Sexuality education began in U.S. public schools in the 1960s. It was promoted primarily by the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), an organization founded in 1964 as the sex education arm of Planned Parenthood. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy:
"From 1940 to 1957, the teen birth rate increased 78 percent to a record high. The birth rate dropped fairly steadily from the end of the 1950s through the mid-1980s, but then increased 24 percent between 1986 and 1991. Between 1991 and 2005, the teen birth rate decreased 35 percent to a record low of 40.5 in 2005. However, the teen birth rate between 2005 and 2006 increased 3 percent."
Looking at the history of teen birth rates, it can appear that rates have lowered significantly and that there's less reason to educate our youth about sexuality. The rates have in fact decreased, but the higher historical numbers represent married teens. And, married teens tend to face less life-long negative consequences of teenage births than unmarried teens.
Today, a majority of pregnant teens are unmarried, and near-epidemic proportions of sexually transmitted infections occur among teen and young adult populations. With research discovering that the emotional effects of pre-marital sex can cause long-term consequences – one of these effects being the difficulty of emotionally bonding with one person in marriage after having had multiple sexual partners – there is considerable need for sexuality education. But, the debate continues over the focus of sexuality education in schools and over the age at which it should begin. Including parents within the public school sex education process also remains controversial.
There are two differing foundational beliefs on which sexual education systems are built. One is the belief that every individual, regardless of age or marital status, should choose for themselves when they become sexually active. The opposing belief is that all school-age children should remain sexually inactive until they are in a marital relationship.
Certain basic concepts are fundamental to these two types of sexuality education commonly called comprehensive sex education and abstinence-until-marriage education, respectively:
Comprehensive Sex Education
- Sexual behavior is a human right.
- Reducing risk is the goal.
- Sex ed begins in kindergarten.
- Sex ed includes contraception instruction.
- Abortion is a choice and an alternative to pregnancy.
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual and questioning life-styles are embraced.
- All forms of sexual activity are accepted.
- Pornography is an activity that some people enjoy.
- Individuals should feel free to discover who they are as sexual human beings by experimentation.
- Belief systems excepting tolerance are not acceptable.
- Parents are not necessary in the sex education process.
- Sexual abstinence until marriage eliminates health risks.
- Children can achieve their goals and dreams without the distraction of consequences from sexual activity.
- Delayed gratification is essential to adult maturity.
- Learning to develop friendships without physical intimacy is essential to healthy marriages.
- Multiple sexual partners can be dangerous to one's physical, emotional, mental and social health.
- Pornography is dangerous to the individual and society.
- Religious beliefs and heritage surrounding sexuality should be honored.
- Parents are the primary sex educators of their children and are an essential part of abstinence-until-marriage education.
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