Sex ed is no place for partisanship

By Eric Turner

Imagine a drivers education class that teaches little on how to drive; instead focusing on how dangerous driving is and teaching to avoid driving at all costs.

Would this lead to better, safer drivers, or just make drivers less aware of what they are doing?

Of course, this course does not exist, because most everyone will drive at one point in their lives, and they should know how to do it safely and correctly. But what if a system of teaching with the same mindset was not only in place in our schools, but also encouraged by the government?

Such a system is in place, and at this moment, is taught to millions of adolescents in our high schools.

The subject? Sex education. Yes, for a majority of us, sex ed was an uncomfortable, enlightening, even entertaining class where we learned how certain things work, and what we should and shouldn’t do when it comes to something almost all of us will do someday. But a growing number of teenagers aren’t learning the whole truth about sex.

Instead, they are taught warped, biased, even untrue statements about the dangers of sex, and “learning” safe sex is a myth; therefore, abstinence is the one and only option as an adolescent.

Since 2001, “abstinence-only” program funding for public schools has more than doubled, much to the approval of social conservatives. But these programs, largely administered for political reasons, only hurt the students it is supposed to help.

In 2004, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) released a report showing incredible distortions and faulty teaching in 11 of the 13 federally-sponsored programs, mostly involving statements meant to scare students away from sex. Some of these include statements with no factual accuracy, including “statistics” such as 5 to 10 percent of women who have legal abortions will become sterile, condoms do not reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS and pregnancy, and “24 chromosomes from the mother and 24 chromosomes from the father join to create this new individual.” The correct number is 23.

Along with these “facts,” controversial political stances are taught as fact, such as a program that teaches life begins at conception, and another that claims a 43-day-old fetus is a thinking person.

One even teaches gender stereotypes as fact, saying women need “financial support” while men need “admiration.” Needless to say, publicly-financed programs need to be stricken of such statements. But even if these inaccuracies are revised, there is still the problem of presenting only one side to sexuality.

Need proof? Check the Waxman report, “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs.”

As a former abstinence-only student, I know the program is flawed, as the program focuses on scaring its students into not having sex until marriage.

Judging by surveys that show women in abstinence-only programs have higher rates of teenage pregnancy; not only does this tactic not work, it actually deprives its students of knowing how to be safe when they do have sex. If a student believes birth control is fairly useless or even dangerous, as is implied in abstinence classes, that student will be less inclined to use it.

Teaching the “no sex until marriage” stance also unfairly leaves out homosexuals who have no marriage options. Yet perhaps the greatest flaw in abstinence classes is the ignorance toward teenage sexuality.

Humans, especially teenagers, will have sex. Even people who aren’t promiscuous are likely to have one or more sexual partners before marriage. One’s sexual philosophy is largely a moral decision, which we as individuals must make, and something that cannot be taught to us.

With the rise and spread of STDs and AIDS, abstinence and programs supporting it aren’t necessarily bad things, but they must be able to realistically portray sex as something that does and will happen, not distorting facts or making up scare tactics.

Most parents support abstinence programs, but most parents don’t want children to have sex. Rather than pretend our children will not have sex, sexual education needs to live up to its name: portray sex as it is, teach ways to prevent STDs and pregnancy and allow students to learn about sex in the classroom instead of leaving them to learn it on their own.

Until this happens, the government should not spend more taxpayer money on faulty education.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.