education programs that teach the learners about the grave consequences that can result in having early sex. This type of sex education in schools is helpful and makes the learners responsible and mature enough to understand the difference between morality and immorality.

People, who are against the notion, repeatedly state the question that why sex education is given so much importance when there are also many other issues connected with juvenile delinquencies such as drugs, drinking and aggressive bullying. No doubt, there are also many other issues to consider important enough to be taught in school for awareness but psychological researches show that behind most of the juvenile behavioral problems, one main reason is always the active sexual urge which drives the young people to indulge themselves in harmful activities like drug abuse and alcoholism. It is also commonly observed that young teenagers who indulge into such activities are unaware of proper sex education. Once they are given a true picture of sex and its consequences their mental status relaxes and they are easily able to cope with other social taboos.

Parents, who believe that sex education pollutes the minds of their children, have in large number taken their children out of schools promoting sex education. In this process of instilling in their minds their religious and family values, they forget that the media, their children are largely exposed to can also lead them astray. Sex education in schools does not in any way offers them an invitation to have open sex by making them aware of the risks; it just educates them about the matter in the best way.

Apart from educating the students about safe sex, sex education in schools is also helpful as it helps students to learn proper terminology for reproductive system, STDs and birth contraceptives rather than the street lingo that is commonly used by laymen. Sex education classes are gender based and that is why the young learners are not embarrassed and are only taught what is related to their gender. Early inclusion of classes also helps the teenagers to either become abstinent for some time or to become responsible if they are already active. Therefore, many sexual problems that occur in adulthood can be controlled if effective and apt sex education is given at the right time.

A proper sex education which is holistic, nonjudgmental and comprehensive never misleads or misguides the teenagers. Such a curriculum should be imposed in all schools around the nation; it is an answer to many social problems and conflicts. Would any parent leave their kindergarten kids to walk alone on the streets without letting them know how to walk safely? No parent would actually do that, in the same way, letting your teenager children socialize with their peers and fellows without any proper sexual education is nothing contrary to the analogy mentioned above. It is hazardous and risky for their lives. Thus, proper sex education in schools should be encouraged so that they learn all the significant facts through trained teachers, who help and supports them in these matters of highly crucial value. Sex education should be taken as a positive aspect which promises healthier and better life for the youngsters. It therefore should be taken as a subject taught in schools to enhance knowledge on the subject matter; something merely as human anatomy or biology class. Sex education should be given in all schools to educate the children for their betterment, avoiding it will only result in emotional, social and health problems.

Why Pornography Should Be Introduced and Critiqued In Sex Education Programming At All School Levels

The phrase love that dare not speak it’s name was coined by Lord Alfred Douglas. It first appeared in his poem, “Two Loves,” printed (in the Chameleon) in 1896. It’s a reference to homosexual love, in Lord Alfred’s case, of Oscar Wilde, who was subsequently charged with gross indecency. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in England and just about everywhere else in the 19th century. Today, there is another sexual outlet not so much forbidden as not addressed in polite or other society – a new form of love the name of which sex educators dare not speak: pornography.

This is most unfortunate: a new study suggests that while parents may not be aware of the fact, pornography is the leading sex educator of the young. Alas, the porn industry has no interest in serving a sex education function and certainly does not do so, at least not in a positive, constructive or healthy fashion.

Porn is pervasive, particularly where it is most highly censored. China, for example, is the world’s leading consumer of porn. Jerry Ropelato, author of “Internet Pornography Statistics” at the research website Top Ten Reviews, notes that $3,075.64 is spent on pornography every second of every day. In this one-second period, 28,258 internet users are viewing pornography and 372 internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines. Two of the top twenty search terms are teen sex and teen porn. The pornography industry has larger revenues than Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Apple and Netflix combined. Data from 2006 reported worldwide pornography revenues at $97.06 billion.

Australian researchers David Corlett and Maree Crabbe filmed 140 interviews with young people in what was called “The Reality and Risk Research Project.” They discovered that teens are increasingly turning to the net for sex education. (Source: Denise Ryan, “Teachers urged to address porn factor,” The Australian Age, February 13, 2012.) Porn sex education exerts a destructive influence in the lives of the young. One of the investigators said, “Every young person we interviewed told us that pornography is a significant part of youth culture and particularly of young men’s lives.” She added, “Pornography has become harder, rougher, more hardcore.”

Porn, as you might expect, does not commonly offer instruction in matters relevant to conventional sex education (e.g., the nature of contraception, the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, the value of intimacy, principles of effective relationships). On the contrary, what it inadvertently communicates to young men, according to “The Project” research group, is reckless, coercive and abusive treatment of women. There is an absence of realistic perspectives and a dearth of respectful treatment of sexual partners. In addition, sexual practices of an unsafe nature are commonplace. While informed adults may have the maturity to manage such depictions, teens with little or, more often, no sexual experience clearly do not.

Since parents usually cannot keep porn from being accessed one way or another or one time or other by their children, the more likely best strategy is to include porn awareness in sex ed instruction. This is the focus of efforts by “The Project” team. Several grants have provided the resources to prepare and test programs for use in training sex education teachers for varied school grade levels. While teachers need skills to address this issue, teens need exposure to effective critiques of pornography’s representations of gender and sex. Among the objectives of the Project team is to develop teaching materials that present diverse scenarios for classroom discussions that will enable young adults to distinguish between what they see depicted in porn and reality.

