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Abstinence Only vs. Comprehensive Sex Education. Which is the best?

Sex Education is something that should be taught to everyone. States require that students take Health and Physical Education as requirements to graduate. With that being said, it’s obvious the Sex education experience each student has will be different because it’s taught by different teachers.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, most states have now adopted laws governing STD and sex education:

  • 20 states and the District of Columbia require that both sex education and HIV/STD education be provided.
  • When providing sex education and/or HIV/STD education, 37 states and the District of Columbia insist that school districts either notify parents (22), require parental consent (2), or allow parents to remove their children from instruction (35).

Additionally, when sex education is being taught in school:

  • 37 states require abstinence information be provided (26 states want it stressed whereas 11 states only require that it is covered).
  • 18 states and the District of Columbia require that birth control information is taught.
  • Sex education discussions should include information about skills for avoiding being pressured into having sex (20 states and DC); on making healthy decisions around sexuality (20 states); and instruction on how to talk to family members, especially parents, about sex (11 states).
  • 13 states require the inclusion of information on the negative outcomes of teen sex and pregnancy.

There has been an ongoing debate on the way Sex Education should be taught. There are two methods to teach it: Comprehensive Sex Education and Abstinence-Only Education. The first method promotes abstinence while still including teaching and instruction on the available contraceptive methods, methods or devices serving to prevent pregnancy. The latter solely promotes sexual abstinence and does not admit the fact that many teens will become sexually active or are already sexually active.

In PGCPS, health teachers are instructed to teach both perspectives.

“The students would learn abstinence and the common contraceptives, we have to teach the students both so they will know.“ said Heath Teacher Dr. Edwards.

There are many advantages and disadvantages to each method. The issue is that teachers can not allow their personal biases to affect the way they teach, they must teach what will be the best for the students.

Comprehensive Sex Education explores reasons and meanings involved in having sex, based the from the idea that many teenagers will become sexually active, and also includes discussions about contraception(ways to prevent pregnancy), condom use, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV.

According to Very Well Health, Abstinence-Only Sex Education includes discussions of morals, values, character building, and, sometimes, “how to say no” skills. It does not include teachings about contraception or condom use, nor include conversations about abortion, and usually introduce the topics of STDs and HIV only as reasons why teens should remain abstinent.

“In my health class my teacher Dr. Edwards talked about abstinence and how that’s the best way to be safe but she still included topics like how to put on a condom,” said sophomore Wunmi Hassan.

The argument against Comprehensive Sex Education is that by providing information about contraception and condom use it will encourage adolescents to start having sex earlier, or even more often.

However, according to The Advocates For Youth, research has found that Comprehensive Sex Education programs are the only ones that show results. Teens exposed to this type of Sex Education delay having sex, usually have fewer sexual partners and are more likely to use birth control if having sex.

The premise that teaching Abstinence-Only Education can lower teenage sexual activity is not quite true. Further research by The Advocates For Youth says teens exposed only to abstinence education are more likely to have misconceptions about condoms and condom use and are just as likely as teenagers who have had no sex education — not even abstinence-only to have sex, have the same number of partners, and to have unprotected sex.
According to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 64 percent of teens indicated that they desired more information about both contraception and abstinence and 76 percent of parents had the same wish for their teens.

“I think students should be informed on how to protect themselves while having sex and not be taught completely not to have sex because some people’s parents do not inform students about it,” said Hassan. “[This] means they do not get informed at all [and] the only way they will learn is from school,” said Hassan.

Some students may find that growing up in a Christian household, taught them that sex was only for Married Couples but my parents never allowed religion to cloud their parental skills. They still told me how to protect myself and the reality of being sexually active. They valued my well-being over the religious views we were taught.

The consequence of parents not informing their students can be drastic, ranging from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

“I have one student in my class who is expecting and she says she wishes she would’ve been provided information about the different birth controls.” said Dr. Edwards

By going with Comprehensive Sex Education versus Abstinence-Only Sex Education, the students are able to form their own individual values in regards to their sexuality without being brainwashed to believe sex is a bad thing and should be completely avoided unless of course it’s unprotected sex.

“It does do a disadvantage to students when they are not provided with a lot of information. You know knowledge is power, they may not need that knowledge right then and there at that moment, but in the future, they will be able to use it.” concluded Dr. Edwards

It cannot be forgotten that these teenagers are only teenagers which means they will be faced with all kinds of hormones and pressure. It cannot be expected that they will completely abstain from sexual activities even if abstinence is stressed. With that being said, teens should be provided with information about contraception and be informed of where they can seek health services as well as the idea of abstinence in their health class.

For more information regarding what President Trump intends on doing with sex education, click here