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Guest MINDSETTER™ Jane Zhang: Why Schools Need Sex Ed

Monday, November 26, 2012


Sex Education should be taught in the home. It is a family value. Ideally, parents should sit their children down and debunk the myth of storks delivering babies from pouched beaks. Ideally, parents should engage their children in detailed discussions of what sexual intercourse is, what the consequences are, how to say no or be safe, and how to plan for a baby. Perhaps they will even share their past mistakes, how their own children resulted from lapses in judgment. Perhaps they’ll divulge a tale of how they inherited chlamydia from that awkward one night stand in college. Of course that happened before they met their respective spouses, after which they whole-heartedly committed to family planning goals.

How realistic is the above picture? Can every parent muster the courage to informatively yet meaningfully educate their children about sex? Will every child diligently absorb the wise words of their elders? And what if there’s some misinformation? What if a child wanted to learn more about sexually transmitted infections and their parents weren’t equipped with appropriate knowledge? And what if the parent didn’t know the difference between gonorrhea and genital warts? They’re not the same thing.

We live by following examples. We are shaped by our surroundings. Take some time and reflect upon your life. Who did you admire while growing up? From whom did you seek mentorship, the guidance of which shaped you into the person that you are? Perhaps you were blessed enough to grow up in a community where parents had and would make the time to shuttle their children from soccer practice to chess club. Perhaps your parents taught you everything you needed to know about sexually transmitted infections, birth control, and family planning. And perhaps you didn’t walk by a juvenile detention center every day as part of your gym class. Not every student in Central Falls and other parts of the nation is so lucky.

So what about those left behind? What about those who grew up in broken homes, whose dad’s on parole; mom on welfare and working countless minimum wage jobs to foot the bill? That’s a reality for many Rhode Island teenagers. When their mother has had three kids by the time she was 20 and school friends are becoming impregnated, they’re influenced by what they see and hear. If their mother did it, why can’t they do it? And with the media becoming more lewd, who’s going to dispel fact from fiction regarding sex for Rhode Island’s youth? Usher and Rick Ross’ recent hit “Lemme See” has such lyrics as “switching positions … oh we so explicit”. These R & B sensations are certainly not referring to changing basketball positions.

So yes, sex education is a family value. But schools should fill in where parents may fail. We should advocate for comprehensive sex education at schools across Rhode Island. An academic article published in Public Health Reports titled “School-based Programs to Reduce Sexual Risk Behaviors: A Review of Effectiveness” reviewed numerous sexual education programs across America. It concluded that instruction on contraception did not accelerate the onset of intercourse and actually, these programs can even delay the onset of intercourse. Furthermore, there were no significant increases in sex frequency. In fact, two studies concluded that providing nearby reproductive health services did not increase the onset or frequency of sexual intercourse.

Research indicates that sexual health education that includes a contraceptive curriculum is effective against preventing unwanted teenage pregnancies as well as sexually transmitted infections. Rhode Island schools should implement comprehensive sexual education, which would at least entail but not limit to a discourse on what sexual intercourse is, what the consequences of sexual intercourse are, birth control options, abstinence and resistance methods, as well as family planning. Of course, the greatest stronghold of America lies in the power of choice. Should parents have their children opt out of such curricula due to religious or personal views, so be it. Nevertheless schools should offer comprehensive sex education in order to better protect and educate their youths.


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