Abstinence-only education is a mistake


Abigail Gratzol

A timeline of sex education from the 1960’s to now. GENESIS staff writer, Abby Gratzol, believes that Indiana’s abstinence only education perspective is a mistake.

Abigail Gratzol, Staff Writer

Sex education was introduced to public high school in the 1920’s after it was suggested that the STD crisis among soldiers in WWI could have been avoided had they been educated in school.

Progress in the area marched on until the 1960’s and 70’s, when conservatives began to oppose sex-ed on the basis of their religion, suggesting abstinence-only education instead. The turmoil continued until the 1990’s when AIDS became an epidemic. It was then that conservatives began to win the war on education.

They convinced the majority of the public that the problem lay in the education system. They believed that the information provided in such classes only promoted increased sexual behavior and that teaching students about the benefits of abstinence would improve the situation.

Let’s take a look at some facts:

  • Thirty-seven states require that abstinence must be taught.
  • Twenty-six of these states require that extra emphasis be placed on abstinence.
  • There are only seven states that require information about contraceptives to be provided.
  • Seventeen states don’t even require sex education at all.
  • 80% of federally funded abstinence-only programs distort information in order to scare students

The majority of these states have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. Also, in the 1990’s, when abstinence education was introduced, there was a spike in teen pregnancy rates. Is this merely a coincidence?

The thing that abstinence education ignores is the fact that teens are most likely going to have sex. Studies have shown that students in the abstinence-only education system are more likely to develop aversions to the use of contraceptives. They have also found that they have higher or similar pregnancy and STD rates to others.

Furthermore, states with a more open and honest approach that teach about safe sex practices seem to have more success.

Recently, teen pregnancy rates have reached an all time low. According to the CDC, this decline is likely due to teens abstaining and practicing safe sex. Despite this the U.S. still has the highest teen pregnancy rates of other western industrialized nations.

You see, sex education is mandated in the majority of European countries, unlike nearly a third of the United States. They also take a much different approach to the subject. In some countries, they even start the sex-education process as early as kindergarten. While they don’t go into the actual details of intercourse, they talk about things like healthy relationships in order to ensure the preparedness of their students.

In my opinion, the United States needs to take a hint. Clearly, abstinence-only education has been proven to be less effective than its counterparts. They are basically telling teens to stay away from fire while not giving them the tools or necessary information to protect them from it.

It’s like telling students that catching on fire is bad for their health but not teaching the “stop, drop, and roll.” They’re teaching us all about the dangers of fire while neglecting to mention its benefits. It’s great to make a safe bonfire in order to make s’mores and keep warm, but it’s bad to play with matches.

That’s kind of like sex. If you don’t know how to indulge in it safely, you are likely to get burned or cause other kinds of damage. But if you understand what it is and how to use it safely, there’s really no reason to fear it.

The way things are now, the only way for most teens to learn about safe sex practices is to seek out the knowledge for themselves. While I believe the internet is likely a big factor in the recent declines in teen pregnancy rates, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

The whole point of sex-ed is teaching students about sex. If we are forced to turn to other resources, the education system isn’t doing its job.

They say they care about protecting us. They say the reason behind implementing abstinence-only education is for protecting teens from the dangerous side of sex. Yet, they aren’t teaching teens how to stay safe. They’re just telling us to stay away from it.

If they really cared, they would teach us how to be safe. They wouldn’t just tell us to stay away from fire.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the GENESIS staff. Email Abigail Gratzol at [email protected] .