Public education is one of the most important social institutions to a child’s learning after the home. It is many children’s primary means of developing social skills, as well as reinforcing those in reading, writing, mathematics and critical thinking. In every state, there are state-approved curriculums to ensure that students are taught to a standard that is considered accurate and satisfactory for post-secondary life.
However, one area which is not regulated or even emphasized is sex education. For multiple reasons, this discipline is frequently either avoided in the public education system or taught with significant bias and a lack of information. This practice of unregulated and/or misinformed education is more detrimental than some may realize.
Recently, John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” talked about America’s stance on sex education in public schools on his show. During the episode, he states that only 22 U.S. states include sex education in their curriculum, and, of those, 13 are not required to present true or supported facts to students. This means students can be lied to or misinformed about something as critical as their sexual health and choices.
Oliver continues to discuss in some school districts, the only sex education permitted is that which promotes what is known as abstinence-only sex education. Herein lies an even larger issue. as studies have shown this form of teaching is actually counterproductive to encouraging safe sex habits. Many of these schools also reported banning the explanation of the proper use of contraceptives, such as condoms, if not outright refusing to discuss any content that does not promote abstinence until marriage.
The problem is further complicated when many of the teaching tools used in school districts that are allowed to introduce sex education as they see fit include videos which degrade individuals who do not abstain from intercourse. This is done either directly or through loose comparisons to these persons being “used,” “dirty” and even shameful.
This is a dynamic issue not only because of its derogatory treatment toward sexually-active people and lack of information on consensual, protected sex, but also because these types of videos disregard students who may be the victims of sexual assault. Many times, these videos do not discuss consent, contraception or any other content other than how sex prior to marriage results in poor self-esteem. With that in mind, adolescent students are essentially graduating secondary school with no more knowledge about sex than they had when they first entered puberty.
The education of America’s teens and preteens should not be left to the interpretation and opinions of school board executives. No level of misrepresentation of facts in a child’s education should be tolerated. Today’s youth have a right to be informed about the options they face when presented with the choice to engage in sexual activity. These students have a right to be informed about what consent is, how to use contraception to prevent STDs and pregnancy and how to talk about sex in a healthy manner with future partners.
By stressing the importance of consent and safe sex, students will be more likely to make safer decisions in regard to their sexual health. If we as a society instead choose to ignore this issue and allow misinformation to be taught to the youth of today, we will only see an increase in unhealthy sexual relationships and health amongst the adolescent population.