(Jerry) Winters of the Tennessee Education Association said that already existing sex-education policy was "quite adequate." Obviously not, if we’re constantly changing our sex-education legislature, what we're willing and not willing to teach and teen pregnancy is still on the rise. Check out this msnbc.com news article on the changes Tennessee is making and why.
Quite the read. All with quotes from people who are past their teenage years by at least 20 years, I'd suspect, and probably don't remember what all was taught to the in their high school health class or the details of the cringe-inducing "birds and bees talk' from their parent about storks and bundles joy wrapped up with a big floppy bow because they were embarrassed beyond belief. (Let me insert my disclaimer here.) I’m not trying to push my views on everyone and say that they have to follow them to the letter. I'm not saying that every school has to march to one syllabus. I’m merely trying to share what I believe would be a more effective way to deal with teens and sex educations and the consequences that can come from engaging in sexual activity and why you should take on what your schools don't teach your kids as being your responsibility.
I am a firm believer in information-inclusive Sex-Ed. I believe that it's when we teach complete abstinence (i.e. don’t have sex, it’s bad for you and we’re just not going to tell you why) that it’s kids without the all the facts who go too far too fast and, as a result, are the ones that up getting pregnant because we didn't bother to teach them about birth control and what does and does not constitute intercourse and so if they experiment, they're going to end up in a worse off case than if you present them with all the facts. I have to think that not telling the the explicit consequences involved with having sex means that they won’t actually grasp how potentially and seriously consequential it can actually be. Believe it or not, teens are still smart and if we give them all the information they'll do better at making their own choices. If we simply tell a teen not to do something, chances are, they're going to think about doing it if you don't entirely inform them.
We're supposed to be teaching them how to be responsible young adults, how to make choices based on the facts presented to them right? Having someone give us all the facts when we go to the doctor, dentist, insurance agent, etc is what happens when we need surgery, dental care, more coverage on our house or car and they present us with all the basic facts so that we can make choices happens. It's in the real world every day-so why aren't we willing to apply it when we're teaching them to respect themselves, their bodies and their boyfriends or girlfriends if we want them to be able to know how to make informed choices about everything else the second they turn eighteen? I don’t remember seeing Sex-Ed in my list of requirements for graduating from college. I would guess that they expected that by the time you got there (because we’ve been teaching it for YEARS), you have already made your choice to be abstinent until marriage or not and you’ve already been given enough information to be able to make that decision. We expect them to know how to handle large amounts of information and make informed decisions when it comes to everything else but we don't teach them near enough anything anymore when it comes to personal health and Sexual Education. Just don’t sugar coat or gloss over it like the PE teacher in ‘Mean Girls’ (“If you have sex, you’ll get AIDS and die! Everybody take a condom.”) Give them the cold hard facts of how easily it is to contract STD's and AIDs, how you may not know you have it before you pass it to someone else, what happens to your bodies and why, what exactly a young woman's body goes through during pregnancy, what hormones will shift and how it will affect the physically and emotionally and EVERYTHING related to the consequences of sexual intercourse. Make an impact with your information, don't just say "Oh, well, if you have sex you could get pregnant. Read the chapter and answer the questions." Have a doctor come in and describe giving birth from a first-hand point of view. Actually inform them with real-life scenarios and they'll get the picture. SLAM the facts in their faces.
Teens respond to adults being entirely upfront and honest with them and whether or not they ask further questions, you'll at least know that you have their attention and have let them know how serious the choice to have sex is and can be. After that, it’s going to be up to them. Teaching abstinence only teaches teens how to make irresponsible, misinformed choices because when teens don't get information from a teacher and don't want to ask their parents and be embarrassed, they get it from an equally misinformed friend who's heard bare rumors from their older siblings. You have to give them all the information and make it serious enough for them to pay attention and you might be surprised at the drops in teen-pregnancy rates in our schools after that. If you don't want your child to have Sex-Ed you should sign a waiver and they can take another 9-week course, or do your homework before you choose your child’s high school, but do take it upon yourself to tell them all the facts yourselves if you go that route. Don’t just sue the high school for what you don’t want them to learn. Don’t be delusional in thinking that if they don’t know the school in't teaching them, and they don’t come to you with questions, that teen pregnancy or something else won’t happen to them because you’ve simply told them that they should wait until marriage (which you should tell them, if that’s how you feel. I’m not saying not to. I’m just saying that you should tell them WHY you feel that they should wait.)
When my future kids get to that age I'm going to be open to any and all questions they have and I'll be honest with them about my experience. Yes, I waited until I was an adult to engage in sexual activity but my high school had a separate classroom for the handful of pregnant girls and I vaguely knew one or two of them*(See note below). No, their father wasn't the first person I had sex with. Yes, I have had a pregnancy scare and it was an emotionally wrenching few days to think that I might be pregnant before I had marriage and financial stability and what I was going to do if it turned out to be true. And yes, and I was lucky but no, not everyone will be so lucky. We should be using the lessons from our younger years to give our children some perspective. This sort of personal relevance needs to be coming from parents and all the facts need to come from our educators since not all parents have gone through the sexual trends that their kids will be hearing about and wondering about as they grow up. (While we're at it, part of Sex-Ed should be to teach girls how to physically protect and defend themselves if they feel physically threatened. Toss in some basic karate with their signed agreement that they will only use it to their defense. I'm down. And teach the boys to recognize when a girl is trying to say "No" and that they need to back off. It's through non-communication that things can turn for the worse in a situation like that.) Think about it. Makes a lot of sense to me. What makes sense to you?
Happy Responsibility (and Education)
*My note on having the pregnant girls separated from the rest of the student body: If the school teaches some level of sex education instead of abstinence, I don’t think that they should be in a different classroom, IF they don’t want to be. More girls might take notice if there’s someone sitting next to them who is pregnant, might ask questions about what contraceptives were used, if any, and would see on a daily basis that their classmate is going through some very emotional and physical demands that they never expected to go through by not thinking sex through. A realization that students could process on their own terms.