The Wacky World of Public School Sex Ed & Why It’s Not Working
Researchers at the University of Bristol (UB) have published a study on the “need for an overhaul” of public school sec and relationship education (SRE).
By looking at how young people in ten countries “viewed their school-based SRE”, the researchers discovered that “students frequently felt vulnerable in SRE lessons, with young women often risking harassment if they participate, and young men anxious to conceal sexual ignorance.”
Forty-eight “qualitative studies on young people’s views of their school-based SRE” were provided by countries such as the US, New Zealand, Canada, the UK, Brazil, Japan, Ireland, Australia, and Sweden.
The study also shows that SREs “can be negative, gendered, and heterosexist, and that having it delivered by their own teachers frequently created problems including embarrassment, lack of anonymity and blurred boundaries.”
Pandora Pound, research fellow for the UB Public Health Research Methodology and Preclinical Evidence Synthesis and lead author of the study, said in a press release : “It is clear from our findings that SRE provision in schools frequently fails to meet the needs of young people. Schools seem to have difficulty accepting some young people are sexually active, which leads to SRE that is out of touch with many young people’s lives.”
According to the study two main issues emerged:
- Schools have failed to recognize the distinctive and challenging nature of SRE, for the most part preferring to approach it in exactly the same way as other subjects
- Schools seem to find it difficult to accept that some of their students are sexually active, leading to content that is out of touch with the reality of many young people’s lives and a consequent failure to discuss issues that are relevant to them
For the US, a major part of the problem revolves around conservative lawmakers who have pushed abstinence-only curriculums into public schools. In fact, “abstinence-only sex education now comprises 23 percent of sex education in the public schools the United States, up from 2 percent of the total in 1988.”
These courses do not cover important topics such as “birth control, abortion, obtaining contraceptive and sexually transmitted diseases services, and sexual orientation.”
Sara Seims, president of the Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) said: “Abstinence messages are very important, but clearly the coverage of contraceptive topics is also crucial in helping our youth prevent unplanned pregnancy and STDs. Our findings are particularly disheartening considering that abstinence accounted for about one-quarter of the recent drop in the U.S. teenage pregnancy rate, while improved contraceptive use was responsible for the rest.”
Christian values think-tank groups like the Heritage Foundation incorrectly claim that abstinence-only programs “have been proven to be effective in reducing early sexual activity”.
However, just last year, the Crane Independent School District in Texas which teaches abstinence-only in SREs was forced to deal with 1 in 15 junior high students having contracted chlamydia – a sexually transmitted disease.
The school “offers a three-day sexual education course once a year that emphasizes abstinence.”
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