The Harbinger Online

Editorial Issue 10: Sex Education Needs a Revamp

Infographic by Gracie Kost

“Don’t have sex. Because you will get pregnant, and you will die” “Mean Girls” characterized it best – the non-comprehensive sex education plaguing our nation.

While real sex education isn’t this extreme, teens often do hear scare tactics when learning about sex. Many adults are uncomfortable with the idea of teenage sexuality, even though 47 percent of all high schoolers have had sex, according to a 2011 survey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

When the Harbinger sent out a poll to students including questions about sex, parents complained to administrators saying the questions were inappropriate.

If we can’t have discussions about sex, we can’t expect teenagers to practice safe sex.

The system is failing because of an inability to agree nationally on a sex education curriculum that will inform and protect youth from unplanned pregnancy, STDs and more. We need comprehensive sex education that covers more than just abstinence. We need to redefine sex education so students actually benefit from the information.

There is no consistency in sex education in the U.S. Some states teach abstinence alone, while 24, including Kansas don’t even mandate sex education. In Kansas, there isn’t a set curriculum for schools to follow, though every program must stress abstinence, as required by law.

SMSD enforces an abstinence-plus program, meaning abstinence is pushed, but information on HIV and contraception is also included.

At East, many don’t feel their sex education was beneficial. In a poll sent out to predominantly upperclassman group chats, 50 percent of 208 students who took health – both in class and online – didn’t remember learning anything about sex education. Of students who remembered covering sex, only 10.9 percent of online and 24.1 percent of in-class students found the information helpful. The remaining students recorded that the information was only “somewhat” helpful or not helpful at all.

Inadequate sex education isn’t just a Kansas problem — it’s an America problem. Even though the national pregnancy rate is declining, we still have the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The Netherlands’ teen birth rate is five times lower than the U.S.’s. In the Netherlands, comprehensive sex education is taught as early as age four. In fact, sex must be taught in primary school by law. Students don’t just learn about abstinence – they learn about different sexual preferences, birth control and condoms.

Some might think the Netherlands’ early exposure to sex would cause teens to have sex early and often, but according to the World Health Organization, Dutch teens don’t have sex any earlier than other European countries, or the United States. However, 90 percent use contraceptives the first time, compared to the 60 percent of U.S. teens who reported condom use and 23 percent who reported birth control use.

Teenagers are going to have sex, and we need to talk about it in order to prevent unwanted pregnancy and STDs.

Learning about sex at a young age causes the act to be less of an elusive mystery. The Netherlands has one of the lowest teenage pregnancy rates in the world, and according to the World Bank, their rate is five times lower than the U.S.’s.

The teen pregnancy patterns in U.S. states are similar, with comprehensive sex education being connected to lower teen pregnancy rates. As shown by a poll from Guttmacher Institute, four of the six states with the highest teenage birth rates have no mandate requiring sex or HIV education mandate.

To quote the health teacher in “Mean Girls,” “Everyone take some rubbers!”

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The Harbinger Online Staff

The Harbinger is the exclusive student-run news program for Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, KS. Staffed by approximately 60 dedicated super-students and overseen by adviser C. Dow Tate, the print and online publications have won numerous national awards. The Harbinger is published in print every two weeks and its website edition is updated daily. The website edition includes blogs, live video, photo galleries and stories not published in the ... Read Full »

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