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Sex education is severely lacking across the United States

By Aysha Mahmood
On April 21, 2014

A recent study by the Guttmacher Institute found that only 22 states require sex education to be taught in schools, which is a strangely low number considering America has a higher teen pregnancy rate than any other developed country in the world.
The study concluded that only 18 states require teachers to provide information about contraception, only 19 require giving information on condoms and 37 states reportedly allow for medically inaccurate sex education. Some states don't even require HIV information and others, such as Texas and Mississippi, must include only negative information about same sex relationships.
Mississippi, a state with one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, passed its sex education bill in 2011 and has since had programs that continue to be under speculation. After passing the law, state schools had a choice between teaching its students abstinence only programs or abstinence plus programs that include abstinence as well as contraception. Although 71 schools chose abstinence plus, abstinence was still strongly encouraged as no information on how to use a condom, arguably the most basic form of contraception, was given. This follows a trend, as only 19 states require teaching information on condoms.
Texas is also a state that has been scrutinized for its sex education laws as it is only one of three states that allows for teachers to tell students that homosexuality is illegal. Of course teachers can opt out of preaching the homosexuality message, but it is still in the sex education curriculum. Only heterosexual relationships are promoted, which leaves LGBTQ kids feeling ashamed of their own sexuality. Instead of making them feel comfortable and safe at school, teachers make them feel like they're sinning. Sex education should be taught with the knowledge that students are of different sexualities.
Also in Texas, teachers encourage students to stay celibate by shaming them into staying virgins until marriage, saying that any sex before marriage makes one dirty. What's worse is that teachers use an activity involving a toothbrush and a stick of gum to show students how important it is to be clean. The instructions given to the teacher for this activity state, "Encourage students to stay like a new toothbrush, unwrapped and unused...people want to marry a virgin, just like they want a virgin toothbrush or a stick of gum." As hard as the teachers try to make this a metaphor for sex, it's not at all effective and should not be considered quality sex education.
The bottom line is we need to make kids more comfortable talking about sex. If adults aren't comfortable talking about it, how we can we expect kids to ask adults questions and come to them for help? It seems as though the biggest problem in sex education today is that we're not actually educating. School districts are beating around the bush and telling teens what they want them to know, regardless of whether it's true or not.
If schools are giving their students the wrong information, then it will be impossible for them to know how to safely approach sex. Teens are and will continue to have sex regardless of whether or not there is a sex education class taught to them at school. In Mississippi alone, 76 percent of teens have sex before they graduate. It's not a bad thing to teach abstinence, but for schools to think all its students will make that choice is rather unrealistic. Ultimately, the choice is up to the student and contraception should be taught in case a student makes that personal choice to have sex. As long as teens are having sex, schools might as well give them the accurate information they need to be safe about it.
Sex is a taboo topic, which is why I can understand why many adults are hesitant to teach the subject. However, the more armed kids are with information the better choices they'll make and the more they'll be able to teach other kids who have the same questions. Kids talk and gossip, and if an adult gives one of them the wrong information, odds are that same adult just gave 10 other kids the wrong information as well. The earlier students learn about sex, the better they will be equipped to make smart choices in the future.
Schools not only need to mandate sex education, but they also need to provide information on contraception and sexuality that is medically correct. An immediate reform needs to happen in order for young kids to approach sex in a safe and healthy manner. 


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