Should abstinence-only sex education in schools continue?Sexual Education in schools has long been controversial. In recent years, many states have elected to teach “abstinence-only” programs,...

Should abstinence-only sex education in schools continue?

Sexual Education in schools has long been controversial. In recent years, many states have elected to teach “abstinence-only” programs, which say teens should never have sex, but wait until they are older and/or married. Despite these programs, teen pregnancy rates have been edging upwards after several years of decline. Given these statistics, should abstinence-only programs continue?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sex education in the United States differs widely from state to state.  Today, there are two different types of sex education classes: Comprehensive Sexuality Education or Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs.  There are strong proponents for both which represent two completely different schools of thought.

The belief of the Comprehensive programs is that the more informed a teenager is about his sexuality and the problems he might face with an active sex life, the better choices he will make.  These programs begin in kindergarten and continue through high school.   Age appropriate topics are emphasized.  On the high school level, topics might included safe sex, STDs, contraceptives, masturbation, and body image.

In 1996, President Clinton included in a welfare act, the Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Program. This program would be federally funded if the class followed the curriculum provided.   These are some of  the basic tenets: 

Its exclusive purpose, teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity;

Abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage is the expected standard for all school age children;

Young people need to know how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increases vulnerability to sexual advances;

Bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child's parents, and society.

Which of these approaches is the most successful? Many studies are being completed showing the results of these classes. 

The University of Washington in Seattle found that teenagers who received some type of comprehensive sex education were 60% less likely to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant.

Those states which do not have any sex education classes have the highest rankings of teen pregnancies.  A study in 2007 by the federal government indicated that "abstinence-only programs had no impact on whether a student had sex or not."

As in many controversies,  a combination of the two programs would seem most logical.  According to Benjamin Franklin, "An investment in knowledge pays the best dividends." Reforming and investing in the curriculum and combining principles would probably best serve our adolescents.  Teenagers should know the problems they would encounter with having sex too soon, but they should also know what to do when the hormones take over.  Parental involvement, as always, is key to the success of any program.  It is imperative that the parent knows what is being taught in order to reinforce or buffer some of the information.  John Kennedy believed in this philosophy:

The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth.

http://thinkprogress.rg/health/2012/04/10/461402/teen-pregnancy-sex- education/?mobile=nc

dftbap eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of course, abstinence-only courses should be taught, along with other means of keeping our youth safe. Theoretically abstinence-only is a wonderful concept.  In reality, it pans out to be about as effective as the "Just Say No" program with drugs.

It also depends on whom is teaching the course and the goals of the particular program.  The creators of the curriculum must decide if they are trying to reduce the statistics of sexual disease, the rate of teenage pregnancy, or pushing a moral agenda of abstinence. Different teaching techniques would be more successful in each of these areas and with different populations.

Abstinence-only is the way to assure no diseases, pregnancy, and meeting moral guidelines of some faiths and cultures.  However, statistically using the abstinence only technique is not proving to be successful in the goal it is attempting to achieve.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I disagree with abstinence-only programs in schools. I know that students are having sex at earlier and earlier ages (per my daughter). I do not think that teaching to abstain is smart. Instead, I think that safe sex practices need to be taught. Some students will have sex regardless of how many times they have been told not to. It is far more important to teach them how to protect themselves.

Again, parents are very important here. Like making good choices about anything, parents are the initial step at trying to insure our children are making good decisions.

One last point is that some students look at abstinence as not having actual intercourse. This allows them to think that oral sex and other practices are okay (they were not told not to). These other sex practices can be just as deadly and infectious as intercourse itself. Why not teach them about being safe on all avenues?

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I dislike the idea of kids being taught that abstinence is the only choice.  I believe that they should know about ways to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs in the event that they do become sexually active.  However, I have no serious problem with abstinence-only programs.  The schools system and the government cannot and should not be the main source of sex ed for our kids.  It is the responsibility of the parents to teach the sexual values and the sexual information they want their kids to have.  I, for example, don't really care what my kids are taught at school.  I am and will be teaching them what I believe.  

So, I don't like abstinence-only education, but it is my responsibility to teach my kids about sex.  Therefore, I don't really care that much what the kids are told at school.

pacorz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There's no point in abstinence-only education. Teenagers are not going to comply with that idea any more than they are going to drive slowly and not text while driving. Moreover, schools - public schools, at least -  are not supposed to teach morality. Either teach all forms of family planning, or none. If the parents and administration think that it's the school's job to teach family planning, then do it all, and do it fairly. If the school is going to avoid teaching about family planning, then avoid it altogether.


trophyhunter1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I disagree with an abstinence-only program in the schools. I have taught for 31 years and some students will have sex regardless of what they are taught. Therefore, it would be irresponsible to only present an abstinence viewpoint. Safe sex practices as well as birth control methods must be taught, or the burden on the healthcare system will increase due to unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. If students are presented with all the facts, they will hopefully make the right decisions for themselves.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's okay not to teach other forms of contraception in school. As a parent, I would prefer that such things be left up to me to decide. Schools are not there to teach children how to have sex, although it's fine for them to teach reproduction from a biological point of view.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No.  Abstinence-only education is a horrible idea.  Kids need to get the real facts.  You cannot control their behavior.  Kids think using only the pleasure center of their brains.  They will do what they will do.  They might as well be safe.