August 11, 2011

Mandatory Sex Ed? Yes, please.

New York City’s public school students will have a new course added to their curriculum when they return to class this fall. Sexual education classes will include instructions on how to use a condom, how to resist the pressure to have sex, and how to respect your partner—amongst other things that will become a mandatory course for all students. The program will be taught once in middle school, and again in high school. This is the first time in nearly two decades a program like this has been implemented.

The program is part of a larger city ordinance in which Michael Bloomberg, NYC’s mayor, seeks to improve the lives of young men (and women?) called The Young Man’s Initiative. The “Initiative” will also include things like job training, fatherhood classes, and counseling for those who have broken the law.

While all of these things are well and good, I should hope that the same amount of effort will be put into teaching young women about things like birth control, teen pregnancy, and how to say no effectively.

I myself was a teen mom, having my first daughter Paige not even 60 days after turning seventeen. We didn’t have an effective sexual education class in my school, and I was completely unaware of places like Planned Parenthood, where you can obtain birth control, and important information, without parental consent. Having asked my mother to take me to the doctor and put me on birth control, and her answer being no (assuming I would just not have pre-marital sex), it would have been nice to know I had other options. The truth of the matter was I was completely unprepared, and totally naive about how easily one can get pregnant having unprotected sex, and while abstinence is best, it was not the route I took, just like so many other young girls these days.

With shows like MTV’s Teen Mom readily available, though ridiculous and uninformative, mandatory sex ed seems much like the lesser of two evils. Young girls watch that show and become completely misguided. It shows some of the best case scenarios, and puts these girls in the tabloids and on TV, an almost reward for a poor, lifechanging, hard, choice that robs young girls of their youth.

The decision to have this class put back into the public curriculum has caused an intense debate among  parents who do not agree with this choice.

In an email Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott sent to principals, he said:

“We have students who are having sex before the age of 13; students who have had multiple sexual partners; and students who aren’t protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS…I believe the school system has an important role to play with regard to educating our children about sex and the potential consequences of engaging in risky behavior.”

Parents are upset that their children will have access to things like condoms, and vital information without their consent. What we all need to understand it that these children are ultimately going to do what they want to do, and it is best if they are at least making informed decisions.

And should they choose to have sex, that they do so safely.

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