What Kind of Sex Ed Do the KIDS Want?
conflict over sex education in schools doesn't seem to have any hope of a
solution any time soon. On one hand, you have parents who want their children
to be like Pilgrims - totally sexless until marriage - and on the other hand,
you have parents, and a lot of educators, who think it is fine to enable kids
to be promiscuous and open themselves up to a world of hurt, both emotionally
and medically. How can we ever hope to bring these two extremes to a compromise
that we can all live with?
Well, why don't we ask
the KIDS what kind of sex education THEY would like to have? Because guess
what? They don't like those two extremes, either.
In a review of studies
and surveys that purport to support abstinence-ONLY sex education or what's
called "comprehensive" sex ed because it veers into R- and sometimes X-rated
material, a Manhattan Institute scholar concluded that students don't appear to
like either approach, and would prefer something more in the middle.
education promises pleasure, but abstinence education pushes honor - and a
surprising number of kids seem interested in buying," Kay Hymowitz concluded.
education is at the center of the sex ed curriculum - the idea that abstaining
from sex is the only way to avoid the physical and emotional damage that can
occur with casual sex - the message gets across the best of all styles of sex
One survey of 1,000
teenage girls conducted by the National Abstinence Education Association
concluded that the No. 1 thing girls want to know in the realm of sex ed is
"how to say no." When they are in a "comprehensive sex ed" classroom in which
the assumption is that all the kids are going to be sexually active, past,
present and future, it is very difficult for a girl to maintain the ego
strength that it takes to buck the system, including the teacher, and assert in
class that she is going to remain a virgin.
And students who want to
make the "honorable" lifestyle choices are served better when the more
controversial parts of the sex ed curricula are taught respectfully,
professionally and with sensitivity. Stunts like pulling a condom over a
banana, in the guise of teaching kids about contraceptives, are so coarse and
embarrassing that they are counter-productive, though students do want
information about contraceptives as part of their sex ed course work.
A study conducted by the
Institute for Research and Evaluation of Virginia teens who received abstinence
education found that they are half as likely to initiate sexual activities as
students who did not receive this education.
destructive polarity that has evolved between proponents of abstinence-only sex
education, and those who think kids should be taught everything in a no-holds-barred
atmosphere, including sex positions and how to put on a condom, has created a
real tightrope that educators must walk. Maybe it's time to pay attention to
what the kids want. And increasingly, that seems to be "abstinence PLUS"
means they want to be taught sex ed in an atmosphere in which the adults expect
that they will NOT have sex before or outside marriage, but they still will be
taught, in a respectful way, about contraceptives, sexually-transmited
diseases, pregnancy, abortion and all the other controversial side topics that
often have conservative parents in a tizzy when schools try to tackle those
don't like to feel pressured either way, and they like to make their own
choices, so a professional classroom atmosphere that is both pro-abstinence and
pro-sex is closest to what they want. After the "facts of life" are taught and
the kids are clear on where babies and STD's come from, which should take only
one class period, then the rest of the nine-week course can be spent on the
important work of sex education, which is basically relationships and
approach they like is to put the more embarrassing content online, so that they
can read it and/or view it in private.
parents do on their own to make sex ed a success with their child? Three simple
talking to your child about sex, in age-appropriate language and illustrations,
from early childhood and regularly on through adolescence. It's a false
stereotype that parents only need to have "the talk" ONCE with a child. It
should be an ongoing education process, and the atmosphere should be relaxed
and natural, not stilted or tense, when you talk about this important topic.
education is closely associated with getting to marriage with a minimum of
sex-related problems, probably because religious belief is a great vehicle for
to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University,
children and teens who have two or fewer family meals per week had worse grades
and tended to have more sex and more substance abuse, than their peers. The
optimum is five or more family meals each week. Work with your child's coaches
and friends to try to let your child do all the things he or she wants to do,
and still have that precious family time, too.
out what's in your school's sex ed curriculum, and get involved in changing it
for the better.