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Many good points made from various points in the whole spectrum of possible viewpoints! All of which contributes to illustrating the basic premise that there is no one right answer that will fit all high school students or all high school teachers or all parents of high schoolers.
Personally, I wouldn't put any weight in anything Rush said. I also would agree with those who have said that high schoolers, in the midst of dealing with raging hormones and the invincibility of that age, will not conciously think "Since I have a condom, it's OK - if I didn't have a condom, I would abstain." If the circumstances are "right" (whatever that might mean for any particular individual or group of kids), sex is goiong to happen.
A rational, reasonable education regarding potential outcomes of engaging in sexual activity, preferably (in my opinion) delivered by caring parents in teachable moments starting long before consideration of "doing it" becomes an issue, seems to me to be the most likely method of encouraging teens to stop and think. Realizing that many parents don't or won't have those conversations, those of us in education get involved in another subject that has been added to the curriculum in recent years. Inclusion of the fact that a method of preventing STDs and pregnancy is being made available, without making it an attraction or a punitive threat, seems to me a reasonable part of that discussion.
larrygates and brettd share many of my concerns/opinions. I certainly don't think there needs to be a parade, or a school-wide announcement of "free condoms", as I think that plays into the levels of immaturity being discussed by all posters. However, having just finished my 6th year of teaching, I am SHOCKED by the level of sexual activity occurring. It seems to cross class, race, and "clique" divides as well. I graduated from high school in 2001, & maybe I was way out of the loop (I was a big nerd), but the level of sexual activity and sexual awareness seems to have skyrocketed.
I have had several pregnant students, and they all said that not having contraception was not a concern for them at the time. However, they said that if they had a condom, they would have used it. I don't know if that's true or not, of course, but I can't see how having access to condoms would hurt in situations where the students are determined to have sex no matter what. If they had an adult (their counselor, maybe?) who could confidentially direct them to birth control access, we may see fewer pregnancies and lower STD rates.
I don't think any school is just passing out condoms to every class, or has a free condom table out at lunch, or anything like that. In my experience, it's a quiet service, which students can utilize if they choose to do so.
This kind of thinking makes me crazy. It is simply denial run amok. Students are and will be sexually active in high school and sometimes even earlier, whether Rush Limbaugh or American adults like it or not. Their behavior is the product many times, unfortunately, of their raging hormones and poor judgment.
While the vast majority of them are neither responsible enough, nor emotionally ready, for such an intimate commitment, this does not stop them. Nor does the fear of pregnancy, or STDs. Like many of us did, they feel invincible at that age.
I cannot imagine the teens I teach saying to themselves or their date, "I would have sex this very moment, but I don't have a condom, so I guess I should wait." Nor would they say "They gave me a condom in school today, so despite my moral misgivings, I must use it as soon as possible!"
What Rush misunderstands (or simply states, knowing it will inflame his listeners and make him money, whether he believes it or not), is that young people make the decision to become sexually active before contraception is even considered. If it's not available, they will engage in activities they feel are "safe" whether they are or not. Or they will have sex with no protection at all.
We owe our young people information, not ultimatums. We owe them respect if we expect them to be respectful. We need to realize that you cannot impose the moral will of a grown adult on a teenager. We teach them right from wrong and hope they choose wisely, but to set them up for unplanned pregnancy and STDs because of moral condemnation of their actions is short-sighted, ineffectual and foolish, in my opinion.
#6 makes an interesting point. I don't necessarily think that handing out condoms by itself will increase sexual activity. Rather, as #5 makes clear, it is the way in which such contraceptives are distributed that can be pointed towards. If a big song and dance is made of this, then it may be that sexual activity will increase as a result. However, if this is done sensitively, then it may not lead to an increase of sexual activity. Teenagers are teenagers and are subject to raging hormones as we have all experienced. Handing out condoms or not is not going to change that.
Rush Limbaugh has been married and divorced three times and has a history of drug addiction. I do not think this qualifies him to be an expert on this topic. It is his opinion that handing out condoms increases teen sexual activity, but I am aware of no reputable study that supports his opinion, and my own anecdotal information certainly does not. In addition to protecting teens from unwanted pregnancy and ruined lives, condoms protect them from the transmission of HIV virus and other sexually transmitted diseases. Even if what he said were true, would it be better to allow those teens who will have sex to die, become diseased, or have their lives ruined by teen pregnancy, or to make condoms available to those who will immediately decide because of this that it's time to have sex?
