Written by Olivia Carr
Whether or not sexual education taught in US public schools is something you can get behind, many people across the ideological spectrum can agree that the current curricula fall short of the ideal. Many sex ed programs in the US only cover (at best) HIV/HPV, STIs/STDs, contraception, abstinence, birth control, abortions, and perhaps some coverage of healthy relationships. Some discussion of human anatomy might also take place, but this is not always mandated explicitly by states, who control what is required—and therefore taught—in schools.
Mainstream sexual education has failed both young men and women via its lack of practical wisdom about how to relate emotionally to the opposite sex, how sexual desires fit into an integrated and well-ordered life, how to report sexual misconduct of any kind, and various other topics surrounding sexuality that are more challenging to discuss. A quick scan over the mainstream sex ed topics that form the bulk of sexual education in the US indicates that these programs are more concerned with covering up issues like STIs and teenage pregnancies than they are with ensuring students have a healthy understanding of their bodies and sexuality. This does a great disservice to young men and women.
In a particular way, US sexual education in public schools has failed women. Many adult women have had no substantial instruction on how their menstrual cycle and sex hormones operate. Beyond recording when the first day of their period occurs each month, many women lack basic information about their own cycles, which is vital for their overall health (not just sexual health). Sex education is sure to tell young women about birth control so they can be ‘responsible’ while being sexually active, but it fails to address the far-reaching effects that hormonal contraception can have on mood, weight, future fertility, and other areas of one’s life. Similarly, sex education sometimes covers abstinence, yet this is often presented as an afterthought or with so much singularity that it creates shame for students surrounding sex and their bodies. Moreover, presenting abstinence as an option of birth control to students lacks all realism if ways to channel sexual energy are not addressed and discussed.
In short, current US sex education takes a lackadaisical approach to discussing human sexuality, save for prevent diseases and pregnancies. This leaves many students who might not otherwise have any other real formation on their sexuality lacking proper understanding of both the goodness and power of sexuality, as well as the real risks to be aware of. A more holistic approach to teaching sexual education in the US is needed for both the health and wellbeing of generations to come. Or better yet, parents should honor their sacred duty and teach their children the correct principles about sexuality morality.