Salon.com posted an article recently about sex-ed, and it’s definitely worth looking in to if you’re interested (or plainly enraged) by the topic.
Here is a very in-depth look at what exactly is happening (or rather, not happening) in the US school systems in regard to sexual education, and why. It highlights the use of abstinence-only programs, and why that can be so very damaging to teens, and anyone else exposed to it.
From the film: Mean Girls reference from vegasseven.com
Sex education has been a big topic for years now. Some states have better curriculum than others, but the bad ones tend to be absolutely awful. While this seems to be an easy topic for adults to throw around ideas relating to, you rarely hear opinions from those actually in the programs. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that in Nevada, groups of students are letting their school district know exactly what they think about the sex ed. program currently in place. Apparently, a comprehensive sex ed program was suggested (shocking!), and parents began to object. This article from alternet explains some of the *incredibly controversial* (insert sarcasm) things the comprehensive program plans to educate students on. Surprisingly, only 22 states require sexual education programs, and only 19 require any provided programs to be medically accurate. If you ask me (which no one did), the kids who are currently receiving and evaluating these programs in person should have a little bit more pull than the parents. We’re talking about a primarily high school program. There’s even a student talking about how the abstinence-based program made her, as a rape survivor, feel as though she was worthless. That’s worth listening to.
I’ve covered the topic of abortion from a sort of abstract perspective in the past. I’ve talked about the political perspective and the women’s rights perspective, but here is yet another angle. Historical instances of abortion and pregnancy terminations are rarely discussed. This article from Katha Pollitt’s Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, which can be purchased here. Alternet was able to post an excerpt that recalls instances and trends of abortion throughout cultures and decades of history.
It’s an incredible perspective on an issue that is viewed as very current and divisive. Even I tend to tiptoe around the subject. However, when you consider how long abortions have been occurring, how ubiquitous they were between locations and cultures, and how similar previous legal battles and limitations have been, it adds another dimension to the debate.
The article addresses misconceptions and stereotypes projected by the media relating to abortions today, even though a lot of the statements aren’t exactly popular. It strongly focuses on how abortion needs to be viewed as something that affects both woman and child. Typically people address the fetus while viewing the woman as simply a vessel, as if her body (and mind) are no longer something to be taken into account. It discusses how abortion has positive impacts on some women, and negative on others (and for some, a mix of both). Many pro-life movements will state how abortion induces depression, suicidal tendencies, and a variety of other things that aren’t universal reactions. There are even regulations requiring the results of these (incredibly biased) studies to be read to those considering abortion procedures in certain places.
This article takes an incredible standpoint in an old and tired discussion. It seems that all religious reasons, personal reasons, medical reasons, and women’s rights reasons for pro-life or pro-choice standpoints have been said again and again. This is the first thing I have read in a long time that has offered an alternative perspective. Regardless of where you stand in relation to this schismatic topic, this is an article well worth reading. It may not change your mind on anything, but it will definitely offer you an education that you won’t find easily anywhere else.
I’m going to share a little personal information here. I grew up and went to public school in Texas. Most of my sexual education in school was late enough that I vividly remember it, with the first program happening in 5th grade. We didn’t talk much, but watched a video that I didn’t understand. I had to ask my mom what was happening later. She was horrified. The only thing that was verbally communicated by my teacher was a short script about menstruation, which grossed most of us out. That was it.
Fast forward to middle school, and our coach was required to dedicate one class to STD/STI information. We played some sort of game that demonstrated how quickly an STD can spread, and we were warned against having sex. That was the lesson. In high school, we took a health class that forced us to view horribly advanced cases of STDs and STIs up close and personal. Again, this was all we learned about.
The reason I bring all this up, is because I stumbled upon this article recently. Although it’s a bit old, the information remains mostly the same. A majority of states don’t require any sexual education classes in schools, and an even smaller amount talk about contraception. Why are we so afraid to be honest with kids about sex? Especially once they get to high school, and a good amount of their classmates begin to experiment and begin having sex, they should be well-informed. I still have to inform fellow college students that their perceptions or beliefs about sex are simply incorrect. I knew people who got pregnant because they didn’t think they could due to superstitions or just plain wrong information. I had to teach my previously sexually active boyfriend that he was poorly informed on several different areas once we began dating.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that teaching abstinence-only programs is the same thing as ignoring contraception altogether. Sending our children out into the world without properly equipping them to succeed in as many areas as possible is sending our world in the wrong direction. Teaching children the facts about sex, contraception, STD/STIs, pregnancy, and other related topics isn’t pushing them to have sex. It’s giving them what they need to make their own, well-informed decisions about sex. It isn’t their education’s responsibility to sway them on such a personal topic. Perhaps we can simply leave the opinions to their parents. Wouldn’t that be novel?