Should Sex Ed Lessons be a Part of Curriculum?
In the US the push for “family planning” as sex education is sometimes known began in the 1960s with federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Initially, the objective was to prevent teenage pregnancies and the spread of venereal diseases but other groups saw that sex education provided “an exciting opportunity to develop new norms” as one educator said (qtd. in Sowell 171). Feminists, for example, viewed Sex Ed as “a tool of empowerment” which would “help envision a society where women are agents of their own sexual freedom” (Schuetz 2) while yet other feminists demanded that Sex Ed, instead of advocating abstinence, should be positive, teaching the importance of “sexual intimacy,” “mutual respect” and the difference between “good men” and “’real’ men” (Zeilinger 183-4).
It was this mix of the practical and ideological that turned sex ed into a highly controversial issue, which is an ongoing debate about whether Sex Ed class should be in the curriculum or not. Proponents of sex education in schools have some good reasons such as sex education class is a necessity to combat illegitimacy and venereal diseases as an article of American School Broad Journal indicates (Sowell 169), sex education is a big opportunity to reduce prejudice towards LGBTIQ people that they have to encounter in the future (Uprichard 180) and the notion that Sex Ed lessons enable young people to adopt sense of awareness about consent and healthy relationship.
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On the other hand, opponents of Sex Ed classes have better reasons to be against of it such as years of sex education has actually increased the rates of pregnancy and venereal diseases among teenagers rather than decreasing (Sowell 170), it is wrong for teachers to challenge the norms of society by Sex Ed classes, which had unwanted consequences in the past (Paglia 174) and trusting Sex Ed teachers in such a sensitive topic is wrong due to attitude of some instructors in the class (Paglia 173) or it is even sometimes dangerous due to disturbing statistics on the nationwide sexual abuse cases ( “Sexual Abuse by Teachers is on the Rise- The Children’s Center for Psychiatry, Delray Beach, FL” 2017) Therefore, I argue that Sex Ed lessons should not be a part of the school curriculum.
There are many reasons for proponents to think that Sex Ed classes are necessary at schools. One of them is the notion that children should be informed about sexuality to prevent unwanted consequences of unsafe sex. In 1968, National Education Association stated that a federally promoted project in a Washington school showed the urgency of sex education as a complementary part of the school curriculum from initial classes.
Some of the pregnant teenage girls told that they would have not become pregnant if they had received required sexual information from compassionate teachers in the early grades. (Sowell 168) So why wouldn’t we provide students with beneficial information about sexuality in schools if it will lead to a decrease in unwanted situations? Sowell states in his article that in 1969, an article from the American School Broad Journal described sex education lessons as a method to fight with illegitimacy and venereal diseases.
PTA magazine also encouraged sex education to cope with the rising rates of sexually transmitted diseases, premarital birth and emotional dreadful consequences of thoughtless sexual activity. (169) Heather Corinna, who is the founder of an online web source of sexual information and health for adolescents called Scarleteen states that when people do not have access to information about their body, how their sexual lives can be and the effect of their sexual lives in future, it is hard for them to grasp the importance of their sexual and reproductive rights, as well as their human rights. Restrained lives might cost to our whole lives, as well as sexual lives. (Schuetz 177) Therefore, it is important for a teenager to understand how their body works, the possible consequences of unsafe sex and methods to prevent these consequences.
Another good reason for the supporters of the idea that Sex Ed classes should be taught at schools is that sex education classes are a big opportunity to teach the new generation to respect sexual differences. According to Uprichard, we can decrease the number of homophobes who will potentially harass LGBTIQ people in the future if we give information to students about gender and sexuality before the biased people that are prevalent in the society. (180)
A different point which illustrated by Schuetz is that a feminist understanding of sex education changes the target from asserting abstinence to make a secure and informed decision. Heather Corinna, the founder of Scarleteen, describes sexuality and sexual health as the main point of the feminist movement. She encourages sex education as a way of inclusiveness in education, in the purpose of informing people about the diversity of sexual orientations, bodies, and lives of other people that are different from theirs.
