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Teaching Sexual Education in Public School Term Paper

Pages:8 (2487 words)

Sources:9

Subject:Education

Topic:Sex Education

Document Type:Term Paper

Document:#19342188


Background: Why Teach Sexual Education?

With about half of all high school students admitting to have already had sex, and only 60% of those students claiming they used a condom, sexual education can be considered a public health imperative (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2019). Unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases are the most important health-related reasons to teach sexual education in public schools. Research has shown that “when sex education is comprehensive, students feel more informed, make safer choices and have healthier outcomes — resulting in fewer unplanned pregnancies and more protection against sexually transmitted diseases and infection,” (“America’s Sex Education: How We Are Failing Our Students,” 2017, p. 1). Children will seek out and find information related to sex outside the classroom, such as on the Internet, opening them up to potentially poor sources of information. Compounding the problem is that only 13 states currently require sexual education to be “medically accurate,” presenting clear ethical problems for educators and administrators (“America’s Sex Education: How We Are Failing Our Students,” 2017, p. 1).

Sexual education is about a lot more than just reproductive health and safe sex, though. Preventing teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases is a primary objective of sexual education, but not the only reason why it is an ethical imperative. Sexual education allows young people to make informed choices. Moreover, comprehensive sexual education teaches children about communication skills, relationships skills, self-empowerment strategies, and the means by which to develop healthy sexual identities. Sexual education can help reduce the prevalence of mental illness and suicide among teens who struggle with their own sexual identity, and can help transform social norms surrounding sexuality and gender. Given that sexuality is an inherent part of human life, there is really no reason not to teach sexual education in public schools. All ethical perspectives, from deontological to utilitarian, would support comprehensive sexual education in American public schools.

Why Is Sexual Education Controversial?

If sexual education is important for improving outcomes for young people, then the matter should not be considered controversial. Yet as Lepore (2015) puts it, teaching sexual education in schools “has rather a lot in common with foreign policy...in the way that arrogance, suspicion, and self-interest override generosity, cooperation, and amity,” (p. 144). One of the reasons why teaching sexual education in classrooms is that there is a diversity of opinions over the role of education in teaching human sexuality. Historically, though, sexual education has been part of teacher training and education. In a historical assessment of sexual education policies and programs in the United States, Pardini (2019) found that sexual education has been considered a topic worthy of inclusion in public school curricula since the early twentieth century. Sexual education can be considered an essential life skill, alongside other elements of physical, psychological, and social health. Some religious groups and cultural groups might postulate that sexuality is too culturally bound to be taught in schools. If that were the case, then schools would simply need to introduce students to the anthropology of human sexuality to highlight the diversity of beliefs and practices around the world.

Sex is much more than biological reproduction, physiology, or psychology; it comes with cultural and social values and taboos. It can be considered a “spiritual” matter (Lepore, 2015, p. 144). Diversity makes it difficult to present material related to sexual norms of behavior in ways that please all parents and other stakeholders. Some points of controversy specifically include abortion and LGBTQ rights. Other sources of controversy include adapting the curriculum to teach sexual education differently to people with disabilities.

Because sexual education can be so controversial, there are distinct drawbacks with incorporating it into the standard curricula in public schools or changing state education policies. Yet these difficulties and challenges should not overshadow the fact that sexual literacy is as important as any other life skills course in school. Students have a right to understand their bodies, their minds, and the intricacies of intimate relationships. They also have a right to information about factors such as what constitutes sexual assault, how to avoid risky behaviors, and also how to develop a positive body image and sexual identity. Sexual education can reduce discrimination against people who develop non-binary gender identities or whose sexual orientations are fluid.

Why Not Teach Abstinence?

Suggesting abstinence is not a problem in itself. However, abstinence-only or abstinence-focused programs only masquerade as sexual education. Abstinence-focused programs are also “not as secular as they seem,” making them ethically problematic for public schools (Bauman, 2018, p. 1). In an analysis of sexual education programming in the United States, Bauman (2018) found many if not most abstinence-based sexual education programming in public schools are designed, developed, and promoted by evangelical Christian groups.…

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…persons who are already from disadvantaged backgrounds will have fewer resources outside of school for sexual health. As a result, students from disadvantaged backgrounds are at a much higher risk for becoming pregnant or contracting an infectious disease, not to mention being susceptible to bullying or mental illness due to lack of information related to healthy sexual identity development. Sexual education helps even the playing field, ensuring equitable access to information.

A deontologist would also support sexual education program, on the grounds that all knowledge should be equitably distributed among members of the society. Also, sexual education empowers people and provides individuals with the tools they need to make effective behavioral choices. The choices adolescents make about their sexuality can last a lifetime. A deontologist would also recognize the moral duty to teach sexual education in order to promote positive public health outcomes, reduce the rates of teen pregnancy, reduce prevalence of discrimination against LGBTQ students, and reduce the rates of infectious diseases. Teaching sex education is also an ethical imperative because of the medical, economic, and sociological implications extending to the entire community and society (Lepore, 2015, p. 144). Therefore, teaching comprehensive and evidence-based sexual education should be mandatory in all fifty states.

A libertarian would hold slightly different views on teaching sexual education in public schools. Because libertarians are less concerned with moral imperatives or promoting the greater good, and more concerned with individual freedoms and liberties, it is possible that a libertarian would support parents who object to sexual education. Such views neglect to acknowledge that parents would scarcely be permitted to object to their children learning math or literature; a student who lacks access to information about sexuality is at a considerable disadvantage. Less information about sexuality restricts ones personal rights and freedoms, and therefore libertarians should consider the value of information dissemination as being critical for a genuinely free society.

Conclusion

Sexual education has become a controversial subject in the United States primarily because of the influence of religious and conservative views on education policy. Some parents may fear that schools will teach their children to behave immorally: which reflects poorly on the American attitude towards education in general. In order to prepare students for making informed choices about their bodies, and in order to improve public health outcomes, sexual education is a fundamental imperative in public schools. With improved access to…


Sample Source(s) Used

References

Abbott, K., Ellis, S. J., & Abbott, R. (2016). “We”ve got a lack of family values’: an examination of how teachers formulate and justify their approach to teaching sex and relationships education. Sex Education, 16(6), 678–691. doi:10.1080/14681811.2016.1169398 

“America’s Sex Education: How We Are Failing Our Students,” (2017). USC Department of Nursing. Retrieved from https://nursing.usc.edu/blog/americas-sex-education/

Bauman, S.D. (2018). When sex ed pretends to be secular. Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 8059. Retrieved from https://openworks.wooster.edu/independentstudy/8059

Kirby, D. B. (2008). The impact of abstinence and comprehensive sex and STD/HIV education programs on adolescent sexual behavior. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 5(3), 18-27

Lepore, J. (2015). The facts of life. 94 Foreign Aff. 144 (2015).

National Conference of State Legislatures (2019). State policies on sex education in schools. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/state-policies-on-sex-education-in-schools.aspx

Pardini, P. (2019). The history of sexuality education. Rethinking Schools. Retrieved from http://rethinkingschools.aidcvt.com/sex/sexhisto.shtml

Planned Parenthood (2019). What is sex education? Retrieved from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/for-educators/what-sex-education

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