Sexual Education & What Teens Are Learning | Rock & Art

Sexual Education & What Teens Are Learning

Proper sexual education in schools is crucial for understanding more than just sex and correct condom use. It’s a valuable curriculum necessary for young teens to grasp the intricacies of gender identity, reproductive activity/pregnancy, anatomy, consent, and contractible diseases.

Important topics that should be discussed educationally and factually include CSE (Comprehensive Sexual Education), AOE (Abstinence-Only Education), and APE (Abstinence-Plus Education) as the three main types of sex ed curricula. While all curricula are educational, CSE has proven to be more effective in reducing teen pregnancy and the incidence of contracted STDs or STIs in the US.

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AOE and APE are less effective than CSE because they do not teach the dangers in the same way. AOE programmes focus more on waiting to have sex for moral or religious reasons and normally lack discussion about diseases or reproductive health.

APE is very similar to AOE as it still revolves around the idea of waiting until marriage but includes information about contraception and sexual health. Regardless of which curriculum is discussed in schools as the main sexual education programme, there should be a general list of topics covered to ensure that all students benefit from proper sexual education. This is easier said than done, as sexual education and what teens “should” be taught can be religious and/or culturally specific.

Comprehensive Sexual Education (CSE): The Preferred Curriculum for Schools

In public and private school programmes, CSE is regarded as a better and more factual curriculum for sex ed. This is because CSE covers all the bases of what a young adult should know about themselves, relationships, behaviours, reproduction, and sex itself.

CSE has proven to be more effective in warning teens about the dangers of unprotected sex and risky behaviours. Because of the reality presented in CSE programmes, young adults understand what to expect. It should go without saying that CSE provides age-appropriate factual information for young adults. However, its competitor AOE has been shown to lack factual details and evidence about sex, diseases, reproduction, and behaviours due to its strong and sole emphasis on abstinence.

This curriculum, in addition to not providing enough factual sexual information, can do a disservice because it does not teach the warnings or dangers of sex but instead promotes abstinence or waiting until marriage.

Naturally, not having sex would prevent an STD or STI, and pregnancy. However, it is unrealistic to think every student learning from the curriculum is actively practising abstinence. AOE is commonly favoured because sexual behaviours themselves are shown to be harmful, and its supporters commonly use statistics showing the correlation between mental health struggles and young adults engaging in sexual activity.

AOE is always more favoured by parents because it does not condone sexual behaviours in minors and supports what is healthy both physically and mentally for their age. For some parents, this works well because it aligns with their beliefs and helps their children understand that sex should be avoided due to dangers such as diseases and emotional struggles.

While AOE is mostly religious, with some of its sibling programmes discussing sexual health topics, it is better than CSE for certain families or cultural groups and communities in America that believe in sex after marriage or, at a minimum, sex after the age of 18.

The same can be said for CSE in that it prepares young adults for adulthood and for teens whose beliefs do not align with the religious aspect of AOE. However, the harsh reality of interpersonal relationships and responsibility needs to be taught so teens are aware and know what to do if they decide to practise abstinence or not.

The Historical Context and Funding of Sex Ed Programmes

Why is there such discourse over which programme should be utilised in schools? Why have different graduating years had different sex ed programmes that teach one or the other? US history and funding. While sex ed as a class has been around since the early 20th century, it is due to US history, such as President Nixon’s support for CSE in schools and the AIDS epidemic, that has led to such disagreement.

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Throughout the years, CSE and AOE have gained funding through different presidents and local policies or implements, while continuing to grow in curriculum. For example, birth control was taught in schools in the 1970s. President Nixon supported and funded CSE in schools. However, following him, in the 1980s and 1990s, AOE became very relevant due to the AIDS scare.

Further funding came from the Obama administration for CSE, and preceding him, the Trump administration funded and supported AOE programmes. In addition to presidential funding, states go back and forth on choosing a sexual education programme and commonly go against what public health officials suggest. This practice normally increases the funding for AOE programmes, and in 2008, this is exactly what happened with $177 million in grants funding AOE in schools, while CSE received no funding.

Parental Influence and Societal Beliefs in Sex Education

There are often barriers between parents and the school system, and there are heavy contrasting beliefs in our society that impact schools and what children are being taught. Sex ed is a complex curriculum, more complex than it is currently being taught.

With a lack of funding for CSE and continually growing funding for AOE, young adults may take longer to understand sexual intricacies about themselves and others, both personally and sexually, when learning from AOE. From a parent’s point of view, sexual education and “the talk” will always be an awkward subject.

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Parents rely on schools to teach their children factual sexual health information and responsibilities so their children can go to them later for personal questions they might have and don’t want to ask their teacher. AOE programmes are more umbrella-like and could be seen as a good counter to CSE because, in argument to CSE, sexual understanding and health should in part be left to the parents to discuss with their children.

Parents might understand the sex ed curriculum or agenda, but they lack knowledge of whether what their children are learning aligns with their beliefs and might not be comfortable with their children learning about all the topics suggested for sex ed. Parents are more fond of AOE because it teaches common Christian beliefs that are widespread in the US.

CSE could be seen as “supporting” or co-aligning intercourse with young adults. While this isn’t the case, it becomes more complex with what parents are comfortable with, given the relevance of their children’s age.

Improving Sexual Education: Inclusivity and Peer Programmes

Teens need to receive factual and relevant information about a range of topics that should be included in any sexual education course chosen for a district. Ways sexual education can improve is the general sex ed policy should be updated and inclusive of varying sexual identities, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and providing literary health context and evidence that teens should be aware of. Proper sexual education not only teaches teens about interpersonal relationships but also personal sexual health and hygiene.

Another alternative that can be provided and isn’t funded enough is peer-involved sexual education programmes, or the Teens Prevention Education Programme (PEP). PEP is a programme in which juniors and seniors can get involved and discuss sexual health, inclusivity, pregnancy, and behaviours amongst their peers.

This allows a possibly more comfortable setting for teens to talk about personal understandings, experiences, and conclusions that are relevant and provide insight to those who don’t know or don’t understand what they should do before committing to adult actions. Young adults who do not benefit from CSE education, or an AOE programme that might include topics in CSE, often lack knowledge about their health and understanding of sexual responsibilities and proper behaviours.

Arguments for CSE say that understanding sexual health and proper sexual education is a human right and teens are doing a massive disservice by learning to abstain from sex until when they’re “supposed” to as the “correct” decision. The idea of waiting until marriage is a religious belief and shouldn’t be directly taught in schools, but it can be emphasised or implied that that’s the “right” thing to do.

Of course, young adults should not be taught religious beliefs as the “correct way” to approach intercourse. The course should be about sexual health and practices, in addition to contrasting beliefs and different cultural practices. Without further development in sexual education programmes, young adults can enter adulthood without understanding a range of complex emotions, varying sexual identities, proper and polite behaviours, and different cultural backgrounds.

All topics are just as important as the next, and adults will lack understanding of and struggle with decisions like not wanting to wait until marriage or struggling to be comfortable with their gender identity or the gender they are attracted to. It’s not all bad, however, as society grows, so do school curricula, funding, and education. In addition to teen PEP starting to become more relevant, teens shouldn’t feel isolated or confused about themselves and their sexual orientation.

Sexual education should be a curriculum for teens to grow and understand the world and people around them, not a class that proceeds with hesitation because of cultural and religious differences in America.