Corinna also writes a detailed crash course named “S.E.X: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College” on sex-positive feminist sex education which includes topics such as gender and sexual orientation, misogyny and the anatomy of the clitoris. (180) Sex education classes covering these topics will obviously help the future of LGBT members in society. It will also teach young individuals to respect differences related to sexuality which will lead to a more tolerant society.
The most important reason for the proponents of Sex Ed lessons in school curriculum is that the Sex Ed classes enable young people to adopt a sense of awareness about the term “consent” and an appropriate attitude for healthy relationships. Uprichard states that education of rape and consent approaches towards gender and sexuality information of what is considered as unhealthy relationships are both main elements of many feminist campaigns and the main components of SRE (sex and relationship education).
Although the notion that topics such as rape should be on school syllabus might be considered unpleasant by some parents, latest events such as the Maryville case, the Steubenville case, and Manchester sex attacks cannot be categorized as anomalies. (178) Another thing Uprichard emphasizes is that we are breaking down to help our forthcoming generations construct a better society than we constructed for ourselves without an intensive effort to cope with the complexity and established nature of rape culture in society, although basic information about rape is allegedly given in schools. SRE should also provide young children with an understanding of proper behavior within their relationships. (179)
There will be much fewer people walking on the streets in alliance with rape culture in the future if we can give our young students the sense of respect and understanding the concept of consent. Preventing naive minds from growing up thinking that porn stars must be a role model for their own relationships is a step towards promoting healthy couples over misplaced efforts to repeat possibly harmful displays of power and submission. We can eliminate some of the issues that feminism struggles to solve before they even arise if we manage to use sex and relationship education properly to help combat young people’s attitudes that cause harmful adult relationships. (Uprichard 180) Thus, sex and relation education can help young people to respect other’s consent and to form a healthy relationship with their partners.
However, there are several stronger reasons for opponents to reject the Sex Ed class in the school curriculum. One of them is that Sex Ed classes have actually increased the rates of adolescent pregnancy and venereal diseases in young people which is contrary to its agenda. As Sowell stated, critics were against such curriculum for some reasons including the notion that sex education will increase the rate of sexual interaction among teenagers rather than decreasing it and will also cause a higher incidence of teenage pregnancy as well. (169)
Critics were right according to the statistics that Sowell will mention in the same paper. In 1968, almost half of the schools in the country (including secular, religious, state or private) had sex education classes and their prevalence was increasing briskly. Pregnancy rates between 15 to 19-year-old girls in America has increased from roughly 68 per thousand to 96 per thousand between 1970 and 1980 as the prevalence of sex education classes increased extensively in American schools. Despite a massive increase in abortion rates which were more than doubled in the same period, premarital birth rates among the girls in the 15-17 years old bracket increased 29 percent between 1970 and 1984. The number of girls that are under 15 who underwent abortion has passed the number of live births by the year 1974.
According to the statistics of Allan Guttmacher Institute, by 1976, the percentage of girls between 15 to 19 years who were engaged in premarital sex was more than it was just five years earlier. From 1956 to 1975, the prevalence of teenage gonorrhea tripled. Sargent Shriver, who was the former head of the organization called Office of Economic Opportunity which led to charge for earlier and more sex education, has honestly stated to a congressional committee in 1978 that when they had more family planning clinics, more pills, and more sex education classes than ever in history, just like sexually transmitted diseases has soared 350% in the last 15 years, adolescent pregnancy has also arose.
Nonetheless, the honesty of Mr. Shriver was an exception rather than the rule among the people who insisted on family planning clinics and Sex Ed classes in schools. (Sowell 170) Then, years of such curriculum including sex education lesson does not seem to achieve its purpose of decreasing the rates of teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases. Just the opposite, it has increased all of those that are unwanted.
Another reason why sex education classes should not be on the curriculum is that it is wrong for teachers to try to change society by challenging norms. And rebellions against norms and society do not always end with happiness. They may also end with a disappointment of a generation. Sex education is seen by religious conservatives as a tool of secular cultural imperialism which weakens the morality of society. It is time for liberals to accept the fact that there is some truth in this view of conservatives and to realize that schools should not make propaganda of any ideology to students.
