I graduated high school with 105 people two and a half years ago. Thirty of them now have children. A few got married, but the vast majority are struggling single parents who have nothing to look forward to except living in a rural Oklahoma community, population 5,000, for the rest of their lives.
Is it their fault they were stupid and didn’t use contraception? A little, because my tiny hometown is situated in the middle of an impoverished area where free birth control is available at the local health clinic. Is it their fault that the ones who were using birth control may have used it ineffectively because they were misinformed? Partially.
But mostly I blame the school administrators and the ridiculous abstinence-only sex education they have been enforcing for years.
In this town, sex is a four-letter word, and I mean that literally, because most of the people I graduated with would have added an extra "x" on the end. Sex isn’t talked about in school until eighth grade when it comes up in biology, and even then, it’s talked about in the strictest, most anatomically correct way. When it comes to actually having it, the only thing that’s said is, “Don’t do it until marriage.”
It is also important to note that my hometown is situated right in the middle of the Bible belt, on the Oklahoma-Arkansas state line. The popular belief is that abstinence is the only way to keep our children safe from the perils of premarital sex. Since most of the administrators and school board members are also actively involved in the Baptist church, the school curriculum is carefully crafted to inform about the act of coitus, but not about the consequences. They also believe and tell their children that sex is fine as long as it’s done within the bonds of marriage. This approach is dated and, as my tiny town proves, it obviously doesn’t work.
Let’s examine this logically. One of the first things parents learn is that children do the exact opposite of what their guardians want them to do. Why should sex education be any different? And why is it all up to our school administrators to inform children about sex?
I do realize there is a difference between explaining that abstinence is the only foolproof way to prevent pregnancy and the acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases, and telling students that abstinence is the morally right thing to do. And there will always be those students who decide that waiting for marriage is what they want to do. On the other hand, there will always be those students who decide that waiting is nowhere in their future plans.
We need to educate all students about every aspect of sex. Shoving abstinence-only education down students’ throats obviously isn’t doing any good, but informing them of safe ways to have sex, should they choose to do so, may be worth trying. Offering abstinence as an optional method of birth control rather than the only one would be more effective than what is being done now.
As for those 30 or so kids I graduated with, it’s already too late for them. But I have hope that someday their children will have a better education than their parents did.