Writer advocates for sexual education in high schools in order to eliminate stigma around sex

By Amani Dobson || Contributing Writer

A young girl runs home after school with the feeling of dread sitting comfortably in the pit of her stomach. This morning she had thrown up twice. Her period was late. To her this could only mean one thing. She stopped at the local pharmacy prior to going to her apartment. Scanning the aisles, her eyes finally locked on the object she needed. Before anyone could notice, she grabbed it and shoved it under her jacket. The girl scurried to the register slapped money on the counter and bolted out of the door. Finally she was able to reach the safe haven of her bathroom. She tore the box open, squatted and let her pee hit the stick. Then she waited. After a few minutes, she looked down at the test on the sink and started texting. Tears hit the phone screen as she typed “Babe. We have a problem… I’m pregnant”.

Stories like these were surprisingly common. Especially among teens in the 1950s-1970s. During that time there was an intense push back on sexual education. Highly religious organizations resisted against it, and people questioned if it was acceptable to be teaching children about “raw sex” (Newsweek). Ironically this was also the time of the sexual revolution which resulted in today’s baby boomers. So not only were people having a lot more sex, they were hardly receiving any education on how to do so safely. Taking a look back into that time we can see that an average of 96 out of 1,000 females ages 15 to 19 had given birth (Pew Research Center). 

Those against sexual education would of course argue that the cause for teen pregnancy was not in fact the lack of education but instead was the desire to start a family or to conform to a society that perpetuated family life. While it is impossible to directly link two things in that manner. It is evident that there is a clear correlation between the amount of sexual education provided in schools and the number of teen pregnancies. In New Jersey, for example, the sexual education in schools is seen to be one of the most progressive. It is medically accurate and is required to be free of biases (The 74million). From 2004-2010, 24 women out of 1000 aged 15-19 gave birth. Compared to the 96 out of 1000 during a time when there was little to no sexual education, 24 seems to be a drastic difference. Overall, sexual education has become a requirement in a total of 24 states, an improvement from the past few years due to the #MeToo movement (The 74million). Teen pregnancy has also dropped to a national average of 17.4 out of 1,000 births from girls aged 15 to 19 (Pew Research Center). 

However, do not be fooled. Just because fewer teenagers are getting pregnant does not mean that sexual education reform should stop. As stated prior, only 24 out of our 50 states are mandated to teach sexual education in public schools. Out of that 24 only 10 states require the information taught to be medically accurate. The range of topics taught in these few classes are slim because many teenagers report that the information given to them was basic (Planned Parenthood). Speaking from experience, high school sexual education is often lectured, and students have abstinence almost forced upon them by the instructor of the class. Not only does this shield children from deeper understandings surrounding sex, it hinders them from making smart choices about it. To be quite honest, many teenagers experiment with sexual activity in high school. Instead of trying to shield their innocence, they need to be equipped with information that can help them.

The stigma around sex needs to be eliminated so that children in middle school and high school can see that if they decide to try having sex, they can be open about it with parents or other trusted adults, know what to use to be safe, and be aware of the dangers that they should avoid. In striving to do this, schools will be more likely to protect young children than if they continue to attempt to shelter them. 

First-year Amani Dobson is a Contributing Writer. Her email is adobson@fandm.edu

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