As Jon Oliver so eloquently noted in his satirical piece on the state of sex ed in the United States, “there is no way that we’d allow any other academic program to consistently fail to prepare students for life after school, and human sexuality, unlike calculus, is something you actually need to know about for the rest of your life.”
A lot is learned in today’s classrooms. Math, Science, Language Arts, History… While most will agree that these subjects and others are all very important components of a comprehensive education, there is something missing. Children are graduating from high school without the information they need to be healthy. As a matter of fact, so many of our youth today are so ill-informed about the basics of sexual body parts, reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases that an obstetrics and gynecology professor at Chicago’s Northwestern University School of Medicine recently launched a new program, aptly titled Sex 101, that targets incoming freshmen.
Sexuality education is a divisive issue. School officials think that parents don’t want school-based sexual health programs while policymakers think that Texans want an abstinence-based approach. Both offer an inaccurate portrayal of the facts. More than 20 years of surveys at the local, state and national level actually show that 80 to 85 percent of parents indicate they want their children to receive comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate sex education.
So, what’s the problem? Parents want it; kids need it. Why aren’t we doing it?
The one thing we should be able to agree on is that a college freshman should know the basics when it comes to sex ed. Sadly, many of them don’t, particularly in Texas where 3.7 million students attend schools where they will not encounter even the most basic information about how to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
Believe it or not, teens are having sex. Teaching them about their bodies and giving them medically accurate, age appropriate information on the best ways to stay healthy is a win win for us all. Dr. Woodruff, the medical professor who developed the Sex 101 course, summed it up best when she said, “Having sex is not the same as knowing how it all works.” Teaching kids “how it all works” is a good start; unfortunately teaching sex ed in Texas schools is optional.
If you want to test your own sex ed IQ, the course is available on Coursera, an online education platform that partners with universities to offer courses to the public.
By: Melanie Chasteen, Director of Communications, Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy