Last night, President Bush gave his annual State of the Union address, laying out many new initiatives for the United States. Among these initiatives was another call for more funding supporting abstinence-only sex education. And while this page would love to buy into the utopian fantasy the president attempts to portray, such programs do not address the serious issues of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease prevention.
Sex education curricula are the primary device through which serious issues – many of which students feel uncomfortable speaking about with their parents – are addressed. Abstinence should be a large component of any such education initiative. Students should be taught that abstaining from sex is 100 percent effective in avoiding pregnancy and STDs. If such education were 100 percent effective in preventing individuals from making bad choices, then it would be logical to implement such a policy solely and universally. Unfortunately, abstinence education has a high failure rate, as many young people choose to have sex anyway. And if they are going to have sex, they should be informed about all the precautions and consequences involved in the act.
Washington would no doubt be negatively affected by the implementation of the president’s vision. The District has the highest rate of AIDS infection of any city in the United States. While it is significantly larger in the adult community, high school students represent a growing population suffering from this devastating disease. Teaching abstinence will only guarantee that an already epic problem will get much worse.
Instead of trying to pretend the world is perfect, the president and the school systems in America should invest in a multi-pronged approach to sex education. While teaching abstinence should be an important cornerstone of any initiative, students should also be instructed about the dangers having unprotected sex exacerbates. Giving students the knowledge about where to get condoms and birth control would go a long way in producing well-balanced students who are comfortable making the difficult choices in their sex lives.