Sex education is one of the most controversial issues of the current generation. Almost all U.S. students receive some sort of sex education at least once between grades 7 and 12 with many schools addressing the matter of sex education as early as grade 5 (Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S. Public Schools, 2000). What they actually learn in sex ed classes can be varied because there is little centralized control over what is taught in these classes. In fact, some state laws leave curriculum decisions to the individual school districts (Sex Education in the U.S.: Policy and Politics, 2002). This issue is made even more contentious by the fact that sex ed often conflicts with the religious views of families. For example, conservative Christians believe in abstinence from sex until marriage and any form of sexual education is akin to promoting promiscuity. Another issue is that even within religious denominations views on sexuality can vary widely as individual families might have different opinions as to how much sex ed a child needs. This paper is of the position that Sexual education belongs in the family and not in classroom nor the religious institutions.
School is a place for learning and so it is easily to believe that sex ed belongs in school. However as mentioned earlier, students from various social, religious and ethnic backgrounds, i.e. the mix of students in public schools, will have very different ideas about sex and thus differing sex ed needs. Due to the nature of the public school system students will receive standardized sex ed which may or may not meet their specific needs. Worse, due to the non-establishment clause, that is the constitutional provision that requires that pubic funds can not be use to advance any religion, sex ed in school will be taught divorced from the moral and religious aspects that the teens were led to believe by their parents to be closely related to sex. After all, traditional views of sex consider the procreative act as a form of sacred union between the man and the woman, a gilded intimacy hence terminology such as love making or carnal knowledge
School based sex ed is broadly divided into two approaches, abstinence only and the comprehensive approach that also teaches the teens about condoms and other modes of contraception. Both approaches have their merits. Often the dividing line between which approach is actually used by later in life has more to do with a person’s convictions than what he is taught in school. Nevertheless government money is still used to fund both abstinence only and comprehensive sex ed (An Overview of Federal Abstinence-Only Funding) in the hopes of reducing teen pregnancy and the spread of STDs.
Another major criticism is that the public school system is already overburdened as it is. As the recent No Child Left Behind law and its unfortunate impact on the public school system has shown despite our educators valiant efforts standards are slowly slipping. The fact that some schools are forced to abandon some programs in favor of major areas like English, Science and Math is proof that the public school system is in need of help. The burden of shouldering sex ed in schools is both unnecessary and improper. There are certainly better places to discuss sex ed. Educators have better things to do than discuss condoms and the pill.
Many religious denominations teach their adherents that sexual contact outside marriage such as premarital or extramarital sex is immoral. In their opinion, morality plays an important role in the sexual education of their youth. As a concession to today’s less than ideal realities, they have learned to accept that sexual knowledge is unavoidable but insist that curricula should be based on abstinence (Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Episode 823. 2005). However, even in the conservative environment of a church, temple or mosque sexual education can be awkward and unwieldy even in the best of circumstances. The same deference and respect teens feel for their faith community leaders can alienate them from learning sexual education in that environment.
Many religions afford their preachers a very high degree of respect, whether they call them Minister, Father, Priest or Imam, the religious leader is someone who is look up to by adherents. Sex is a highly taboo topic in many religions to hear their leaders suddenly “talk dirty” and discuss sex ed would be a shocking thing for many religious teens. Furthermore, even if the faith community leaders are in a position to discuss sex ed their version of sex ed would be the exact opposite of what gets taught in public schools. If in public schools sex ed is about condoms, rhythm methods and the pill, in the religious setting it would be about sin, immorality and waiting for marriage. Faith community leaders can not divorce themselves from advancing their religious views in teaching sex ed and are likely to stick to abstinence only education which is accepted by their faith.
Public School and Church Sex education are on the opposite ends of the spectrum. Both have their merits and their cons. The best alternative is to discuss sex ed at home. The proverbial “birds and bees” lecture properly belongs at home. The parents are the best teachers of sex ed to their children. Having watched them grow up they are ideally suited to discuss sex ed at pace with the level of maturity that the teen has. Unlike standardized public school education which might expose the teens to things they are not ready to understand. Since they likely share the same religious views as their children they will give sex ed advice that is consistent with those views. As parents they are the best able to overcome any shyness or embarrassment the children might have about the topic. To conclude, it is the parent discussing sex ed at home who is the best choice. Parents can offer the best of both worlds; the morality of their religion and the practicality pragmatism of daily life.
To summarize this paper believes that sex ed should be taught at home and not in school or the church. School based sex ed tends to focus too much on the mechanical and physical aspects of sex. School based sex ed divorces the moral aspect and religious aspect of the act. By comparison, Church based sex ed will tend to overemphasize the moral aspect to the detriment of the physical. In other words, church based sex ed will likely focus on an abstinence only approach because religions in general frown upon the idea of sex outside marriage. The proper balance can be found at home. At home sex ed can be tailor fit to meet a child’s peculiar needs without the unnecessary embarrassment of having to discuss this topic openly in school or church.
- Sexuality Education in Fifth and Sixth Grades in U.S. Public Schools, 1999. Family Planning Perspectices 32 (5). Web.
- Sex Education in the U.S.: Policy and Politics” Issue Update. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2002.
- PBS, 2005 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly, Episode 823 An Overview of Federal Abstinence-Only Funding.