The overwhelming majority of parents believe their child has never seen pornography. However, a 2003 Australia Institute investigation citied in the Australian Age article cited above reported that 84 per cent of boys and 60 per cent of girls had access to sex sites on the internet. A 2006 Australian study of youths aged 13 to 16 found that 92 per cent of boys and 61 per cent of girls had been exposed to pornography online.

Of course, Republicans in this country might favor a simpler solution: Pass new laws banning pornography or otherwise make it nearly impossible for young people to gain access to it. Given the widespread availability of social media of all kinds in the wired culture of our age, a reliance on censorship does not seem promising (not to dwell on the consistency of such a Draconian tactic with that troublesome First Amendment in America). Good luck cutting off porn – shy of creating a police state. Better sex education is cheaper and quicker, more likely and better suited to personal liberties and sound education.

Everyone, including the young, needs a broad set of knowledge and critical thinking skills to reject a sexuality that eroticises degradation and violence, glorifies unrealistic body types (particularly large breasts and out-sized penises) and undermines relationship elements founded on respect, courtesy and the common decencies.

It is hard enough in the current climate of Right Wing evangelical Republican culture war wedge politics to gain acceptance for sex ed of any kind, let alone adding porn assessment to the mix. If a school board or individual educator in this country tried to address pornography, he or she would be cited by Santorum, Romney or Gingrich as an example of what’s wrong with Obamacare. Try dealing with this crisis only if willing to deal with a firestorm of controversy from the Right.

Yet, all evidence and the lessons from Prohibition and the Comstock era suggest that ignoring or trying to repress the pervasiveness of pornography as it affects youthful sexual expectations and behavior is pernicious and irresponsible.

In my view, we need to make clear as part of sex ed that porn has nothing to do with love. We dare not NOT speak its name – and dare NOT ignore the reality of pornography’s dreadful influence on the sexual miseducation of the young. If this upsets Republicans, well, that’s just too bad. If they had enjoyed better sex education, they might be more sensible about such things – and probably less interested in porn, as well.

Be weller than well, give ’em hell and try always to look on the bright side of life.

Three Sex Education Lessons From The Teen Pep Stories

One of the oft-repeated comments by characters in my novel, The Sex Ed Chronicles is that, in the absence of sex education, children learn about sex from their friends. However, the novel was based in 1980, before New Jersey high schools started to involve students in peer counseling.

On Valentines Day 2008, I read about a mini-controversy involving peer counseling on a New Jersey radio news Web site. The news coverage came out of one New Jersey high school: Clearview Regional High School in Harrison Township in the southern part of the state. There, parents object to peer counselors, high school juniors and seniors, counseling freshmen on a variety of topics related to sex education. The counseling model comes from a program called Teen Pep. Designed by the Princeton Center for Leadership Training (not affiliated with Princeton University), Teen Pep has been implemented in over 50 Garden State high schools for the past eight years. Therefore, Teen Pep is not a new program and school districts have had time to investigate its merits-only now, one school has made the news.

Teen Pep trains not only students, but also faculty advisors, to work one-to-one, but also as a team in various counseling situations. Schools contracting for Teen Pep work with the Princeton Center for a minimum of two years and there are supervisory field visits by qualified professionals to help ensure the program is running smoothly. A school that engages in Teen Pep makes a considerable intellectual investment, as well as a financial investment, to make it work. Part of this investment is to explain this program to parents.

Which takes me to lesson number one: if you are not ready to take these investments seriously, don’t make them.

As I read about the incident at Clearview High, it became clear to me that the fault is not with the program, but with the school administration. It would have been easier for them to consult parents and clergy from the get-go, as they are supposed to do. I realize that teachers have objected to this-they did back in 1980 as well-but sex education is a subject where parents and clergy believe they have important opinions and knowledge.

I found it interesting to read that an advisory board would be formed after parents objected to individual aspects of the program. That should have been in place from day one.

Which takes me to lesson number two: after consulting parents, decide which topics students are qualified to discuss with peers.

Parental objections at Clearview stemmed from the idea that “kids were teaching kids to have sex. But there had to be clear differences between the topics teen peer counselors were allowed to teach, and those that had to be covered by a qualified sex education teacher-but they didn’t make it in the press. Parents deserved to know, if they asked before school started. I realize that pro-abstinence organizations also use young speakers; their programs should be subject to the same parental review as the peer-counseling program.

Then I get to lesson number three: make sure you have qualified teachers.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act emphasizes a need for qualified teachers, meaning that a teacher should be certified in the subject they teach. That applies as much to sex education as any other subject. In the example of Clearview High, the program leader was an English teacher. When I reached family life education, I learned that sex education instructors were most likely to come from health education, home economics or social studies as well as nursing. I would also assume that guidance counselors could become qualified sex educators; they handle personal student issues as part of their job description.

It appears Teen Pep is working in most schools; only one school is in the news complaining, but those involved with this program should consider offering an alternative: to use degree candidates in counseling and education to counsel students.

This would not be peer counseling, but it would appease parents who worry about kids teaching kids about sex. It would also help provide professional development for sex educators.