Dear Next President,
Currently, in the United States, the sex education we have for adolescents can be remodified to be ideal and more effective than the one we have now. It is crucial that teens today get a proper sex education, not only to prevent teen pregnancy or the spread of HIV/STDs, but it is also equally as important that we, as young adults, are taught to understand and value the right to chose whether or not we want to engage in a sexual activity and to comprehend the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. According to Guttmacher Institute, the share of schools providing sexual health education declined from the years of 2000-2014. When I say sexual health education, I am referring to the topics of puberty, abstinence, to how to use contraceptives properly and anything else in between.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention surveyed high school student that showed as a result that 41% have had sexual intercourse, 30% of which happened within the past three months. Moreover, of those who said they did have sexual intercourse, 43% did not use a condom the last time. Borderline half of the 20 million new annual STD cases are teens aged 15-24. Currently, two in five of sexually active young women have had an STD that can potentially cause infertility, and can even be lethal. More than 80% HIV diagnoses is made up of males, which includes younger men of ages of 13-19 year-olds, says the Office of Adolescent Health.
Sex education shouldn’t just be about contraceptives and the anatomy of your body, these are major points that need to be covered but they aren’t the only ones. The renovated curriculum should educate to show respect towards everyone and empower every adolescent regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. We can not talk anyone into thinking a certain way, but the ultimate goal is to inform and provide enough information to break stereotypes. It is also significant to entitle everyone to authority over their own body and what sexual activity they want to be a part of. Likewise, the right to say “no” needs be appraised and accentuated, as well as understanding when someone else says “no”. It is also essential that students are taught to differentiate a healthy and an unhealthy relationship and what to do or who to reach out for when they’re in a difficult situation.
Advocates for Youth has sponsored study tours in developed countries (France, Germany, & the Netherlands) who have more positive sexual health outcomes with teens than in the United States. Just one example that shows that these European countries are having more effective results with their sex education are the number of teen pregnancy compared to the U.S. The Netherlands’ teen birth rate is one of the lowest at 4.5 per 1000 women aged 15-19 (BBC News 2012). Germany’s rate is 8.0 and France’s rate is 10.7. These European countries’ rate is one third or less of the United States’ rate, which is at 29.4.
So, what are European countries doing and why is it more effective? An article in the health section on the ATTN website, How Europe Proves that U.S. Sex Education Sucks, states, “A recent ATTN: video explored this idea and found that only 22 states require sex education in public schools. By contrast, most European countries make sex education mandatory. The U.S. continues to struggle with mandating sex education across all states, while Europe finds new ways to provide its youth with comprehensive information about sex.” So instead of what we mostly do now, teaching abstinence until marriage, we should follow into the footsteps of European countries of offering useful and accessible information teens.
Preventing the spread of STDs/HIV, and unplanned pregnancy in the younger generation, as well as emphasizing to young adults that they have say and right to chose to be sexually active would be some of the benefits of a more informative sexual education. Not only would we as teens have a better understanding of what types of relationships are good for us and which aren’t, but we would be more knowledgeable, making it easier shatter stereotypes. What I ask of the future president is to make sexual education that is helpful for adolescents mandatory in all 50 states.
Fernanda, 11th grade
New Tech High School, California