Schools Stumble Over Sex Education
July 24, 2003
Two camps have emerged over sex education in U.S. schools. Abstinence-only sex education programs teach that sex outside of marriage, at any age, is wrong. Concerned about presenting a mixed message, or promoting promiscuity, most advocates insist on not including any information about contraceptives. Comprehensive sex education, however, may include teaching students that abstinence outside marriage is either one option or perhaps the best course. But they generally follow up with information about how contraceptives work, where to get them, and why they are important for avoiding STDs and teen pregnancies.
Abstinence-only supporters are so adamant about preventing sex outside marriage that they may squelch useful information, said Douglas Besharov, of the American Enterprise Institute. But, he said, those who favor comprehensive sex education often fail to distinguish between the needs of a 12-year-old and those of a 17-year-old. They fail to appreciate that, "beyond some kind of moral issue, having sex too early can be horribly damaging to young people," he said.
The federal government spends $120 million annually on abstinence programs, with a proposal to increase that to $135 million in fiscal 2004. With such funding, states must make sex education classes' "exclusive purpose" to teach "the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity."
Kaiser Family Foundation surveys of young people show a strong desire for more information about sex, said foundation Vice President Tina Hoff. Children ages 10 or 11 want that information to come from their parents. However, by about ages 13 and 14, teens begin to say they prefer talking to their friends.
Christian Science Monitor
07.22.03; Marjorie Coeyman
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.