Friday, February 13, 2015

ABSTINENCE-ONLY SEX EDUCATION

Source

Think about this: when did you have sex-education? What was your experience like? What did the program teach you? Now that you're older, do you feel like your sexuality education was sufficient, fully equipping you for the future and for romantic relationships? Keep this in mind as you read the rest of this post.

My classmates and I were recently given an assignment in my composition and rhetoric course at UNT. We were allowed to pick one claim from a list of controversial statements (oh how I love 'em) and write a confirmation-refutation essay on that claim. However our claim was phrased, we had to present both sides of the argument equally strongly, in support of and against the claim. This helps to give a comprehensive understanding of the debate while demonstrating that the reader is well-read and understanding of the topic at hand.

The claim I chose was:

“Public high schools should not be allowed to teach abstinence-only sexual education courses (that is, other birth control options should be taught as well).”


There's good reason for why controversial claims are debatable. The point of this assignment was to exercise understanding both sides of an argument. Maybe you've considered your opinion on this topic before, or maybe you have not. Either way, this is a highly important and prevalent issue, and that's why I wanted to share this essay. Before I tell you my opinion, however, read my understandings of both arguments below, and see if you can tell what side I would take. (Or if you already know me pretty well, see if you were swayed a little.)

Let's start with the introduction.

There are two main forms of sexuality education: abstinence-only and comprehensive. Comprehensive sexual education strives to educate the youth by covering all aspects of sex and intimate relationships, including intercourse, contraceptives, STDs, sexuality, etc. (AVERT). On the other hand, abstinence-only sex education devotes the most attention, if not restricts focus, to abstaining from sexual activities (Abstinence Works) as the best means of protection against the risks that come with sex. This essay will discuss the confirmation and refutation of the proposed statement above, which states that sexual education courses other than abstinence-only teachings ought to be required by law in U.S. public high schools. The essay will also inspect the justice, morality, and practicality of the statement from both viewpoints. 

Generally, both sides of the argument are partisan, subscribing either to liberal or conservative ideologies, so the debate is left for states to decide. Both sides, for and against, believe their arguments to be in the best interest of the learner; still, their stances are undeniably contrasting. The point of stasis is how effective and just each form of sex education is in preventing teen pregnancy, STDs, and other risks associated with sexual activity. Another point of stasis includes whether it is the responsibility of schools to provide that education for their learners.

First, I'm going to confirm the claim by looking at how it applies to justice, morality, and practicality.

  Justice: 

Public high schools should be required to enforce the comprehensive model for sex education because that is what is just and fair for the learners and their parents. The youth of America has the legal right to a public school education. While sex is a public issue, all learners also have the legal, natural, and inalienable right to be thoroughly educated on the topic of sex, STDs, and pregnancy prevention.

  Morality: 

Denying abstinence-only sexual education is also ethically just. As Francis Bacon puts it, “Knowledge is power,” and by providing learners with knowledge relating to sex, teens will have the power to be in control of their sexuality, able to make healthy choices for themselves. Without this knowledge, the learners are left powerless and clueless in their understandings of sex. Therefore, abstinence-only sex education disables teens’ ability to practice healthy sexuality, which can result in serious consequences in the long run, such as abuse and unintended pregnancy.

  Practicality: 

Public high schools should not be allowed to teach abstinence-only sexual education courses because comprehensive sex education is most beneficial and practical for American society as a whole. First, the abstinence-only sexual education model has been proven ineffective in its efforts to delay sexual activity and lower teen pregnancy rates compared to the comprehensive model (Advocates for Youth). So, using abstinence-only programs would be useless and a waste of resources. Secondly, these are topics that the general public has the right to be educated on from as early as the onset of puberty, and the most practical setting to do so is in the public school system, where it can be ensured that every individual has the opportunity to be accurately educated in these areas. Third, one cannot assume that every young teen or adult will make the decision to be abstinent. In fact, 95% of respondents in a national survey reported having sex prior to marriage (Advocates for Youth). It is most practical and beneficial to the American public that they are taught realistic and comprehensive information about safe sex, seeing that an overwhelming majority of the American population denies abstinence.

Next, I am going to refute the claim, focusing on injustice, immorality, and impracticality.

  Injustice: 

Public high schools should not be required to provide education on the use of contraceptives and other non-abstinence methods of birth control. In most states, teens are required by law to attend school, and it is a threat to their rights and the parents’ when those learners are required to partake in programs where their comfortability and maturity is compromised for the sake of teaching the material. It is also strictly the right and obligation of the parents or guardians to decide what sexual knowledge is conveyed to their children.


  Immorality: 

It is unethical to teach sexual education in forms other than the abstinence-only model. First, comprehensive sex education includes the teaching of highly explicit and mature content, which not all high school learners are ready for at their young age. Second, prohibiting abstinence-only sexuality education would jeopardize American moral values (Advocates for Youth) of purity and the deep significance of sexual relationships. In addition, it threatens these values by enforcing non-universal social models. Third, educating teens about sex with methods of contraception spurs interest and encourages the practice of sex in high school, and it is wrong to promote such practices when they can lead to severe consequences, such as emotional trauma and unwanted pregnancies.

  Impracticality: 

Comprehensive sexuality education is also detrimental and impractical for American society as a whole. It is plain fact that abstaining from sex is the only, completely, one hundred percent effective form of protection against pregnancy and STDs. Therefore, this claim should be one that is emphasized above all. Furthermore, it is impractical, inconvenient, and costly to require comprehensive sexual programs for all high school learners as a whole when sexuality is highly dependent on the individual and when people have such easy accessibility to that information via modern resources, such as the Internet.

What do you believe? I was really excited when my peer-editor told me that she couldn't tell which one I subscribed to. It's the confirmation side. Refuting the argument was difficult, but I was able to do some research online, and that helped me a lot. 
** Side note: I didn't include anything about abstinence-only education being proven ineffective in lowering teen pregnancy rates (see sources below), because that would have destroyed my "refutation" section.
The reason I picked this topic was because I am becoming more and more interested in child advocacy, especially in policy-making, and have decided to pursue that field recently...

Woo!!!

*happy dance*

I'm really excited.

Anyway, thank you for reading my post. Have a good day and a happy Valentine's Day!

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Works Cited
  • Abstinence Works. What About My State? 2011. 10 February 2015 <http://www.abstinenceworks.org/what-about-my-state-mainmenu-90#TEXAS>.
  • Advocates for Youth. Publications: The Truth About Abstinence-Only Programs. 2008. 10 February 2015 <http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/409-the-truth-about-abstinence-only-programs>.
  • AVERT. HIV Prevention: Sex Education That Works. 17 April 2014. 20 February 2015 <http://www.avert.org/sex-education-works.htm>.