Although I was given the necessary education in the biological aspects of sexuality long before even entering grade-school (with a yearly brush-up that elaborated on more advanced concepts as my understanding grew), I was still curious, upon beginning high school 2 1/2 years ago, to see how the information would be presented in our public school sex ed. I was a bit confused, as I was under the impression that this would be taught in Middle School, but Middle School decided that "Abstinence Only!" was the only program they were willing to offer. Although many Middle Schoolers were already having sex, I could sort of understand that age-bracket being considered too young in a state as conservative as Idaho. However...
I soon discovered, to my shock, that EVEN IN HIGH SCHOOL, the only sexual program preached was "Abstinence Only."
NO sex ed!
Curious... Well, perhaps if I were to look through the different electives offered at the school, I would find that sexual education was a separate and optional class?
Only two classes even remotely fit the bill:
Family Life and Health.
However, upon closer examination...
Health, though it addresses reproduction, does not do so from a sexual angle. A loose lesson on pregnancy is given, and a very graphic video (watched only after parents sign a permission slip) depicting a live birth is shown to "scare off" students from the idea of sex. They are told that they should "abstain from sex", and are given no education on the subject, except from the view of, "you will become pregnant and go through a very painful, strenuous process that eventually leads to birth and baby." The class is traumatizing for most young women, and absolutely non-beneficial in any way for males.
Family Life is equally manipulative and useless. Again, sexuality is given zero educational focus, but a lot of attention is rewarded to "baby". Extensive measures are taken to teach young females how to take care of a baby, including a mandatory "smart" baby doll that is set to cry at short intervals, requiring the caretaker to "change its diaper", "feed it" with the fake bottle, etc. Again, if you take the class, this baby is MANDATORY, and it CANNOT be shut off at night. The baby doll unit is a bit of a JOKE around the school, because you can always tell who is on the program--they show up to their classes half-awake, grumpy, and their babies always go off in the middle of class. They almost ALWAYS suffer academically from the responsibility, and though several teachers have complained about students' suffering grades, nothing has been done to terminate the program because of its effectiveness in disuading teens from sexual activity.
The overall message pushed onto these young females by the course?
"That's what you get if you have a baby! Aweful, isn't it?" (Yes, the teacher literally says this.)
And again, abstinence, rather than education, is firmly pushed upon the students.
These manipulative classes not only fail to provide the sexual education needed for young teens to stay SAFE and HEALTHY in their inevitable sexual explorations, but they--for many students, if not all--DAMAGE the teen's relationship with their own sexuality, ESPECIALLY for the young girls.
I was horrified and disgusted by my school's poor approach to the subject of sex ed., and I wondered if this was an "Idahoan" thing--or in other words, a result of the highly conservative politics that dominate this region, which also happens to sit on a very tight "bible belt".
What I found, shocklingly, was this:
(Warning: this URL leads to a site OFF Scarleteen.)
To highlight some main points from the above URL...
"...IF A SCHOOL DISTRICT INTRODUCES A PROGRAM ON FAMILY LIFE AND SEX EDUCATION, THE CONTENT OF THAT INSTRUCTION SHALL BE DETERMINED SOLELY AT THE LOCAL LEVEL AND TO EXTEND THE MEANING OF SELF-DISCIPLINE TO INCLUDE ABSTINENCE AS THE ONLY SAFE METHOD TO COMBAT UNWANTED PREGNANCY, HIV/AIDS AND SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES."
Though absintence is certainly the SAFEST way, the wording of "only safe method" has caused the entire school district--(I have not yet researched whether this extends beyond the school district that I am in, since sex ed. policies are, as you can see above, determined on the local level)--to present absintence as the ONLY alternative to their students, COMPLETELY failing to give even some elementary education or even MENTION of other means of protection (such as condoms), even if citing their risks.
"Major emphasis in such a program should be to assist the home in giving them the knowledge and appreciation of the important place the family home holds in the social system of our culture..."
"The program should supplement the work in the home and the church in giving youth the scientific, physiological information for understanding sex and its relation to the miracle of life, including knowledge of the power of the sex drive and the necessity of controlling that drive by self-discipline..."
The necessity of controlling that drive by self-discipline. Amazing. Let us ENCOURAGE suppression, sexual guilt, and frustration in youth, AND only give them the educational avenue to perceive sex through ONE angle of the cultural spectrum, even though sex is treated in a RAINBOW of different ways depending on religion, political stance, personal morality, ethnicity, cultural background, etc. It seems to me that my suspcision of this being an "Idahoan" thing turns out correct: the state wishes to push a purely conservative view of sex into public schools, and in so doing are sacrificing certain important educational elements that are necessary both for the PHYSICAL and MENTAL health of teenagers.
The effects of improper education are certainly visible, even to those who would care not to examine its consiquences. There are only TWO options made available to students here: ABSINTENCE, or an "alternative" school for--you guessed it--PREGNANT teens.
Our "alternative" school is VERY amply populated--though many choose not to go, and can be seen walking around campus with big bellies and sad faces--and through the grapevine it is known that a shocking number of students in attendance suffer from some sort of STD or STI. Simply through being socially involved and observant, I have picked up on MANY common misconceptions on campus regarding sex, such as:
*You cannot get pregnant during your period.
*You cannot get pregnant your first time having sex.
*"Pulling out" is effective birth control.
*"Draining" after sex is an effective means of birth control.
*Getting "beat up" by your friends after unprotected sex is an acceptable means of pregnancy prevension. (This involves being repeatedly punched in the stomach in order to damage any internal process that may be happening, or to trigger a miscarriage.)
I am revolted by all this. I would like to take some steps--even if I can only set some small ones in motion, as I am moving out of state this summer--towards introducing PROPER sex education in Idaho public schools, or at least within my school district.
Could anyone inform me of an intelligent, effective place to start, and exactly what steps I should consider taking, and who I should contact, etc?
~Meddle not in the affairs of Dragons, for thou art crunchy and taste good with ketchup