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Labeling a Persuasive Essay Color-Coding Activity
Transition to background Background information
Transition to thesis
Sex education is important, but many students finish sex education classes with a distorted view of sexuality and without a good understanding of contraception and safe-sex practices. Instead, children only learn that they should not have sex until they are married. Sex education, first introduced in public schools as social hygiene education in the early 1900s, expanded in scope over several decades in an effort to reduce the rate of venereal diseases (Brown). Controversy over contraception options began in 1960 with the advent of the birth control pill (Goraliski). Curriculum in the 1970s aimed to reduce teenage pregnancy rates while awareness of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) shifted the focus to safe sex in the 1980s (Brown). The Adolescent Family Life Act in 1981 introduced abstinence-only programs that gained momentum in the late 1990s (Brown). These programs have the good intention of persuading young people to wait until marriage before having sex, but abstinenceonly programs are not achieving this goal and are flawed by the distorted and biased perspective that they promote. All schools should educate students not only about abstinence, but also about safe sex practices and pregnancy prevention methods.
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Studies show that abstinence-only programs do not reduce sexual activity by young people. Some parents or others may object that teaching sex education to students encourages youth to engage in sexual activities. Those in opposition believe that sex before marriage is wrong and abstinence is the only safe sex (ProQuest Staff). However, the research overwhelmingly suggests that simply teaching students how to abstain from sex will not prevent students from engaging in sex before marriage. In 2007, the United States Department of Health and Human Services released a study of abstinence programs. This government-funded study involved more than 2000 students. The authors discovered that findings from this study provide no evidence that abstinence programs implemented in upper elementary and middle schools are effective in reducing the rate of teen sexual activity (“Impacts”). The authors concluded that findings indicate that youth in the abstinence-only programs were no more likely than students not in the programs to have abstained from sex (“Impacts”). In addition, among those who reported having had sex, they had similar numbers of sexual partners and had initiated sex at the same mean age (“Impacts”). Apparently, students did not benefit from all of the effort and the millions of dollars that have gone into these programs. These ineffective programs are leaving students without the knowledge they need when they make certain choices; this type of education is failing today’s teenagers. Therefore, schools need to provide comprehensive sexual education classes.
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Another study by Peter Bearman of Columbia University shows that 88 percent of middle and high schoolers who pledge to stay virgins until marriage end up having premarital sex anyway (Kelly). He adds that “the bad news is that they are less likely to use contraception the first time they have intercourse” (Kelly). Although students may have good intentions in signing virginity contracts while enrolled in an abstinence program, the reality is that teaching abstinence does not prevent those students from engaging in sexual activities. While contracts like these may help students make good plans, the students also need education to help them know what to do if their plans change. Additionally, Dr. S. Paige Hertweck, a doctor who contributed to an American Academy of Pediatrics report on teen sexual activity, states that “teaching abstinence but not birth control makes it more likely that once teenagers initiate sexual activity they will have unsafe sex and contract sexually transmitted diseases” (“Doctors Slam Abstinence”). In abstinence-only programs, students are taught to “just say no” to sex. They are not taught the information that they need to know about safe sex and contraception if they later choose to say “yes,” as many of them are doing. Schools need to close this gap and provide students with all the knowledge they will need in their adult lives. Since abstinence-only programs have proven ineffective in reducing the number of young people engaging in sex, schools must provide sex education to protect students from diseases and pregnancy.
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Schools need to educate students on both abstinence and safe sex practices. Sexual activity by young people is an important concern. In an ideal world, maybe everyone would wait until marriage before having sex and would then remain in a single, monogamous relationship. But this is not the reality. It might be a good goal to try to convince young people to wait until marriage before having sex, but taking this approach alone to sex education is not working. After ten years and a half of a billion dollars in federal funding, abstinence-only programs have not had a positive impact on the sexual behavior of teenagers. The programs may even cause harm because of the distorted and biased views that they promote and because of the information about safe sex and contraception that they do not teach. It is time to put an end to abstinence-only programs and to give students more comprehensive sex-education programs that better prepare them for the future.