Sex Education-To Teach or Not To Teach?

By: Kristina Wrigley and Michelle Francis

There are two approaches to sex education, abstinence and comprehensive. Abstinence is defined as school districts not allowing their schools to deliver any sexuality education at all. While comprehensive is the process of students learning and obtaining information and education about sex and sexuality.  Schools that participate in teaching abstinence show that teens did not delay their  first sex experience (Jayson, 2008).While, schools that taught comprehensive found that those students waited for their first sexual encounter (Jayson, 2008).

Sex education varies in different states. In the state of New York sexuality education is not required. If sex education is taught in New York, abstinence must be stressed and all types of contraceptives, including the Pill, Patch, and condoms must be discussed. In New York it is required to teach about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV, and AIDS even if the school practices abstinence. These programs must be age and grade level appropriate.

Schools start sex education as early as 9th grade. Some students know nothing about sex, while others are already sexually active. In an Illinois school district, over 30% of teachers who are teaching sex education have had no previous experience teaching sex education. Some schools skip over sex education completely and chose not to teach it. In one Illinois school, the boys and girls were separated; boys were taught one semester, and the girls the following. Some parents rely heavily on schools to teach about sex, while others want to keep their children sheltered.

The United States has the highest rate of teen birth compared to any other country; the Netherlands and Finland have the lowest rates. These countries teach comprehensive and well-established sex education programs. Based on this information it seems that teaching sex education affords children the opportunity to develop well informed attitudes and views about sex and sexuality.

As a parent of two children (Kristina), a 15 year old boy and a 12 year old girl, I think first and foremost, it is important to establish an open and honest relationship with your children. Secondly, I feel that schools should have a sex education program and deliver the curriculum in a way that gets parents involved. There are so many sources that children retrieve information from especially today with all the advances in technology. Therefore, it is vital that the information they are exposed to is factual and allows them to make well informed decisions.

I am also a parent of two children.  My son’s are six and one (Michelle).  I agree that as parents we need to have open conversations at an early age. I experienced this first hand. I received a phone call from my son’s school teacher, she told me during a read aloud in the library he shouted out “Sex.”  He was then escorted out of the library by two very upset teachers. Clearly he did not know what that meant. So when he arrived home he did not understand why he was in trouble.  As a mother I was very upset over the way this situation was handled. There was no explanation to why he was removed. It made him more curious. I had to explain in an uncomplicated manner.  This is what I said, “Is the sex of the dog a girl or a boy?”  Is appropriate but, if you say “That girl is sexy, that is not so appropriate.”  He was satisfied with that answer. I asked him where he heard that word he said on the bus with 5th graders. He than began to tell me the other language he has learned. I had to go over a list of words he should not say anywhere with my six year old.   Therefore, it is vital that comprehension to this subject is necessary at an early age whether it is by school or parent, a choice should be made.

Do you think teaching sex education leads to teens becoming sexually active? Do you think it should be mandatory to teach sex education in schools? So what is your take on sex in schools?

Jayson, S. (2008). How the U.S. Compares In Teaching Teens About Sex. USA Today.

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16 responses to “Sex Education-To Teach or Not To Teach?

  1. The subject of sex education is one that is a very touchy subject for many individuals. I know that at my high school we had only one third of a course for one year dedicated to sex ed. In this course all we learned was that if you have sex without a condom you will get a disease which will probably kill you. Another thing that was stressed was that many females are allergic to condoms so its better off to just not have sex at all until you are married. Most of my peers and I realized that this was definitely on the extreme side and kind of shrugged it off. But to this day I still have an image of those diseases in my head and its something that I am sure has stayed with many of the students in my class.
    In general I think that there should be more of a comprehensive and realistic sex ed course taught at schools. I think that it is important for the students to understand their bodies and be comfortable approaching adults about the subject. By opening the line of communication it will definitely help the children cope with the stressors which come along with the territory of sex education.

