Sex education is a topic that is controversial for some people. The idea of teaching children about sex and sexuality in school bothers certain types of parents. There seems to be a belief that children should learn about sex from parents, friends or sources outside of school. Sex education curriculums vary wildly from one state to the next. Some programs are created through local legislation. Others are put together by knowledgeable professionals. The controversy over sex education is not going to stop anytime soon. It appears to just be getting started.
One of the most highly criticized parts of sex education today has to do with abstinence. A number of people today believe that the only thing children should be taught in school is abstinence. This is known as abstinence-only education. The philosophy is that children should be told that not having sex before marriage is the absolute only option available. The course does not talk about many important things such as human anatomy and common contraceptives like condoms. Abstinence-only classes actively avoid those topics leaving students uneducated about the fundamental aspects of human sexuality.
The people who tend to actively promote abstinence-only curriculums are largely Republican lawmakers and religious adults. The common and misguided perception of these individuals is that even speaking about sex or contraceptives is somehow going to cause children to want to have sex. The religious people who oppose sex education seem to have the idea that sex is shameful. Any discussion of sex or human anatomy should be avoided at all costs. The federal government has even helped contribute to this problem by passing out over $10 million in grants to schools that have abstinence-only sex education programs. Unfortunately, the programs are doing more harm than good.
A reality that many people who support abstinence-only programs do not want to face is that it does not work. There is overwhelming evidence from decades of teaching the program that it is harmful. Abstinence-only programs do not decrease the number of sexually active students in an area. It does not reduce teen pregnancy rates. It does not reduce the number of sexually transmitted diseases acquired in a population. The evidence actually shows that abstinence only education is detrimental to teens and young adults. The number of people who support abstinence-only education is slowly declining although it is still a popular subject in certain highly religious states.
The problem is that abstinence-only programs leave students will little to no choices in life. If a teen decides to go against the program and have sex, then that person has basically no understanding about what could happen. The students are not taught about contraceptives, pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases. This puts students at a disadvantage in life. Additionally, the program can be alienating. It often teaches that same-sex relationships are wrong. Some programs attach shame to having premarital sex. This can result in a skewed view of the world that does not line up with reality.
President Obama has finally decided to do something about the problem of abstinence-only educational programs. He recently went through the federal budget and stripped out the $10 million in annual grants that schools might have gotten for implementing abstinence-only programs. This removes the incentive for schools to teach the outdated program. The change is likely to enrage some Conservatives, Republicans and religious leaders. President Obama has been praised by some groups since this small change could open the door to better and more comprehensive sex education in school. The budget change does have to go through the Republican Congress first. The funding might end up being added back in before the budget is approved.