The liberals blame conservatives to dictate “fear and shame” to the minds of young people as a response to their demands for abstinence-only sex education. However, just a bit of shame and self-protective fear may be beneficial for today’s youth in an environment of hedonism (pleasure-centrism) and media-centrism. Girls from the generation of baby-boomers have bravely stood up against the “cult of virginity of the Doris Day 1950’s” but they woke up in a chaotic environment with bitter consequences. (Paglia 174) So it is better for young people to be aware of the facts and not to rebel with the sense of anarchy due to their hormones since they can end up being disappointed just like the girls from baby-boomer generation. Also, teachers can put a big pressure on children while trying to break the taboos of society.
As Kelly mentions in her paper, the idea of making children face with different sexual orientations on the school materials such as picture books in nursery schools cause “difficult knowledge”, a term used to indicate both depictions of social traumas in syllabus and person’s encounters of these traumas in a pedagogical perspective.
Kelly also explains that the possible disagreement of parents and chief administers acted as a deterrent factor to some teachers having these books for their classrooms. And others stated that they would be discreet about bringing books on sexual identity into the classroom without parental permission. These attitudes were coherent with the following anxiety that “difficult knowledge” created. (3) So, we should leave little kids alone so that they can live their childhood. It is unnecessary and confusing to introduce such things to kids. This will only lead to unwanted anxieties and mind confusions on the children’s minds.
The most important reason why Sex Ed classes should not be a part of the curriculum is that teachers, especially Sex Ed teachers, are definitely not right people to trust in such a sensitive topic like sexuality. As Paglia stated in her paper, Sex ED instructors vary among themselves, from certified health educators to “peer educators” with minimal education and preparation. It is also apparent from some scandals about improper usage of sexual materials or websites that some educators can impose their sexually loose biases to students. (173) One of four students in the United Kingdom takes no Sex Ed lessons at all and the majority of the ones who do receive it describe it as insufficient or even factually inaccurate.
Therefore, it is not logical for parents to trust Sex Ed instructors at the school since they can be inefficient, scientifically wrong or the worst: sexually abusive in such a sensitive topic. SESAME (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse Misconduct & Exploitation) organization has collected disturbing statistics of nationwide sexual abuse rates. The statistics report that just under 500 instructors were arrested in 2015. Approximately 7% of children between 8th and 11th grades who joined the surveys reported having physically sexual touches from an adult (who is usually instructor). The sort of physical contact varied from undesirable touching to sexual intercourse. When the cases of other types of sexual abuses such as being exposed to pornography and inappropriate obscene sexual language or exhibitionism, the statistics rise about 10% of pupils surveyed.
According to record numbers of teachers who were expelled from the school due to sexual misconduct revealed by the Independent, the numbers of this year were even higher than the total number of teachers banned due to alcohol, drugs or violence during the last five years. And one of three strikes of teachers were about sex-related cases last year and in the highest number of three years. (Sharman 2017) In an environment where irritating abuse rates increases, parents are definitely right to not trust Sex Ed teachers on a topic that can be abused more easily.
As I have shown in previous paragraphs, there are good reasons to think that Sex Ed classes must be shown to students such as children should be informed about sexuality to prevent unwanted consequences of unsafe sex, Sex Ed lesson can be used as an opportunity to teach new generation to respect sexual differences and to enable young people to adopt a sense of awareness about “consent” and how can they form healthy relationships.
However, opponents of Sex Ed lessons on curriculum have stronger reasons to reject it such as Sex Ed classes fail to achieve its purpose of decreasing adolescence pregnancy and venereal diseases, it is wrong for teachers to challenge the norms of society by trying to bring respect towards differences and Sex Ed teachers are not the right people to trust in such a sensitive topic that can be easily exploited by malevolent teachers.
As an alternative to Sex Ed classes, as Paglia says; certified health educators should discuss venereal diseases at the middle school or high school level. While information about condoms should be given, state schools are not the right places to distribute condom, as is done in New York, Boston, and Los Angeles. Condoms should be distributed in hospitals and clinics instead. (174) Consequently, the new generation will be informed and prevented from possible abuses at the same time.