It is truly appalling how many students head to college and do not know the first thing about contraception and sexually transmitted infections prevention. These are students, who go to schools like mine, that pride themselves on preparing the future leaders of the world, but do not know what their options are when it comes to contraception or even how their partner's reproductive organs work.The United States has a serious problem when it comes to compulsory comprehensive sexual education in the classroom.
While teen pregnancy rates have dropped overall since the 1990s, the United States still has the highest teen pregnancy rate of developed nations. Most often this is linked to teens having less sex and having better access to contraceptives and information surrounding how to effectively use contraceptives across the board. Over the past decade sexual education programs have become more comprehensive and their effectiveness has increased drastically. Yet, even with the statistics and clear empirical evidence to explain why not utilizing sexual education programs is harmful, there is still no across the board federal mandate for comprehensive sexual education programs in every state.
By comprehensive sexual education programs, I am specifically talking about sexual education programs that offer medically accurate information that covers human development, decision-making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention (including and not limited to information shared about HIV/AIDS). There should also be discussions of consent and sexual orientation included in the curriculum. Today 35 states and the district of Columbia mandate that public schools provide some type of program that covers sexual education and/or HIV and STI prevention. This still isn't enough.
Education is the best way to improve health. Outside of the sexual education debate, we as a nation understand the importance of learning about one's own body in order to make safe and informed decisions. And while I understand those who are against the implementation of sexual education programs, I will posit that their standing is not only empirically flawed but also does not offer good discourse for why comprehensive sexual education should not be implemented.
Most of those against this process call on false arguments stating that talking about sex is akin to a teacher standing in front a classroom encouraging their students to have sex because it's fun and risk-free. This is flawed thinking and very much a slippery slope argument-- in classrooms we teach about genocides, that does not mean we are advocating for our students to go out orchestrate one.
School is the best way to share information that allows young people on their way into adulthood to make well-informed decisions. By teaching purely abstinence only curriculum we are cheating students out of an education they rightfully deserve. Every day they are bombarded with images and messages about sex, couple that with puberty and a spike in hormones, educating students on sex all that that encompasses is not only the right thing to do, but also the smartest.