So, I have no idea why I didn't post this ages ago since, well, I only have 6 days til the final draft, but I'm writing my Senior Thesis on the question of "What has been and should be the role of public schools in addressing issues of unhealthy teen sexual behavior?"
I'm addressing problems like the misogynistic harm abstinence-only brings, the inconsistent and misleading information current sex ed across the country provides, lack of funding, the three camps of controversy (sexual conservative, sexual liberal, and radical feminist), and of course the fact that teens are still getting STIs and unwanted pregnancy despite sex ed.
Beyond fixing the curriculum of the sex ed system (replacing abstinence-only programs with comprehensive sex ed, and vastly improving comprehensive), there are obviously other factors to deal with that go into unhealthy teen sexual behavior, which brings me to a more complex question to answer: How should schools go about addressing these issues of homophobia, racism, classism, bullying, MEDIA (maybe media literacy classes?), politics, economic factors, religious influence, morality, self-control, social pressure, capitalism, commodification and objectification, rape culture, AUTONOMY/ownership of one's own body, smart decisionmaking, trust, historical patriarchy & sexism, and everything else that may influence teen sexual behavior.
My lit review is completed (19 pages and it was supposed to be 6! There's just too much to say!). This looked at the controversy through 3 camps: sexual conservatives (pro-abstinence til marriage, one moral standard, information is harmful, etc.), sexual liberals (may be pro-abstinence but believe in comprehensive sex ed, morals are personal, information is important to healthy decisionmaking), and radical feminists (what this website, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Fields, myself, and of course so many others fall into: comprehensive is a must, and it should go beyond basic facts to endorse feminism and positive sexuality and critique patriarchy. Leave nothing out. Oh, and stop treating teens like they're incapable or not allowed to make their own decisions...instead, provide them with the information they have a RIGHT to access).
So the issue I face is while I know what I think is best, what's realistic is different. Most parents aren't radical pro-sexuality feminists. Neither, clearly, are politicians. So the problem I'm facing is what the next step is. How to encourage some kind of comprehensive sex education that is both effective in preventing unhealthy teen sexual behavior (and, ideally, promoting an overall healthy view of sexuality) and is acceptable to parents and school boards.
I think part of what's been so fascinating to me is finally reading and trying to understand where sexual conservatives are coming from. "When Sex Goes to School" provided some really enlightening interviews. While The Purity Myth rocks my socks, it demonizes the "other side" which may be effective in motivating action but not in understanding or relating. I now see how if someone truly believes that any sex before marriage is immoral and with send their kids to hell, they're not going to care how "safe" it is. No matter what, it's wrong. And they want to protect their children from information they feel will lead them down a path of sin. (though I think most of us know that good information isn't going to do that, as a) they're still going to find out about sex, and they're going to get BAD information, and b) statistically, individuals receiving abstinence-only sex ed still have sex before marriage - and, of course, are less likely to know how to use contraception and be healthy)
My thesis includes two components. The first is an objective policy brief, which looks at the problem and the many possible solutions from an objective standpoint. The second is an advocacy policy brief I will likely be proposing an increase in peer education opportunities (and certainly an elimination of abstinence-only programs etc.), since their effectiveness has been demonstrated and it makes sense to me that students are more likely to listen to their peers.
Unfortunately, they're only 3,000 words each, even though I wish I could write books on this. My policy brief will likely be directed towards the federal government (or, you know, an individual, or probably department - I need to look into exactly how AFLA was passed and who enforced it - Dpt of Education?), but any ideas for specific groups to direct it to would be great. It can honestly be anything. Planned Parenthood for example (but they pretty much already know all this stuff). I would write to a school board, but unfortunately they don't tend to have much power over curricula (except at charter schools in some states). Still I suppose I could write a policy brief encouraging them to take action on a larger scale....
Anyway. I know 6 days isn't a lot of time, but anything ya'll can give me as soon as you can would be spectacular. The peer education thing is kind of a new idea so I haven't even done a lot of research about it and don't know much yet.
Thanks guys! You rock!
Posts: 219 | From: Indiana | Registered: Mar 2010
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I think it's great that you're doing this. I suggest you also include something about the role of the parent(s)/guardian(s). The fact is that teens usually rely on parents or guardians for financial support. Now that I'm not in my teens anymore and don't live with my parents, I look back at some of the choices I made and wish I had been more considerate towards my parents. Now that I've written that I sound old But my point is, a seventeen year old may be just as capable as a 40 year old to make choices about their sexual activity and reproductive rights... but if the 17 year old relies on their parents for money and a roof over their head, it's hardly considerate to plan a pregnancy then expect unwavering financial and emotional support from the parents. If the 40 year old lived with their parents too, and had no source of income, IMO it would also be inconsiderate to plan a pregnancy then expect the parents to help out without discussing it in advance.
Posts: 143 | From: USA | Registered: Aug 2009
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