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Comprehensive Sex Education

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Teaching morality is becoming an increasingly controversial topic in the education system today. There are many aspects of morality that can be taught in schools. One of these aspects is sex education. Many questions arise when it comes to sex education in schools such as when it should begin and how much should be addressed. Some people believe that sex education programs should teach abstinence only to students. However, there are a large percentage of people who believe that sex education should include all aspects of what sex includes such as information on contraception, STD's etc. Even though both types of programs are becoming more popular, evidence shows that comprehensive sex education is a much more effective way to go. "A national task force of health, education, and sexuality professionals believes that an issue as multifaceted as sex requires a multi-targeted approach. Teaching abstinence is a significant piece of the puzzle, but 'just say no' may be lost on students who are already sexually active" (Van Dorn, Betsy).

Many teenagers today are sexually active. Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey indicates that over half of all high school students have engaged in sexual intercourse at some point in their lives. Thirty-nine percent of ninth graders have been sexually active and that percentage rises to over sixty-five percent of high school seniors. For many teens, there are consequences that have to be faced because of their choice to be sexually active. About three million teenagers in the U.S. acquire an STD every year. Ten percent of females between the ages of fifteen to nineteen become pregnant every year (Parker, Terry). That's one in ten females getting pregnant. With statistics this high among teens, it isn't right to deprive them of the education necessary to help them make good decisions about their sexual behavior.

The question now arises on what kind of sexual education should be taught to adolescents. "In a recent poll, ninety-three percent of Americans supported sex education in high schools with eighty-four percent supporting sex education in middle schools" (Parker, Terry). These statistics show that Americans acknowledge that there is a problem with STD's and pregnancies among teenagers and there needs to be something done about it. So how do we decide what kind of sex education should be taught to American teens? "...Eighty-nine percent of Americans believe that young people should receive information about contraception and prevention of STD's and that school-based sex education should focus on how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STD's, including HIV infection and AIDS (Parker, Terry). This means providing students with all the facts about sex, and this includes preventative precautions.

Many of the programs used today that use comprehensive sex education have found evidence that these programs actually delay the initiation of sexual intercourse for teens. Research evaluating program effectiveness has shown that the best way to motivate students to delay the onset of sexual activity is to provide them with full and accurate information" (Teaching Fear). The World Health Organization released a report in 1994 analyzing research that has been done on sex education. "After a detailed analysis of each of the 35 studies done on this subject, the authors concluded that there is no support for the contention that sexuality education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity" (Teaching Fear). Evidence has also shown a significant decrease in the number of partners among sexually active participants. Remember that statistics show that one in five students have had sexual intercourse with four or more partners in their life. There are many effective comprehensive sex education programs being used that address social pressures of having sex as well as practice with communication and refusal skills so that teens feel comfortable making the decision to say no (Parker, Terry).

"Today, eighty-two percent of high schools and seventy-six percent of junior high schools require sex education on their campuses" (Parker, Terry). Many of these programs have proven to be effective in reducing teen pregnancy and STD's as well as reducing the number of partners teens choose to have. They have also shown to delay the initiation of sexual intercourse in many teens. There are many characteristics necessary for a program to be successful in obtaining these goals. One characteristic is giving clear information about sex and condom as well as other contraceptive use. Students should know about different forms of contraceptive as well as how to use them and where to get them. Programs also offer information about the risks of sex and how to avoid sex. If students are taught about the risks and how to avoid them, they are less likely to have sex, or if they do have sex they are more likely to use necessary protection. "...The most effective method of preventing teen pregnancy is comprehensive sexuality education that includes skills training in decision-making and communicating with partners, and access to information about contraception" (Teaching Fear). These programs also emphasize that abstinence is the safest way to go.

One kind of program for middle school students has shown to be very effective. This program takes place both inside and outside of school. "Weekly classroom sessions cover everything from setting goals and managing personal problems to discussing what marriage and commitment mean" (Van Dorn, Betsy). Outside of the school the students are introduced to community service. The students volunteer in places like child-care centers and homeless shelters. Many people see this as a common sense idea that if the kids are busy doing something like community service they are



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