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.