In lieu of the new school year, I thought it would be appropriate to touch on the topic of education; specifically, sex education.
Recently I’ve been looking into the state requirements for sex education in the US and have come up with some jaw dropping realities about how we prioritize sexuality in our teaching.
First of all, we have to ask ourselves, is sex education in schools even important? Sexuality is a very personal and often controversial subject, and is that something we should even be talking about in a mixed gender classroom environment? And what a huge responsibility this places on our teachers, that they are responsible to not only educate students, but in some cases almost raise them and guide them by helping to answer many of life’s challenging moral questions.
Well, I can only speak from my own experience when I say that sex education absolutely is important.
Growing up, my school went over sex and STDs during health class in eighth grade. My parents didn’t feel comfortable entrusting a stranger with this large topic, and therefore opted me out of that segment of the class. However, due to busyness and ultimately my avoidance of the awkward “birds and bees” conversation, the topic was never revisited at home.
Long story short, I entered high school understanding very little about sex.
Though I turned out just fine, sometimes ignorance can be far more dangerous than overexposure. Often people can be persuaded to do things that they aren’t comfortable with, simply because they don’t know any better.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I feel very passionate about the importance of teaching young people about not only the act of sex, but everything that comes along with it; not just the physical, but more importantly the emotional and spiritual consequences that come from having sex early.
On the other hand, I truly can’t fault my parents for not wanting to put me through the school sex ed curriculum.
A study by the Guttmacher Institute breaks down the rules for each state concerning sex, HIV, and abstinence education.
Reading this, I suddenly realized that the church is not the only place that struggles with communicating effectively about this subject. Public schools have a hard time talking about sex as well, and the guidelines for doing so haven’t been laid out very clearly. No one school district is the same. Whereas subjects like math and science have calculated criteria and standardized testing to make sure students all know the same material, with sex education it is left up to the district and in some instances, left to the discretion of the individual teacher.
According to the study, only 22 states actually require sex education. And of those 22, only 13 mandate that the teaching be medically accurate. There are differing degrees on how they may approach a HIV or STI/STD curriculum, and only some must touch on abstinence.
It’s so interesting that sex, this activity which plays a hand in our personal lives, our media, our industries, and our entertainment, is so quick to be tip-toed around in an official capacity, especially in the home and at school.
Sex is something we like to allude to, make assumptions of, and joke about, but to put things into black and white terms can be uncomfortable, and frankly, difficult to navigate.
I’m happy to say that I’ve learned a lot since my early sex education, which primarily came from the very mature comments and jokes made by my high school friends, magazines, and movies. And what I’ve found through diving into God’s heart, is that sex is a truly profound and beautiful thing not meant to bring about fear but to be spoken about honestly.
Today, a lot of what sex education boils down to is simply instructions about avoiding something bad. There are slideshows of shocking photos designed to scare students away from sex. There are speeches about using a condom to avoid contracting an STI/STD or getting pregnant. We have used fear as a tool for discouraging early sexual activity, and have many times failed to mention that, honestly, sex feels good!
For parents and educators it might seem more nerve racking to have students become aware of the pleasure of sex, because then they will be even more interested in experimenting with it. However, God, in His love for us, gave us the curriculum in the Song of Songs to demonstrate the pleasure of sex while waiting for the proper context. He didn’t choose to educate us by using shame or fear, but instead emphasized how good and honorable it is to engage in sexual intimacy within marriage, and how the time leading up to that should be filled with patient anticipation and excitement.