Sex Education in American Schools Still Leaves Kids Ignorant

Illustration for article titled Sex Education in American Schools Still Leaves Kids Ignorant

It’s 2014 and Americans are still fighting over whether teaching comprehensive sex education is a practical idea. Jesus, take me with you this Easter.


Several years ago a group dedicated to realistic sex education that included lessons for LGBT students created the National Sexuality Education Standards, which VOX’s Libby Nelson describes as “a road map for what skills and knowledge students should get from sex education.” Seems practical, right? Not in America. Only Colorado has dared to sort of adopt the aforementioned sex education remix, but we'll come back to that.

Instead the federal government spent $1.5 billion over 13 years, 1996-2009, teaching kids about abstinence. Teachers preached that premarital sex would have “harmful effects” and getting busy in a heterosexual marriage was the only way to go.

The percent of students learning about abstinence and not contraception grew from 10 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2006.

In a survey conducted from 2006 to 2008, almost all students said they learned about sexually transmitted diseases, but only 61 percent of male students had learned about birth control.


This despite the upswing in HIV rates among young black and latino gay men or the way the disease is snaking through the South. We really don’t have time to live in the fictitious world some in the Fed are trying to recreate, but impractical ignorance persists, don’t it?

In 2007 a study showed that all that abstinence training wasn’t really working and both kids who’d had abstinence lessons and those who hadn’t began having sex at the same time. So come 2009, Congress stopped the abstinence money train and made educators prove that their programs were effective … until in 2010, they recut $50 million for abstinence-only sex education.

Still, groups like the Future of Sex Education thought the Fed and educators would say to themselves, ‘Hey, maybe we should be proactive about teaching kids about their bodies, how they work and how to treat one another, no matter their sexual identity.’


Except that didn’t really happen, and another list of possible national sex ed standards called Common Core was gaining popularity to the detriment of the Future camp. The Common Core group was called “sex education on steroids” by detractors, though some state education officials adopted them thanks to a push by the Education Department. But that rift between abstinence and “sex education on steroids” stalled the larger movement to reform sex education.

Instead of one uniform curriculum for schools across the country, each state has their own “patchwork” of policies. Nineteen states require lessons on contraception, and some include that mandate along with lessons on abstinence. Hey, kids should be able to hear all sides. But many other states are still languishing with outdated, non-inclusive curriculum that hasn't integrated into the diverse world of sexual identity in which we now live.


Over in Colorado, when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a 2013 bill to create a comprehensive and realistic sex education program, he was shot down. Opposers called the bill “an agenda of the left to promote gay and lesbian sex education.” Hopefully in Miami, where the school district is considering a sex education reboot, the reform movement will be victorious.

In the end, the fight to implement logical and realistic sex education in American schools should come down these criteria, do you want your kids, or those you know, to:


a) Understand how their bodies work?

b) Not be the asshole bullying kids with different sexual identities than their own?


c) Understand how contraception works because they know how people actually get pregnant or contract sexually-transmitted diseases?

When people don't support practical education, they are also saying they don't care about the lives they hurt with misinformation. Their principles, religious or otherwise, concerning sex are more important than children knowing how to protect themselves or even mature into people who enjoy sex because they know how to do it properly. We Americans have to find a middle ground on religion and body parts because telling someone not to have sex, when studies show that they must likely will anyway, is not the way forward.


Dr. Cloud/Shutterfly.



At my school, the 8th graders start sex ed in science class next week. It's my first year at this school, and I teach ELA and social studies, so I have no idea what the curricula looks like.. However, the whole staff got a terse email from one of the science teachers letting us know that if we hear any students discussing sex ed outside of science class, we need to shut it down. Seriously? I feel for these kids. They have a natural desire to process and discuss what they learn in sex ed, and we are supposed to put the kibosh on it. Way to teach kids that sex is secret and shameful.