According to Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, 90% of parents want their children to be taught to abstain from sex until after high school. He says they don’t want comprehensive sex education in schools because teaching kids how to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy only serves to “normalize teen sexual activity.”
I don’t know where he got that statistic, but I don’t buy it. And clearly, President Barack Obama doesn’t either. As part of his recent health care reform efforts, $375 million was earmarked over five years to fund the new PREP for Personal Responsibility Education Program in schools. This program, while encouraging students to abstain, will also include education about safe sex, healthy relationships, financial literacy and other important life skills.
Comprehensive sex education that acknowledges options other than abstinence is a huge departure from the “just say no” approach of the previous administration. George Bush held fast to the notion that if you tell kids not to do it and only not to do it, they won’t do it. Whether or not there is any merit to that argument depends upon who you ask. A large government study in 2007 concluded that abstinence-only programs have no impact whatsoever on the number of teens who become sexually active. However, a more recent study finds that maybe they do prevent younger students from engaging in sexual activity. But one thing is certain: Abstinence-only programs do not teach the 50% of kids who are having sex how to do it safely.
And how important is it to reach those kids? Considering the fact that half of all new sexually transmitted infections each year are contracted by people aged 15 to 24, I’d say very important. And don’t forget the 400,000 teen girls who give birth every year in the U.S. They could probably benefit from some more comprehensive sex education as well.
Despite that Heritage Foundation guy’s insistence that most of you don’t want this type of sex education in schools, I think it’s about time. While parents do have a right and a responsibility to inform their children about sex according to their own views, kids also have a right to know all the facts. Not just the ones that don’t make us uncomfortable.
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