young voices

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Sex Ed - save a soul, but save the life, too

Remember in middle school when your teacher sent home a note asking your parents' permission to allow you to watch a video? It was no ordinary video, it was the video that disproved your parents' theory about the birds and the bees, the video that showed you what the opposite sex's anatomy looked like and showed you what yours was going to develop into. Most importantly, it was the video that opened up the miraculous world of sex to your young brain.

Of course, I turned bright red when my teacher pulled out a condom and a banana, but if I was to ever be put in a situation that I need to use a condom, I would know exactly how to do it. I also learned about all the different consequences that came with sex. From STD's to pregnancy, Sex Ed opened up a new world for all those who have taken it. Teenage birth rates have been going down steadily for the last decade, and the use of condoms, and other hormonal contraceptives, have all been attributed to that. This is all thanks to Sex Ed.

However, this may all change. President Bush just put forward $200 million dollars towards Sex Ed that only teaches abstinence. What exactly does this mean? It means that today's teenagers will no longer be taught to protect themselves should they decide not to abstain from premarital sex. They will not be educated on how to use a condom or about the different STD's that they could potentially obtain while having sex. All they will be taught is that abstinence is the only true birth control, and teachers will stress the failures of all other birth control methods.

The government and supporters of this type of Sex Ed is completely ignorant to think that teenagers are going to start to abstain from sex just because that is what they are teaching. After many years of society flaunting sex all over the media, teenage sex is not going to stop just because conservatives in the nation would like us to go back to the 50's when we didn't have a lot of teenagers having premarital sex. It is nothing more than wistful thinking. Instead of taking away the only education most teenagers have about sex, we need to incorporate it into more schools.

Even some religiously affiliated schools are taking the initiative to teach Sex Ed that explores all of the possibilities that come with sex. They know that it is important that teens learn to protect themselves should they decide to engage in sexual intercourse. "Keeping it Real" is a program that is spreading throughout the religious community. This program teaches about sex with an abstinence emphasis. Even religious leaders are acknowledging that sex is a growing concern among teens and to just wipe out Sex Ed is a stupid mistake. "So then you have to make a choice. Do you explain and try to get across ... that if you make this decision, there are ways and procedures that we, from the tradition and from your faith, want you to keep in mind to protect yourself and your partner? Or do you go with the alternative?" says Rabbi Richard Address, Director of the Department of Jewish Family Concerns at the URJ. The alternative would be disastrous for all. STD's would go rampant and teen pregnancy will go back up.

A fifteen-year-old's comment to his pastor says it best: "If you want to save my soul, you'll teach me about abstinence. If you want to save my life, you'll teach me how to use a condom."

* Courtney McGarry is a student journalist at Buena Vista University.