There comes a time in everyone’s adolescence when parents decide it’s time to educate their children about the birds and the bees, a conversation so notorious that it has been deemed “The Talk.”
As embarrassing as it is to endure our parents talking to us about sex, the practice is a necessary one to our culture. These talks are occurring at younger and younger ages, but parents are no longer the deciding factor in their child’s sexual education. Whether parents are even qualified to educate their children about sex is also debatable. The only guarantee that a child has access to well-rounded sexual education is to ensure that it is available in schools.
According to a June 24 Associated Press article by Lucas Johnson II, a recent pro-abstinence bill known as the “no holding-hands bill” passed in Tennessee. This bill, which was recently signed into law, promotes pro-abstinence sex ed and would also bar educators from promoting “gateway sexual activity.” According to the article, “One thing missing from the debate in the Legislature was a discussion of whether the law signed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam last month really would help reduce Tennessee’s high teenage pregnancy rate.” However, experts think it “leaves teenagers inadequately educated about sexuality and prevention of pregnancy and disease.”
Tennessee has one of the highest teen pregnancies in the nation, with 29.6 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in 2009, according to the New York-based Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive health research organization.
Rumor has it that abstinence is, in fact, the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but just because it’s being taught doesn’t mean it’s being practiced.
According to an April 10 article by Amanda Beadle on thinkprogress.org, “37 states require sex education that includes abstinence, 26 of which require abstinence to be stressed as the best method.” The article also stated that Mississippi, the U.S. state with the highest teen birth rate at 55 births per 1,000 girls, does not require sex education in schools. However, when it is taught, the state standard is abstinence-only.
I’ve been through my fair share of classes that educate students not to drink, not to do drugs and not to smoke cigarettes. Sure enough, I’ve consumed alcoholic beverages and, until recently, was a cigarette smoker.
Insert gasps of shock here.
The point is, just because we tell children not to do something, it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to do it. Eventually, they will have sex, and when that time comes, it would be much safer for them to have a thorough knowledge rather than having no idea how to protect themselves.
A classic movie line comes to mind every time I read about another school implementing an abstinence-only sex education plan.
Coach Carr, an ill-equipped sexual educator, said it best in the popular movie “Mean Girls”: “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.”
We live in a culture where entertainment and pop culture are becoming more and more risque. What was considered inappropriate for children 20 years ago isn’t necessarily considered inappropriate for children now. Music, movies and video games have become much more graphic, in depictions of both violence and sexuality.
How many parents will allow their sixth-grader to watch a PG-13 movie?
How many parents will allow their eighth-grader to watch an R-rated movie?
Kids who have access to the Internet have an even greater danger of being exposed to an adult world that their parents would rather censor.
Children gain a greater knowledge of sex through television, movies, music, the Internet and even the daily news. It doesn’t make any sense to restrain sexual education in the only place that should be doing the educating: schools.
There is no way to shelter children from a sexual education, but would you rather their education happen in a controlled school setting or after stumbling upon their older brother’s porn collection?
Kelsey McClelland is a senior in mass communications. Please send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.