There is one thing that I truly believe in: Teenagers will not make a big deal of something unless the adult guardian or parent does. If you make a fuss about sex, and make a huge show out of passing out condoms, you may actually be causing a susceptible teenager to think of sex (like Rush argues) as a rite of passage and that the condoms are MEANT to be used.
However- If we take away the "excitement" out of the topic and reasonably explain what sex and its consequences are, there is a higher chance that a teenage audience will still feel curious, but less "challenged" to perform certain activities. I have had a good fortune with my son, who is 14, because he is goofy and often tells me about what they talk about in school as in a joke (which lets me get my nose in what I need to know). Yet, I use those (disturbing) moments as learning opportunities to get inside his brain and send in my message of "sex is not such a big deal when you got other stuff to enjoy. You can still have much more fun than doing that." Maybe communication between parents and children- and not leave it all to the health teacher- is the key to avoid children from making big, silly, mistakes.
If we all waited until we were mature enough (whatever that means) to engage in a sexual relationship, most of us would still be waiting. So I'm not sure that that is really an issue.
I do not think that giving condoms out at school will really cause there to be much more sexual activity among adolescents. I think that technology has made it much easier to get condoms without embarassment. When I was in high school, the idea of picking out condoms and handing them to a cashier was daunting. Nowadays, practically every store has self-check machines that make it so easy for anyone to buy condoms without embarassment. So I don't think that giving them out at school will make things that much easier.
I agree with clairewait that most teenagers lack the maturity neceesary for healthy sexual relationships. That being said, I'm not sure that making condoms available encourages them to be more sexually active. Teenagers are dealing with hormonal pressures that they neither understand nor can control, and the presence or absence of birth control devices is hardly a factor. At my own high school a disturbingly large number of young ladies are pregnant, some in the ninth grade. A substantial number have children at home, some more than one. The stigma of teenage pregnancies that once existed is no longer there; yet they are about to experience parenthood at a time when they are woefully unprepared for it.
Making condoms available at schools seems inappropriate on the surface; yet we need to be realistic. Teenagers are and will experiment with sex, often with disastrous consequences. We can educate them and warn them about the dangers of teenage pregnancy and STD's; but we must also be prepared to face the consequences if they do not listen--as teenagers are prone to do. Making condoms available will not make them more prone to sexual activity; in fact it is doubtful that they can be made more prone. It also is not condoning their activity. It is rather preventing a greater tragedy that can have longer lasting consequences. They will eventually grow up and see the folly of their teenage years; we should do all we can to make sure they do not do permanent harm to themselves.
Speaking merely from experience and observation and not by any scientific analysis or research, I disagree. As a high school teacher now and a former high school student myself, I am of the firm opinion that teenagers who are sexually active make that choice independently from the availability of birth control. I also believe that adolescents are more susceptible to peer pressure than anything else when it comes to social decisions.
That said, I do disagree with the distribution of condoms in high schools. I am personally of a more conservative background and I firmly believe that most teenagers (and dare I say all American high school students) lack the maturity necessary for healthy sexual relationships. I think making condoms available simply sends a message of tolerance and acceptance rather than fighting to educate kids about the consequences and risks of sexual behavior at a young age. I do not believe it encourages more sexual activity, but it definitely discourages more communication about a topic which is already difficult to broach.
Whether your is for an informal class discussion or a more formal written response, I highly encourage you (as your professor has done) to consider the opinions presented here but also think about your own opinion on the topic. Think about your initial reaction to Limbaugh's original article and explore why you reacted the way you did. Also, follow the link below for a related article.
This is a huge topic in most high schools. Speaking from a teenager's point of view, handing out condoms in high school, will not encourage teens to have sex. Teens are going to have sex if they want to. There's no getting around that. By handing out condoms in high school, you are giving teens a way to be safe about it. A lot of teens don't know where to go to get condoms, or feel awkward buting them or asking their parents to help. So, they don't use them. This is extremely dangerous; this increases the risks for disease and unwanted pregancy. Something older people don't get: if teens don't want to have sex, the availability of condoms won't change that. The availability will only ensure that when teens do have sex, and if they want to they will, that they will be safe about it. So, i say, go for it. Put condoms in high schools. It can only lead to safer sex.
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