Guest MINDSETTER™ Jane Zhang: Schools Need Birth Control Education
Saturday, September 29, 2012
As taboo as it might remain to openly discuss sex, one of the larger social debates that America witnesses involves sex.
Birth control pills rolled into reality in the 60’s. Roe vs. Wade dominated headlines in the 70’s. Nowadays, whereas some schools teach only 100% abstinence others include contraception. With MTV’s paying teenage mothers thousands of dollars to be on “16 and pregnant” along with appearances on the cover of People Magazine, no wonder young adolescents think it’s okay to engage in sexual intercourse even if they are not ready to fully accept the consequences of such an action. Over the summer, a young woman, 24 years old and already on her 6th pregnancy, presented to a local clinic for a routine pregnancy checkup. She never completed high school, was working a minimum wage job, and living on welfare. Her other two children, playing in the waiting area, were rather unkempt. Fathers of the babies were not involved.
One of the greater embarrassments in our education system is the lack of birth control education. Sure, it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids sex education but when they’re working long hours to foot the bills or are barely involved in caring for their children, schools must shoulder some responsibility. The purpose of education is not just to enlighten us academically, but to also make us socially responsible and accountable.
Yes, schools do have health classes that include sex education; however, research from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that 4 in 10 sex education teachers do not teach their students about contraceptives at all or teach that contraceptives are not effective. In the state of RI, according to Advocates for Youth, 39% of high school students did not use a condom during last sexual intercourse. Condoms are cheap, 99% effective and extremely inexpensive compared to the cost of raising a newborn.
This past summer, a fellow 16 year-old Rhode Islander wept because the boyfriend who had fathered her baby and who had promised to care for her and their child left while she was still recovering in the hospital post-partum. There were only so many resources the hospital could offer her. And there was a man in his early 30s, who had HIV/AIDs complicated by tertiary syphilis. Throughout conversations with hospital staff members, he remained in denial of his dismal prognosis and the fact that the syphilis had overtaken his brains. He likely won’t live past his 40s.
Currently Rhode Island requires that schools have comprehensive sex education, and that programs underscore abstinence, but there remains no requirement for condom and contraception education. It’s not, however, illegal to teach the latter. Home economics and government gets taught in school, so why not improved sex education? Curiosity gets the best of us, and abstinence isn’t always the solution. Abstinence in addition to contraceptive education should be mandated across the state. Of course nothing is 100% effective but anything is better than nothing. Shouldn’t society shield its citizens from the dismal consequences of sexually transmitted diseases? Shouldn’t society prevent unplanned pregnancies resulting in unwanted babies who might never receive the full love and resources they deserve?
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