“Sex is Goooooooodddddddd!” the students chant as they take part in their first day of eighth-grade sex education class. The phrase is often used in the program, and the class opens and closes with it each period.
Ironically, the school’s sex education program, “I Decide,” teaches exactly the opposite. I Decide is a form of abstinence-based sex education – an idea that teaches the best way to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) is to not have sex at all.
Our school isn’t alone; most schools in the United States follow abstinence-based education. This is because it is funded by the US government, which has yet to come up with an alternative.
Now, obviously, if you don’t have sex, you will indeed not contract an STI or become pregnant. However, this is highly unrealistic in a high school setting.
According to the CDC, 40 percent of high school students have had sex. In addition, half of all STI cases are between the ages of 15-24. If nearly half of high schoolers are having sex, and half of STI cases involve young adults, what is the point of preaching abstinence? It is obvious that telling kids not to have sex is not persuading them to abstain.
If the program were graded on the same scale that students’ work is, it would receive a 50-60%. If this isn’t enough to pass an Algebra 1 class, why is it seen as an acceptable form of education?
In order to improve, we must be accepting of change. Unlike some other states, Kansas does not have a law that specifically says we must use abstinence-based education, so the option is ours.
That change is something that the students of Southeast of Saline are ready for. In a recent Trojournal poll, 75 percent of students said they do not believe “Idecide” has effectively prepared them for adulthood. In addition, 70 percent agreed that the school should pursue other methods of sex ed.
One student also felt the program was leaving out crucial information.
“They need to expand on how women’s bodies work and how to track their periods,” one student, who responded anonymously to the Trojournal poll, said.
Another student also noted the stigma behind sex in general.
“You can’t stop teenagers from having sex, so we need to be taught more about how to practice safe sex rather than staying away from it. Maybe focus on the fact that sex is a normal, healthy thing and fully educate us on the subject rather than just telling us not to do it until later and that it’s bad; because it isn’t.”
A common phrase in “I Decide” is to have it at “the right time, with the right person, and for the right reasons.” Although this is a valuable philosophy, Idecide is commonly taught by members from churches, whose idea of the “right time, person, and reason” is respectable but vastly different from that of a teenager experiencing hormones.
Taking these hormones into account, it makes more sense to instead teach about what you should do if or when the situation arrives. This is something Idecide severely lacks.
In the current curriculum, students are not taught much about obtaining contraception, or even how to use it. This leads to troubling statistics.
Of that prior 40 percent of students who have had sex, 46 percent of them said they had not used contraception. Although using it seems like a relatively simple task, how can we blame them for not doing so? The negative stigma around sex is ingrained in them from these classes at a young age, so it is only reasonable that they feel shameful, embarrassed, or even guilty buying contraception in public.
Taking all of this into account, it is painfully obvious that abstinence-based sex education lacks the tools and information needed to successfully educate teens on how to deal with sex. With changing the approach, stigma, and knowledge of what to do in situations, our school – along with countless others – could produce more knowledgeable, confident, and experienced students in the area of sex education.