Monday, February 8, 2010

Sex Education

Two studies recently came out with contradictory evidence regarding abstinence education. The first is from Guttmacher Institute, a think tank connected with Planned Parenthood. It says that in the last two years, there has been a slight rise (3%) in teenage pregnancy. This is in the age group of 15-19. Two things I would like to point out about this study. First, they found that pregancies in teenage girls at 18-19 were considerably higher then other age groups. What caused the 3% increase may have been this group. I find that interesting since this the time period that girls leave high school, end their education and enter "the real world." The second thing to point out is that though the Guttmacher Institute is connected with Planned Parenthood, I don't think that one can throw the study on the wayside because of potential bias. They have done research in the past which has given support for abstinence education. e.g. They reported the 41% drop in teenage pregnancy that occurred between 1990 and 2005.

The second study that recently came out from University of Pennsylvania of Medicine found that abstinence education models are more effective than their comprehensive sexual education counterparts. What are these models? (I found a good article answering this question earlier but lost the link.) This was an interesting study because it dealt with solely African Americans (6th-7th graders) and that after two years of participating in abstinence educational programs, only 1/3 of the students reported having sexual intercourse while 1/2 in the programs where "safe sex" was promoted reported having safe sex. The conclusion of the study is that "While the abstinence intervention program did not eliminate sexual activity completely, the study did demonstrate that such a program can successfully reduce the number of adolescents having sex."

Here are two contradictory studies. What does this mean for the debate over what type of sex education students should receive? One thing is for sure, it does not mean that abstinence education is proven to be inadequate to reduce sexual activity. Also, it does not mean that abstinence education is the cure-all.

I personally believe that there are deeper moral and cultural issues going on in the debate over how sex education should be taught. People bring their personal experiences into the debate, Also, one's view of sexuality is going to play into the debate, whether their are universal morals, how much of culture defines what is good as opposed to universal morals and other bunch presuppositional beliefs that we all bring to the table.

I have one question: what is the end goal of sex education? Is it to make sure students do not get pregnant, do not have sex or educate them about sex? Once this question is answered, I think it will bring clarity to this debate though it could create more tension.

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