Benefits of Teaching Sex Education in Public Schools

Teaching sex education in public schools attracts diverse opinions ranging from supporting opinions, through those supporting abstinence-only education, to opposing arguments. Such arguments have arisen from decades of counterarguments, with widespread support for sex education emerging in the 1960s and reinforced in the 1980s following the outbreak of HIV/AIDs pandemic (Knowles and Planned Parenthood Federation of America [PPFA] 1-6). Subsequently, some opposition to sex education has arisen based on the comprehensive approach to sexuality education in contemporary public schools instead of the abstinence-only approach. Irrespective of the dissent, sex education should be taught in public schools due to its benefits of reducing teenage and unplanned pregnancy, reducing the risk of STDs’ transmission, and building young people’s interpersonal and relationship skills.

Teaching sex education in public schools will help in reducing teenage and unplanned pregnancy. This is best attained through a comprehensive approach rather than an abstinence-only approach. For instance, in the review by Knowles and PPFA, whereas the comprehensive approach to sex education has been shown to reduce sexual risk-taking behavior by teenagers, abstinence-only programs have not been shown to have such effect (1). In addition, effective instruction and evaluation methodologies that entail role play need to be used rather than using standardized tests. As Hamilton, Sanders and Anderman note, students who learn via role play are likely to master strategies to get their way out of situations where they are likely to engage in sexual risk behaviors (38). As such, armed with strategies such as demanding use of condoms or other contraceptives, students who have undergone sex education, and who cannot abstain, may still practice sex and avoid unplanned pregnancy. Additionally, awareness on available contraceptives would help the teenagers make the most appropriate choice to avoid adverse health outcomes in their future lives.

A second benefit of sex education in public schools is that it lowers the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). This arises since the education involves instruction on contraceptives and other precautions needed to avert such contacting such STDs (Knowles and PPFA 4-5). This is implemented through safer-sex programs, which provide students with information on abstinence and various contraceptives for use. Through such information, students who undergo sex education and who engage in premarital sex can make informed decisions to avoid contacting STDs.

A third benefit of sex education in schools is enabling young people to build their relationship and interpersonal skills. As noted in the review by Knowles and PPFA (3), the comprehensive sex education curriculum involves activities that seek to build individual’s self-confidence and self-efficacy. By meeting these goals, the curriculum helps the young people to develop positive attitudes towards relationships and gain the knowledge needed to have productive relationships even after leaving school. Such a foundation could be the ingredient for long lasting, fruitful relationship in adulthood since the students have the skills to commit only to partners who espouse values that align to their own values.

One counter-argument for teaching sex education in public schools has been that such education encourages teenagers to engage in sex at very early stages. Such an argument arises from a perception that sex education would provide information that could lead to students desire to try out sex, for instance with the knowledge that they can have safe sex. However, studies (e.g. Kohler, Manhart and Lafferty 344) evaluating effects of different sex education programs on sexual activity initiation and teenage pregnancy have found out that comprehensive sex education averts early initiation and teenage pregnancy. Such positive effect is however not noted for abstinence-only programs. Similarly, by failing to provide sex education in school where there are appropriately trained educators to guide the programs, teenagers will likely encounter this information elsewhere where they have no one to guide them on appropriate use of such information.

Another counterargument is that sex being a private matter, sex education should remain a responsibility of the parents and not of public schools. Such a perspective however fails to stand to realities of contemporary society. Although parents still have a primary role in guiding their children on sexuality matters, in most cases, not being present at home due to work or other demands may restrict the extent to which parents engage in guiding their children on such matters. Additionally, there is an increasing incidence on single parent families in modern society. In this respect, a parent may not have enough knowhow to guide children of the opposite gender on sexuality matters. In this respect, a school environment where the children interact with their peers and discuss sexuality issues freely would provide a valuable opportunity to instill positive values.

In summary, benefits of sex education in public schools provide the evidence for its entrenchment in education policies. Teaching sex education helps teenagers to gain various skills that help them to avoid risk sexual behaviors. By avoiding such behaviors, the students are able to avoid teenage pregnancy and avoid contacting STDs. Sex education also confers students self-efficacy skills that enable them to engage in fruitful and fulfilling relationships once they leave school. Existing concerns with sex education in schools have been discredited by existing evidence and, as such, mandatory comprehensive sex education in public schools is an idea whose time has come.

Works Cited

Hamilton, Rashea, Megan Sanders and Eric M. Anderman. “The Multiple Choices Of Sex Education: Giving A Quiz Or A Test After Sex Education Courses May Not Be The Best Way To Ensure That Students Use What They’ve Learned In Class To Make Good Decisions After Class.” Phi Delta Kappan 94.5 (2013): 34-39. web. 17 July 2013.

Knowles, Jon and Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Sex Education in the United States. New York, NY: Katharine Dexter McCormick Library, 2012. Web. 16 July 2013. <http://www.ppmarmonte.com/files/PPFA/Sex_Ed_in_the_US.pdf>.

Kohler, Pamela K., Lisa E. Manhart and Willam E. Lafferty. “Abstinence-Only And Comprehensive Sex Education And The Initiation Of Sexual Activity And Teen Pregnancy.” Journal of Adolescent Health 42(2008): 344-351. Web. 17 July 2013.

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