Same subject, different approaches
The birds and the bees. The Talk. No matter what people call it, sex education is a crucial part of the health course students should have and have taken throughout middle and high school. Although sex education has become almost prevalently taught in public schools across America, not all students are receiving accurate and beneficial information that will have an impact on their choices in the future.
There are two main approaches schools apply in their health classes: comprehensive and abstinence-only. Comprehensive sex education includes teachings on relationships, contraception and disease prevention while the latter solely focuses on refraining from intercourse until marriage. Both forms of instruction are designed to educate students and caution them against potential risks of sex but in reality, the abstinence-only approach is ineffective and poses a greater threat to teenagers.
According to an 11 state-based evaluation by Advocates for Youth, abstinence-only strategies “showed little evidence of sustained (long-term) impact on attitudes and intentions” of adolescents. In addition, much of the information instilled through this program tends to be distorted, inaccurate and even blurred on the line between religion and scientific fact. By explicitly centering on chastity, schools are not directly tackling the need for sex education but rather brushing the problem aside. The oftentimes skewed abstinent way of schooling leaves room for misinterpretation.
At Walnut High, Health is a required course for graduation, which students can choose to take during the school year or online during the summer.
Although students should be learning similar concepts in either health class, the truth is that the in-seat course forces students to focus on sex education when it is taught while the online course allows students to skip right over content. These two classes, though both intended to provide the same type of guidance, are unequal in their approaches.
By applying the abstinence-only method, the online course is not effectively teaching students about the dangers and potential consequences of sex. Encouraging abstinence may be temporarily successful in curbing youth from early sexual activities, but later on, they will not have the necessary knowledge to protect themselves and their partners.
It’s only natural for people, especially adolescents, to be interested in the birds and the bees, but when they don’t receive proper education, they have a higher chance of putting themselves at risk for unintended pregnancies or contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Teenagers who don’t understand the realities of intercourse are not fully prepared for the consequences of their actions.
As a required course, Health should seek to fully inform students. Comprehensive sex education, clearly the more informative and effective method, needs to be adopted by both types of classes. As a result, youth will have a better understanding of sex and all its aspects, including relationships, diseases and birth control.
When students don’t get the proper or more valuable method of sex education, they are losing out on important concepts they should know before entering the real world. Only by broadening their teachings to include contraception, diseases and pregnancies will schools be able to really prepare youths for the future.
By Sabrina Wan, Opinion editor