Why Sex Education Doesn't WorkbyPrincessErin©
I need to warn you that this article is purely based on my own opinion. There was no research done to back up my argument. There are no citations at the end of the essay. These are purely my own observations based on what I have seen happen in the school system over the years that I have been a teacher.
Sex Education in the school system doesn't work. It never has and it never will. There are some severe errors in how the program is set up and until this is fixed, it will not be successful.
Sex is still a dirty word in society. We're much more open about many things, but sex is still a bad word. Movies and televisions shows will show graphic violence and inappropriate words, but we are still concerned about sex. A recent article outlined that in the media there are more non-married couples having sex than married couples. Sex within marriage is an anomaly. It either doesn't happen or it happens, but is not enjoyable for one or both partners. Sex in a forbidden relationship is the most enjoyable it seems and the more dangerous the situation, the better.
This attitude is shown to students all the time. Students watch a large amount of television shows and movies each day. The joy of the internet has allowed us to download whatever we want. Ipods and other devices mean you can watch full movies without needing a television or DVD player. Students are exposed to all of these images on a regular basis.
Then they arrive at school and one of two things will happen. The first occurs if they go to a religious school. Religious schools can teach curriculum that is not required by the province or state as long as it is approved by a group of individuals. The Conference of Catholic Bishops for example, approves the program taught in Ontario, Canada. Either way, the program for learning about sexuality is called family life education and its basis is the idea of respecting yourself and others. Students will learn about abstinence, sex within marriage, and how to respect your body. This program begins in kindergarten (in an appropriate manner of course) and ends when a student graduates from high school. The overall goal of the program is for students to understand both the physical and emotional risk of having sex before marriage. With this information in hand, students can make an educated decision.
The problem of this program is very simple. What is taught in the confines of the classroom is not what they see in the media every day. What they are taught is not what their parents, aunts, uncles, older brothers, or sisters have done. There is a disjoint in what they are expected to do. I would even go so far as to say that the teachers themselves have not followed this ideal. Not that any teacher in their right mind would mention their sex lives to their students, but when you are single and live in a small town, students will notice who is coming and going at your place.
The public school system has a more fact-based program. Students are taught about contraception, risks involved in having sex, and are taught to make the right decision. There is no moral decision making in this program. The same schools give out free condoms on prom night. The education system expects that as long as you tell students that if you have sex you can get pregnant, students will either have sex and not get pregnant, or not have sex in the first place.
The problem with this is more complex. Media has not portrayed the consequences of sexual intercourse accurately. It's not a concern for them. We want a happy conclusion. We want to laugh and cry and enjoy watching the newest movie or television show. Students watch these shows and believe that what happens there happens in real life. That is not the case.
Movies such as 'Juno' or 'Pretty Woman' revolve around sex. Each movie doesn't even try to grasp the complexities of the situation. Young people watch these movies and take it at face value. In the former, there is no discussion of the risk factors of a young teenager giving birth. We do not see her recovering from the birth and possibly dealing with post partum depression. We are to assume that the moment she gives birth, her life is back to normal. In the second movie, we seem to forget that the main character is a prostitute. She has had sex with men for money. This is forgotten. We do not want to know about this. She uses condoms, but those aren't completely effective. We don't see a scene where she finds out she has an STD and must go through treatment. Reality isn't in the media and never will be.
Do we expect the youth of today to take everything at face value? Of course not. Those that are smart enough to know that movies and television shows aren't real are not the ones that are getting into trouble. The ones that are getting into trouble are those that had a disjointed education about sexuality, and picked and chose what they wanted to hear. A scary yet amusing story is about two very religious teens that had sex. The Catholic faith states that condoms are not allowed because a couple must always be open to the chance of pregnancy. They had sex without a condom and got pregnant. For some reason the fact that they were sixteen, still in school, and not married, wasn't a concern.
Not all our youth are that stupid, but until the media that they are exposed to everyday changes, what we teach in the school system is useless. It will reach some, but the majority of students will not be affected by the lessons, might even react contrary, and do something stupid.