Opinion: Sex Education in the U.S. Continues to Fail to Adapt
Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Historically, debates on what should and shouldn’t be taught in public schools have plagued the American educational system however, there are some topics schools are mandated to teach by federal guidelines., With leniency within state educational boards and the lack of a united and federal curriculum, personal beliefs of those with local or state power have obstructed and watered down nuanced information on tough subjects. Sex education is an infamous example of a controversial subject inadequately wedged into high school curriculum to feed a requirement rather than to function as a suitable form of education.
Sex education has fought for a role in the public school system for ages, yet as more information comes out about sexuality, gender, birth control, and STIs, the programs instilled in health classes have failed to keep up. It’s understandable to feel uncomfortable with the idea of discussing sex education with students; however, as times shift so fast on a societal front, it is irresponsible for public schools to sweep this under the rug.
It’s difficult to even identify what direction the program should take when it is so out of touch with today’s world. Twenty six states require abstinence to be heavy emphasized in their sex education classes. Only nine states make it mandatory to include discussion about LGBTQ+ identities and seven of those nine states that do not include this curriculum, are told to display relationships of those in the community negatively.
Sex education is more of a casualty than it is any form of education. It is not uniformly inclusive on a national level nor is it always as safe and accurate as it must be, which leads many to the conclusion that sex education could possibly do more harm than good. The U.S. has the most teen pregnancies of any developed country, which leads one to believe the country’s system of sex education is not only outdated but deeply flawed.
It is also easy to forget “sex” doesn’t always have to refer to intercourse. sex education should cover gender identities, sexuality fluidity, consent in romantic relationships, and so on. Building a space like this in a classroom could harbor a sense of empowerment when it comes to being heard as a young high school student.
Sex-positive sex education can be the groundbreaking solution to a wide array of issues. When sex education builds up a culture of consent and boundaries, respect and healthy relationships are bound to flourish. The vibrant culture America could create with inclusive and informative curriculum has the potential to target issues of injustice pertaining to sex and gender on such a close level in the classroom.
However as crucial it is or schools to evolve with current affairs, the future for genuine sex education seems bleak. Lobbying, religion, and angry parents might limit any room for this type of education. That is why it is even more important sex, relationships, and identities be accurately depicted in media.
As grim as it sounds, schools in such a large country might not hold a feasible platform for these nuanced discussions. All things sex are rather controversial and not everyone aligns themselves to be open about the issues at hand. Schools must strive to do better, but other outlets to learn about sex in an educational space, such as podcasts, books, or other media should be readily available and encouraged to teenagers.