RMC Responds: Comprehensive Sex Education is Common Sense

This week, we noticed the following statement on our Facebook page, “You have what is called personal responsibility.  Take care of yourself and keep your pants on if you can’t take care of yourself.” Personal responsibility, we agree, is absolutely important.  This week, we are taking this opportunity to underscore that taking personal responsibility for your actions requires the knowledge and resources to make smart decisions, and explore how the “keep your pants on” mentality is hurting young people and causing more problems. There is nothing more empowering for America’s teens than comprehensive sex education that includes lessons on abstinence as well as preventive health measures.

rmc_responds1Like it or not we live in a time when teens are bombarded with images, songs, television programs and commercials that often have sexual undertones.  Parents do their best to shield their kids from things that seem age inappropriate but when top rated shows highlight teen pregnancy, commercials for Viagra are a constant and record breaking songs touting ‘hey sexy ladies’ are played every where from the radio to major sporting events we have to face it, information about sex is everywhere.  We have a responsibility to arm our kids with the facts and ensure they understand what personal responsibility is all about.

As of this year, only 22 states ensure that sex education be taught in public schools.  And of those, only 18 require that information about contraception be included.  These numbers emphasize the fact that there is so much more we as a nation can do to promote the truth, explain why abstinence is very viable option and also ensure that protection and contraception can prevent infection and teen and unplanned pregnancy.  The nation will likely remain divided on the difficult issue of abortion for the foreseeable future, but standing together on the issue of comprehensive age appropriate sex education is a necessary and logical solution in our modern day.

Comprehensive, or abstinence-plus, sex education, teaches teens how to prevent the spread of infections or unplanned pregnancies in the case that they do have sex. But in fact, studies have shown that students who go through comprehensive sex -education in school delay sex longer than those who only learn abstinence. This kind of basic information empowers individuals for the rest of their lives and facilitates responsible decision-making.  We cannot preach prevention if we do not teach it.

A number of states in recent years have had enormous success with their comprehensive sex education programs, leading to drastically lower rates of teen pregnancy.  Some states, however, are lagging behind. In South Carolina, lawmakers are wavering over updates to a 26-year old sex education law.  The controversial new proposal, though, is far from radical; the law would require that students be taught medically accurate information about prevention.  Kansas is also reevaluating its sex education program, and not in a good way.  An extremist lawmaker has proposed a bill that would limit which students receive sex education, even though the program that is currently taught is already described by experts as inadequate.

If you think that rolling back sex education programs or requiring abstinence-only curriculum will benefit a single person, just look at the facts:

Fact: The two states with the highest rates of teen birth mandate abstinence-only education.

Fact: Students who receive abstinence-only education are no less likely to engage in sexual activity.  Studies have shown that students who go through comprehensive sex -education in school delay sex longer than those who only learn abstinence.

Fact: 80% of the most popular abstinence-only programs provide students with false or inaccurate information.

It is far past time that we recognize the responsibility we have to our children to provide them with comprehensive sex education.  This is not an issue of pro-choice versus anti-choice, or of traditional values versus modern society.  At it’s most elemental level, if you want to see fewer abortions, fewer teen births, and fewer sexually transmitted infections, then speak up for comprehensive sex education.

Blaming people for not taking responsibility doesn’t work.  Stepping up and demanding adequate education does. It’s certainly time that common sense trumped extremism.

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