Sex Education an Inssue on Both Sides of the Pond
In a recent report, England’s Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV made recommendations for compulsory sex and relationship education nationwide. The goal is to decrease teen pregnancies and the growing rates of STIs among the young population. Right now, half of new STI cases are among 16-24 year olds who only account for 12% of the population. In one school that already teaches Sex and Relationship Education, six and seven year olds are taught about male and female body parts through the use of flash cards. While some think learning about the human body at an earlier age may make adolescents more curious about sex, much of the programming on TV and ads on the streets already display such images. The difference is that with a compulsory plan in place, curiosity is less likely to result in STIs or teen pregnancy since students will be informed about contraception and birth control.

Here in the US, where there is no federal mandate for sex ed. According to the Guttmacher Institute’s State Policies in Brief fact sheet, less than half the states in the union mandate sex education in public schools, while 23 states require abstinence be stressed over contraception if it is taught. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia require contraception be covered and no state requires that contraception be stressed. To change these figures and improve education it would be necessary to move the focus from abstinence-only to comprehensive sex education, which would cover information on contraception, abortion, relationships and sex, STDs, as well as sexual expression.

Even if better programs could be provided, they still would not be compulsory as is the plan for England, leaving the possibility of young adults lacking necessary education. In many cases, comprehensive sex education is still antagonized by parents, as it was in Montgomery County in upstate New York when Planned Parenthood was brought in to provide sex education classes for 7th and 8th graders. Parents of students there began to protest the presence of Planned Parenthood, even though it is through the help of such organizations that the county could help rid itself of the second highest teen birthrate in all of New York State.

The high STI rates in England and the high pregnancy rates in Montgomery County seem to be indicative of failures of the sex education programs in place. Despite this fact, many American parents are unwilling to change these faulty systems, leaving their children ignorant and vulnerable, while England is striving to move forward with sex education reform.

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