The Case For Comprehensive Sex Education
“Our schools teach only the most basic principles of human reproduction: naming and identifying the sexual organs and a simple explanation of how the sperm fertilizes the ovum. If mathematics was taught in the same cursory manner as human sexuality, when children learned to count they would be considered masters of the subject.” -Bob Smith. Comprehensive sex education should be implemented in place of abstinent only sex education. Since 1997 the federal government has invested over $1.5 billion dollars in abstinence-only programs, which have been proven to be ineffective (Siecus). These programs censor or exclude important information that could help young people protect their health. Also, Abstinence only sex education has had a monopoly on receiving government funding which is counterproductive. Until recently, programs which met a strict abstinence-only definition were the only type of sex education eligible for federal funding and no funding existed for comprehensive sex education, which stresses abstinence but also provides information about contraception and condoms. This paper will explore how abstinence only education became the primary sex education topic and the benefits that comprehensive sex education offers and how it is more effective than abstinence education. The final goal of this paper is to examine how a comprehensive sex education would be a more practical education and if it does indeed work compared to abstinent only education.
Beginning in 1981 under the Reagan Administration, the federal government has consistently funded abstinence-only-until-marriage programs despite an overwhelming body of research proving they are ineffective. Funding for these programs grew exponentially from 1996 until 2006, particularly during the years of the George W. Bush Administration (Siecus). Between 1996 and 2010, Congress funneled a total of over one-and-a-half billion tax-payer dollars into abstinence-only-until-marriage programs and the funding continues today. During the Obama administration in, there was significant shift in the federal government’s funding for abstinence only until marriage programs. Faith-based organizations were still eligible to receive funds; however, they were prohibited from using government money to teach or promote religion as the result of a court settlement arising from a court case in 1988 which challenged AFLA for violating the Constitution’s mandated separation of church and state (Siecus).
This view shifted after during the Obama administration’s proposed budget for removed the streams of funding for abstinence-only programs, and created funding for programs which have been proven effective at reducing teen pregnancy, delaying sexual activity, or increasing contraceptive use (Siecus). After nearly thirty years of strong support for such programs, the Obama Administration and Congress eliminated the two discretionary federal funding streams for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs—the Community-Based Abstinence Education grant program and the abstinence-only-until-marriage portion of the Adolescent Family Life Act (Siecus). Not surprisingly, it is comprehensive sex education programs which help youth remain healthy and avoid negative sexual health outcomes. Evaluations of comprehensive sex education programs show that these programs can help youth delay onset of sexual activity, reduce the frequency of sexual activity, reduce number of sexual partners, and increase condom and contraceptive use.
Sexual education is a necessity for the youth. People ages 15-24 contract almost half the nation’s 19 million new STIs every year; and the CDC estimates that one in four young women ages 15-19 has an STI (CDC). Sexual education has also been neglected in the case of minorities. African American and Hispanic youth are disproportionately affected by the HIV and AIDS pandemic (CDC). Although only 17 percent of the adolescent population in the United States is African American, these teens experienced 69 percent of new AIDS cases among teens in 2006. Latinos ages 20 – 24 experienced 23 percent of new AIDS cases in 2006 but represented only18 percent of U.S. young adults (CDC). A November 2006 study of declining pregnancy rates among teens concluded that the reduction in teen pregnancy between 1995 and 2002 was primarily the result of increased use of contraceptives (CDC).
The main article provides facts about the benefits of a comprehensive sex education program and uses logos to analyze the information. It showcases the statistics associated with sexual education and does this by gathering data from various sources. Things that could have been done to help the data would be to include more objective in presenting more data about the pros of abstinent only education, if there were any. Research on virginity pledges found that pledges did assist in delaying sexual intercourse for an average of 18 months (Bearman et al). However, the same study also found that young people who took a pledge were one-third less likely to use contraception when they did become sexually active than their peers who had not pledged (Bearman et al). Pledges were effective in preventing sexual intercourse, but when the teens chose to engage in intercourse, they were less likely to use contraceptive. The article claims AFLA was established to promote “chastity” and “self-discipline, and indeed the program always had a pregnancy-prevention component aimed at discouraging premarital sexual behavior among teens and “encouraging abstinence until marriage (Siecus). Since 1997, however, the prevention funds within AFLA were explicitly tied to the more stringent eight-point definition of “abstinence education” found in the Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage program and, therefore, to a stricter interpretation of what must be taught (Siecus). Although the article makes a few errors in undermining the importance of abstinent only education, the evidence overwhelming shows youth who receive comprehensive sex education are not more likely to become sexually active, increase sexual activity, or experience negative sexual health outcomes.
Researchers studied the National Survey of Family Growth to determine the impact of sexuality education on youth sexual risk-taking for young people ages 15-19, and found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only education (Kohler). December 2004, the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Government Reform led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman released a report showing that about 80 percent of the most popular federally funded abstinence-only education programs do not provide students with the true facts about contraceptives and misrepresent the risks of abortion, blur religion and science, treat stereotypes about girls and boys as scientific fact, and contain basic scientific errors (Waxman). Among youth participating in “virginity pledge” programs, researchers found that among sexually experienced youth, 88 percent broke the pledge and had sex before marriage (Bearman et al). Further, among all participants, once pledgers began to have sex, they had more partners in a shorter period and were less likely to use contraception or condoms than were their non-pledging peers (Bearman et al). Public opinion polls consistently show that more than 80 percent of Americans support teaching comprehensive sex education in high schools and in middle or junior high schools. Research clearly shows that comprehensive sex education programs do not encourage teens to start having sexual intercourse; do not increase the frequency with which teens have intercourse; and do not increase the number of a teen’s sexual partners.
Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive sex education programs studied had positive effects. 40 percent delayed sexual initiation, reduced the number of sexual partners, or increased condom or contraceptive use. The organization of advocated for youth researched various sexual education programs and of Twenty-six effective programs were identified, twenty-three of which included comprehensive sex education as at least one component of the program. The other programs were early childhood interventions (Advocates for Youth). Of the 23 effective, comprehensive sex education programs: Fourteen programs demonstrated a statistically significant delay in the timing of first sex. Thirteen programs showed statistically significant declines in teen pregnancy, HIV, or other STIs. Students who participated in the programs were no more likely to abstain from sex than other students (Advocates for youth). Evaluations of publicly funded abstinence-only programs in at least 13 states have shown no positive changes in sexual behaviors over time (Kirby).
The case for a comprehensive sexual education proves itself. Although abstinent only sexual education has been the norm for many years, the government and the public must follow the results and what will be the most effective for the public. A comprehensive sexual education will provide the youth with the ability to make more informed sexual decisions, reduce the rate of STI’s within various communities, and teen pregnancy. The article presented the case for comprehensive sexual education and makes valid points, although it could have presented the benefits of abstinent only sexual education better.