Should Abstinence Be Taught in Public Schools?

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In an ideal world, parents would talk openly and honestly with their teenagers about sex. However, the truth is that most parents don’t provide their children with the most essential armor: information. Instead they instill antiquated values that some contend “break more easily than latex condoms.” In this case, that easily broken value is abstinence. Although many conservatives would like to assert that teaching abstinence is effective, statistics prove otherwise. In fact only 15 percent of teenagers remain virgins until the age of 21. Therefore, teaching “abstinence only” is not only ineffective, but it can lead many teenagers to engage in other risky behavior like oral sex, because they see it as a safer alternative to intercourse. A popular myth amongst teens is that having oral sex doesn’t lead to STDs. The obvious question posed when confronted with these facts is should abstinence be emphasized at public schools, or is time for educational institutions to provide the more valuable gift of safe sex information.

Although many argue that arming teenagers with the knowledge of contraception only encourages them to have sex, it is the alternative--withholding the information--that should be the real concern. The Centers for Disease Control report that one in four teenage girls in the U.S. has an STD. While this evidence is alarming, most people--mainly religious and conservative activists--continue to look at this issue on the periphery. Educating America’s youth about safe sex is considered taboo and even dangerous by some. “What if, God forbid, a kid comes [to school] and gets a condom and takes a girl into the school bathroom?” asks Sally Ladky, executive director of the Milwaukee-based Wisconsin Abstinence Coalition.

Although parents would like for their children to abstain from sex, to believe this will actually happen is not realistic. Treating sex education as the elephant in the room is not only naive, but irresponsible. It is time for educators to usher in a new era of enlightened teenagers and for conservative mentalities to evolve.





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