A few thoughts on sex education.
"Schools are not the place to choose to hand out condoms. Kids can go to the health department for that. It's not the school's job. It makes it look like you are approving having sex. We are supposed to be teaching, I thought, 'Just say no.' So it is very shocking that the school would be supplying them."Just say no indeed. Honestly now, show of hands - how many of you DID NOT have sex in high school? Some studies show that about 35% of students are sexually active on a monthly basis (mind you, how many teens in long term relationships do YOU know?) So if they are going to be sexually active anyway, and what we really don't want is for them to get hurt, pregnant and/or sick, condoms and proper sex education are key. And why do we bother having schools? So they can educate!
So here is the question: should parents be solely responsible for educating their kids on sexual matters? Sure many of them can do a great job, but what about those who are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids? What about the parents who for some religious or ethnic reasons feel that sex is shameful, taboo or inappropriate? What about parents who may not be all that informed themselves? This isn't drugs we are talking about, or drunk driving - topics that a "just say no" attitude is more than appropriate for, but a biological function which just about everyone will experience at one time or another.
There was a piece in an advice column that I saw recently, though I don't remember where, in which a mother was worried about her daughter who had 'discovered' at the age of 14 (through snooping in parents bedroom) that the parents were sexually active. She was so angry that she threatened to commit suicide if her parents did not cease having sex, and proclaimed that married people should not be intimate because intercourse is for making babies. The mother put her in therapy. Now, barring any abuse, a child's reaction to sex may initially be that of fright, but I was so surprised to find a FOURTEEN year old holding on to such bizarre notions! Did the parents not talk to her enough when she was younger about healthy sex lives? Did she pick it up at school or from her peers?
So here are my two cents:
It is the parents responsibility to make their kids feel comfortable talking about sex, so that they can explain to them not only where babies come from but what role sex plays in our daily lives. They have to tell them about unwanted pregnancies, ALL the ways of preventing it, homosexuality, lust and most of all love. After all, when the hormones are raging, deep spiritual connections are the last thing from any teens/tweens mind, but they should know that sex does not have to be a purely physical function, but one of the many facets of intimacy. And just to make sure that the kids got their lesson, the schools should repeat those teachings.
In summary - don't teach abstinence - teach moderation. Preach respect, not fear. And give out condoms like they're candy!
Just for fun: for a list of increasingly vulgar condom slogans click here.
Update (10-19-07): CNN.com poll of 154,437 people showed 22% in favor of giving out the pill to students, 78% against.
Update (01-03-08): This post used to be entitled "if you are nude, tube your dude" which I thought was clever and appropriate but apparently too similar to a porn site URL, causing a lot of search engine traffic from porn seekers. Oh well...