Sex Ed in High School- More Important Than You Think

I take the bus a lot. With two off-campus classes to get to every week, I frequent the route that provides transportation between the colleges. Unfortunately, this means I have to listen to a lot of annoying conversations. Usually I can tune them out and focus on my knitting (yeah, I knit on the bus…so what?), but there was something particularly frustrating about a conversation I overheard last week.

The two women behind me were going on and on about how sex education in public schools is wrong. I’ve heard this argument before…from balding conservative politicians, not two twenty-somethings that go to Mount Holyoke. So let’s just say it had been a while since I’d been properly enraged over this particular topic. According to these women, sex education is the real cause of social problems such as teen pregnancy and high rates of STIs. They argued that it was completely immoral, and it’s not the job of teachers (or anybody for that matter) to place ideas about sex in the minds of young children. Since I didn’t exactly feel like turning around and schooling them on the benefits of sex education was appropriate, I saved my thoughts for all you lucky MSP readers. So, here they are.

Sex education is beyond vital! Kids are constantly being bombarded by images and words that scream sex. It’s impossible to get through a day without experience some form of sexually-charged media. Without sex education in schools, people have no arena in which to discuss these conflicting messages and to learn how to be safe. People argue that sex education makes kids want to have sex. I hate to break it to you, but people are always going to want to have sex. It’s a biological function of all living creatures. Just as we have a need to eat, sleep, and drink water, we have a need for sex. So why not explain how it works and how to be safe about it? When I was doing some research for this post, I came across a website that provided some stats about teens and sex. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites for you all.

1. Of the approximately 750,000 teen pregnancies that occur each year, 82% are unintended. Fifty–nine percent end in birth and more than one–quarter end in abortion.

2. Although teens in the United States have a level of sexual activity similar to that among their Canadian, English, French and Swedish peers, they are more likely to have shorter and less consistent sexual relationships and are less likely to use contraceptives, especially the pill or dual methods

3. Many sexually experienced teens (46% of males and 33% of females) did not receive formal instruction about contraception before they first had sex.

4. In 2006, 87% of U.S. public and private high schools taught abstinence as the most effective method to avoid pregnancy, HIV and other STDs in a required health education course.

5. And yet, by their 19th birthday, seven in 10 teens of both sexes have had intercourse.

If 87% of schools are utilizing abstinence-only sex education, how do we expect these seven out of ten teenagers to practice safe sex? Well, we can’t, because according to statistic #3, most teens that are already sexually experienced have received no formal education about contraception. I understand that I may be preaching to the converted here, but I can’t emphasize enough how important it is that more children receive proper sex education in their schools. I recently came across an article published in 1969 in Time magazine, essentially outlining the same debate that we’re having now. Shouldn’t we have made some progress by now? Kids are still having sex. Teens are still getting pregnant. That’s clearly not going to change…so our policies on sex education in public schools should!

Follow us on Twitter @mysexprofessor

About Michaela


Michaela is a recent Seven Sisters graduate with a self-designed degree in Sexuality Studies. When she's not blogging, you'll find her teaching Health and Wellness and A Cappella to high school students, helping women find properly fitting bras, and working as an editor on a documentary. She hopes to continue her education one day with a PhD in Feminist Anthropology.