All high schools should change their policies: no longer teach abstinence, but instead implement frank discussions and education about safe and healthy sex lives.
This is a controversial statement in the eyes of many, but I have well founded reasons for my beliefs. Before my student teaching last winter, I had thought that only private and/or religious schools still advocated for abstinence. For student teaching, I was placed in a high school in Wayne. My cooperating teacher mentioned their abstinence based sex-ed policies to me in conversation, and I couldn't hold back my laughter. The assumption that a bunch of hormonal teenagers, all cramped together in a school of a thousand-plus kids would not be having sex was unrealistic. I know this because of my experiences with students even younger than these.
Young children dating- sadly- is now becoming a social norm. When I worked a morning care program at an elementary school, fourth and fifth graders boasted about their “girlfriends” and “boyfriends”. Regardless of the legitimacy of their claims, the fact remains that the mentality is there. It is talked about, and encouraged by parents and teachers alike calling it “cute”. What isn't cute is when the real-life repercussions come from an initially imagined relationship.
I remember being in middle school. Back then, middle schoolers were still kids, we played outside, we were awkward around the opposite gender. Now, I walk into a middle school and there are girls with crop tops and belly rings, guys slap their butts in the hall and wolf whistle as they walk by. Couples walk around holding hands, and the poor teachers have to break up PDA in the hallways. It has long been said that kids are getting older, younger, and that is definitely evident here. Middle schools are beginning to resemble high schools.
When elementary school students are exposed to the dating lifestyle early on, it isn't such a far stretch for them to actually start dating when they hit middle school. Of course, this is also the joyous time when puberty hits, so they have real biological feelings towards people. With overly-sexualized TV shows, movies, and music videos, they become desensitized to it. It is very common now for middle school students to engage in sexual acts. I know this for a fact, because in a school I volunteered at, there were three pregnant students. They were only twelve years old.
With those memories in my mind, and the suggestion that suddenly high school students had decided to keep it in their pants, of course I had to laugh. This is the sad reality that we live in. For us as educators and/or adults trying to guide our youth, it does us no good to ignore the realities of a situation. This is the world that these youth are growing up in, and we have to accept that the societal norms have evolved. Its not our job to change the world they live in, just provide them with tools and advice to successfully navigate it. That's why I believe that all high schools should stop their attempt to teach abstinence, and start teaching young adults how to have a safe sex life.
Traditional sex-ed in schools focuses on the physical side of things: STD's, getting pregnant, keeping your body healthy, but no one really talks about the emotional repercussions. In addition to rigorous education on the prevention of disease and pregnancy, I believe schools should hold frank discussions about the social/psychological/emotional aspects. This should include, especially for young women, a checklist they should follow to decide whether they should in fact sleep with someone. For example: Are you in the right state of mind to provide consent? Is this something you want, or do you feel pressured by friends or your significant other? How long have you been in a relationship with this person, do you trust him/her? How does a relationship evolve with the introduction of sex? These are all very real things to discuss and consider.
With the use of these very real and relatable situations as a base for frank and open discussions, perhaps it will encourage the youth to think things through a bit more carefully. Hopefully, disease and pregnancy prevention education combined with these discussions will help students become more considerate and sincere with each other with regards to physical relationships. This may reduce the rate of teen pregnancies, the spread of STD's, even rape culture- and isn't that what everyone wants?
What types of discussions regarding relationships do you think is important to have in schools?
What other types of sex-ed practices do you believe will increase thoughtfulness and caution among teens?