I recently read somewhere (unfortunately I can’t remember exactly where – it may have been an article, a blog or a comment section or some combination thereof) the opinion of a socially conservative Republican on sex education. This particular individual believed that teachers should not be able to share opinions (particularly: favorable views of homosexuality or sex) and “safe” sex should not be taught in schools. They really did put safe in quotes.
While I could go on and on about the effects abstinence-only sex ed has on the sexual behavior of high school students (*cough* none *cough*) or about how great it is to teach students about safe sexual practices, I won’t. All I want to say is: do we not want to teach students the facts?
Put the whole (ridiculous) “teach the controversy” evolution creationism anti-science stuff aside, just briefly. Put the positive vs. negative views of sex aside, briefly. Put all similar issues aside, briefly, and tell me: do we or do we not want to base our educational system off of facts?
STIs and STDs are medically accepted facts. Condom usage decreasing the incidence of STDs/STIs is a medically accepted fact. HIV’s existence and the ways it can be transmitted are medically accepted facts. The rates at which different types of contraception (including natural family planning) prevent pregnancy are medically accepted facts. You do not have to make and share a value judgement about sex to teach medical facts. We teach other medical facts in our schools without controversy – first aid, CPR, how an embryo is formed, how the kidneys work, etc.
Students should learn about the human body. They should learn about sexual organs and their functions because they are part of the human body. They should learn about STIs and STDs because those diseases/infections affect people in their age group, like many mental illnesses that students learn about.
For what it’s worth, I do not recall my sex. ed. teachers giving any sort of opinion on sex. We studied different STIs/STDs, the sexual organs, and the process of ejaculation, ovulation and fertilization. We briefly studied the different forms of contraception and what their purposes were (condoms offer protection against STIs/STDs**** and prevent pregnancy while the birth control pill only prevents pregnancy, etc.). No one ever said, “Sex is good,” or “Sex is bad.”
Most of the arguments that these social conservatives* make are about how teachers shouldn’t be teaching their opinions or values to the students. If this is true, then these people should be in favor of the facts, right? And the facts are everything I mentioned above with the one addition – not having sex, when followed 100% of the time, is the surest way to prevent pregnancy and STIs/STDs. They shouldn’t argue** with the decision to teach facts (especially about which there is no controversy, manufactured or otherwise).***
*I’m specifically talking about social conservatives against sex. ed. (abstinence-only sex ed is an oxymoron so it doesn’t really fall into “sex. ed.”)
**There’s another argument to be had here – that many social conservatives are hypocrites because they say positive views of homosexuality shouldn’t be allowed to be taught in schools, but students should be taught that sex outside of marriage is wrong. In other words, they say the teaching of values they don’t espouse is wrong, but the teaching of their values is fine. Anyway, that’s a topic for another post.
***Some of you may be thinking, “But sex is good, and that’s a fact!” I agree, but I understand that that particular fact is actually controversial since certain religions claim it’s only good between a married couple who are trying to procreate. :p
**** It was pointed out to me in the comments that condoms don’t protect fully against all STDs/STIs, but then I don’t think I claimed that they did. Just clarifying.