Sex education is somehow a contentious issue.
Rhode Island is, for a state in the US, relatively good sex ed-wise. It is one of 13 states that not only requires sex education but requires the information given to students be medically accurate.
The bar is officially on the floor.
But Rhode Island, and by extension, East Greenwich, has cleared it! So why am I writing this article? The system in Rhode Island is far from perfect, and even if it was perfect, it would be selfish to ignore the students in states across the country that are suffering from teen pregnancies and ludicrously high teen STI rates due to their failed sex education or even lack of a curriculum.
The education provided to the students of Rhode Island is at the discretion of the individual districts. This is one of the causes of “abstinence education” being implemented in which students are taught about STI prevention measures in the context of their failure rate. They – excuse me – we are taught that abstaining from sex is the only foolproof measure of STI and pregnancy prevention. The writers of this curriculum apparently disregarded the 46% of high school students who are sexually active, including over 60% of high school seniors in writing what would be taught to the vast, vast majority of the students in our district. (That remaining minority is the small group of kids whose parents decided to opt them out of sex education which is something you can legally do to your children in Rhode Island.) A 2010 study found a 44 out of 1000 women pregnancy rate among women ages 15-19. Meaning abstinence is among the least effective form of contraception that is taught.
The education in Rhode Island, however, is leaps and bounds ahead of what is provided in other states. In many states, abstinence is required to be the focus, so there is no possibility of a school district providing a decent education. In several states, religion heavily influences sex ed. I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s ridiculous. Two-thousand-year-old, unchangeable doctrines are unfortunately unable to keep up with humanity’s ever-growing repertoire of modern information regarding the reproductive system. And in many states, sex ed is not required by law at all.
What is to blame for this? Taboo is most commonly blamed for bad sex ed around the United States. This taboo can be derived from the religious deciding an ancient deity would prefer their ninth-grade son not know what an IUD is. Parents may also find the idea of their children in a comprehensive sex education course uncomfortable. To those parents, I say, too bad. The quality of your child’s education is not subject to what you consider taboo.
Sex education should be taught making the assumption that the students, even if they are not sexually active at the time of their high school education, will become sexually active in the future. The entire point of school is to teach students things that are relevant to their adult lives. And even if the curriculum has failed to accomplish this goal in other areas, this is a possibly life-or-death matter that should be taught as accurately and realistically as possible. Meaning abstinence education, a religious foundation for sex ed and omitting sex ed entirely from the curriculum are the worst options available. Education is not subordinate to what concerned parents consider taboo.