According to Planned Parenthood, Americans want more sex education; poll results show that 93 percent of parents support having sex education taught in middle school. Sex education is also supported by a number of medical organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Natalie Blanton from the University of Utah wrote in an article for scholars.org that “The best way to help adolescents make responsible decisions about their sexual activity and health is to give them comprehensive sex education.”
Yet Planned Parenthood also records that only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex and HIV education, noting that a 2014 CDC School Health Profiles found that “fewer than half of high schools and only a fifth of middle schools teach all 16 topics recommended by the DC as essential component of sex education.” Planned Parenthood alarmingly states that through 2011-2013, 43 percent of adolescent females and 57 percent of adolescent males did not receive information about birth control before they had sex for the first time. There is clearly a huge difference between what Americans want in their sexual education and what Americans receive in school.
I myself have never taken a sex education course. I graduated from a private Christian school in Mobile, Ala., and when my anatomy professor-who was also our baseball coach-came across the chapter in our book about the reproductive system, we skipped it entirely. My experience may seem unique due to attending a private rather than public school, but every public school graduate I’ve ever met has called their sex education a joke. Some have told me that the class wasn’t a requirement, and the class itself consisted of sports coaches directing them to complete work on an interactive website. There were no class discussions, class demonstrations, field trips, or a comprehensive curriculum.
Comprehensive sex education must be a priority of legislators and policy makers. Sexual assault and violence will persist so long as adolescents and young adults are left to their own devices when approaching sexual activity. Adolescents must be taught to know the signs of sexual predators and how to report a sexual assault once it has occurred. They must be made aware of the resources available to them regarding sexual health and sexual assault.
Ignorance promotes confusion and harm towards our fellow human beings. Education promotes understanding and respect towards each other. We must advocate for comprehensive sex education for the mental and physical wellbeing of future Americans.