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Putting the education into sex education

By Marissa Loranger
On March 31, 2014

Should we be using fear and negative messages to children? In some states, we are. Abstinence-only education is teaching young people that their value as a person is connected to whether or not they have been sexually active. It shows the worst possible cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) to scare teens from having premarital sex, and also teaches that contraception and condoms are ineffective.

Advocates for Youth explain that abstinence-only programs in school start off with a slideshow of the worst-seen cases of STIs. When they have finished, they tell you that if you have pre-marital sex, you will get STIs. They tell you that you will have deep psychological damage if you have sex before marriage. They tell you about how using protection during sex doesn’t work.

Abstinence-only programs are teaching the wrong approach in a world where STIs and teen pregnancy rates are rising. Education Digest states, “The CDC (Center for Disease Control) finds 50% of high school students have had sexual intercourse, a rate virtually unchanged since the study began in 1990.” So, after 24 years of trying and failing with this course of action, it is time to switch to comprehensive sexual education.

It is important that we teach future generations how to have safe and protected sex. When abstinence-only programs teach that condoms and contraception don’t work, they are not stopping people from having sex, they are stopping people from using protection.

SIECUS found that over 70% of teenagers will not use any form of contraception their first time. It’s a big problem that people aren’t using protection, especially when one is 10,000 times safer from contracting HIV and AIDS when using condoms. With six out of ten young people infected, not using protection makes you a high risk for becoming infected.

Amanda Peterson Beadle from Think Progressive explains that Mississippi teaches abstinence-only and it has the highest teen birth rate at 55 births per 1,000 girls. States that teach comprehensive sex education have a 60% lower rate of teen pregnancy.

Comprehensive sexual education teaches teens that sex is a normal part of life. It teaches that abstinence is the only way to prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancies. They give actual education and statistics. They give teens information on relationships, sexual expression, sexual health and how to deal with society and cultural pressures. They give real information on abortions, masturbation and sexual orientation. How to use contraception and condoms is taught so people know how to use them in the real world.

In Michigan we support abstinence-only education in our schools. Although Michigan supports it, Michigan does not require sexual education in school. However, Michigan schools are required to teach about STIs and HIV/AIDS while talking strongly about abstinence until marriage. 12

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