  2. I think that this article raises many interesting points about a widely disputed topic. I have always felt that sex education is an important topic that should be addressed in all schools. Ignorance is definitely not bliss, and whether sex is addressed or not, many students will still be affected by it on a daily basis. So rather than ignore a topic that is prominent in many students’ lives, I believe it is important for students to have the opportunity to obtain accurate and useful knowledge so that they can make more informed decisions about sex and using protection. Additionally, I think that this article raises an important point about parents talking to their kids about sex. Many parents feel that if they don’t discuss sex with their children then the issue doesn’t exist, however we all know that’s not true. Additionally, many parents may feel uncomfortable discussing this topic with their children. That being said, I believe it is extremely important to build a strong sex education program in schools so that this topic does not go unmentioned. As Kristina and Michelle point out, the United States has the highest rate of teen births compared to any other country, clearly something needs to be done in order to rectify this situation. Since countries that enlist comprehensive and well-establish sex education programs appear to have the lowest teen birth rates, I believe it is definitely worth a shot to implement these types of programs in schools in the United States. It is better for students to be informed about sex, protection, and the many diseases associated with sex, so that they can at least make a knowledgeable decision before they do something they can potentially regret later in life.

  3. I believe that sex education is a must! I believe regardless if we decide to talk about it or not students will find curiousity in sex and also be peer pressured to engage in it. If parents and teacher have open discussion and let the studentsknow of the possible outcomes I think it would slow down premature sex and teen preganancy.

  4. I think that teaching sex education is very important solely for the reason that kids will eventually learn about it anyways, so why not put a structured curriculum around it to try and guide the kids, and steer them toward a more knowledge-based approach. If we can try and clear up the many “myths” about sex, especially sexually-transmitted diseases (STD’s), then maybe we might gradually start seeing rates among many sex-related topics begin to decline. Such topics are STD’s, teen pregnancy’s, teen births, teen abortions, etc. TRo answer the question you posed, no, I do not believe it directly lead to kids having sex. I do believe that sex education, however, might lead to kids having more of an interest in the topic, just like any of us would and probably did. I think sex education is certainly one of the more sensitive areas for both adolescents and the teachers teaching the course. I believe more must be done to possibly federalize this topic as a requirement in the states’ schools. If kids are going to be having sex, we might as well provide them the necessary tools to protect themselves (both education and physical tools, like condoms, pill, etc).

  5. Teaching students about sex education shoud be a requirement in every State. Kids need to learn what sexis and what the risks of being sexually active can lead to. I think that sex education is a great way to expose students to pregnancy and stds and help spread awareness on how to prevent ending up in a potentially harmful situation that could impact the rest of their lives. I believe that parents also should play a vital role in sex education. They should be aware about topics that will be covered in school and be encouraged to have an open relationship with students so that they feel comfortable to turn to their parents for guidance on the topic.

  6. I believe that is very important to have sex education as part of the curriculum in schools. I feel that students should be aware of all the risk of having sex at such a young age, and students should be informed on safe sex. Although I think it is also very important for parents to have these discussions with their children, not all parents do. Students need to learn about sex and making it part of a curriculum in school is the best way to inform students. In order to have a successful curriculum I feel that teachers need to be trained in this field. If they are required to teach it, they should have to have some kind of training on how, and what to teach.

  7. Being a health educator i believe very strongly in sex education in all schools beginning in middle school. I understand that some schools have policies and curriculum credentials on whether or not to teach safe sex or abstinence. Personally i think that students need to know it all. Give them all the information out there. They need to be exposed on what consequences will happen if they decide to participate in risky behaviors, sex being an example of a risky behavior. If they do not know ALL the ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases I feel as though they are being neglected on their education.

  8. This is a very sensitive subject. I believe sex education should be a requirment! It’s so important for students to learn about their changing bodies and the consqences that come with having sex. If they aren’t educated propertly in a school enviromenet, chances are they will find out the wrong way and follow what their peers are doing. Children ought to start learning about sex education as early as elementary school.

  9. Great article. I really think sex education is a must! Children are exposed to sex and dating at a much earlier age in today’s world. To avoid risky behavior and stay healthy, we must do our best to promote safe sex. Our schools should take the responsibility of educating our youth. Some parents do not feel comfortable discussing this with their kids. This is why its imperative to teach sex education.

  10. Based on one of the paragraphs in this article I don’t understand how the United States does not mandate sexual education in every school state-wide. The Netherlands and Finland have the lowest rates and it is in these countries that comprehensive sexual education programs are taught. On the other hand, the United States has the HIGHEST birth rate. With the statistics and information perviously stated we can conclude that when sexual education is taught in our schools, students are given the chance to develop informative views on sex and sexuality.

  11. I think that students should learn about sex education and I know it sounds young but I feel these children should learn about it before they hit the age of twelve. In todays society people are loosing their virginity younger and younger it is very scary and maybe if they had the knowledge they would know the risk and know to wait. There are two many pregnant teens today and all these shows on MTV are like permotting this which is horrible these teens are children themselves. How are they supposed to take care of another human being? they should learn and understand what is going on in their body during puberty and they should know about STD and pregnancy maybe this will defer the rise of sex in teens.

  12. I agree that it is ridiculous that sex ed is not mandatory in all schools. Sex is indeed a sensitive topic, but it is pervasive and aggressive, and probably the most talked about subject between students. If students have no direct authority explaining the facts to them, they will end up “learning” from their friends and from the media instead. Their lack of correct information will only confuse them, and perhaps intentionality persuade them to engage in acts whose consequences they know nothing about. If a nationwide curriculum was developed, it could be monitored and controlled, with information being passed on to students at appropriate ages. Introducing students to basic information at a young age, and continually supplementing their knowledge as they grow, will allow them to make informed, educated decisions. This is what we expect from them in all other aspects of their education, so why are we not allowing them a full understanding of such a complex and pervasive topic? Introducing them to the facts about sex will not persuade or dissuade them any more than teaching them the quadratic formula will increase or decrease their mathematic appetite.

  13. I think teaching sex education in school is very important. Students need to know about this as much as they need to know the typical subject matters. There are so many risks and if your not educated about them you can easily fall victim to them. How can you live your full potential if you contract a incurable disease at a young age.

  14. Sex education is important. Ignoring it will only cause people to be naive. I think the curriculum can be modified so its not so “textbook”.
    With music-tv-media-and friends.. Children are learning. And they are learning much faster then the previous generations.
    I think there can be a better approach to teaching students about sex-ed. Connect to them. Make it real. One of my best lessons in high school was carrying around that crying doll. That would make someone want to practice safe sex!
    Not only is it important to talk about all the bad things and the consequences that can happen when two people have sex… but they need to know IF they are going to do it.. How to do it right. Provide hotlines, places to get checked, condoms…. Girls will be girls and boys will be boys….. They are curious little creatures that want to explore.
    If we say no– they will only want to do it more.
    Instead of preaching only the negative about sex— I think we can try to advocate safe sex as well. Some parents may disagree with me very much.
    But the truth is. Most kids are going to do “it” anyway.

  15. While growing up in my family along with my brother and sister my parents made sure we knew about sex education. I feel in todays world between unwanted teenage pregnancys and std’s its crucial that the children of today know abouth the right and wrongs of sex. I do not advocate sex in young teens but im not naive enough to know it isnt going to happen, so before it does lets at least let our childern know the rights and wrongs of sex. I was lucky enough to have parents that explained all the facts the correct way so i didnt have to learn from hearsay arounf the playground. Most of the friends i grew up with were raised by parents that avoided the sex subject and skirted the issue every time a question was asked .This is no longer the 1950’s where sex was considered a taboo subject .This is why i think its the responsibilty of out education system to educated our youth in this matter.Education is part of a preparation of life and what bigger preparation do we have than this.

  16. I think that sex ed should be taught, kids shouldn’t be left unknowing when it comes to sex because if they try and figure it out for themselves and they get pregnant or contract a disease it is because of their lack of knowledge. The school should keep teaching it to keep their students safe and in school. -Sam

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