|Some might argue that it's up to parents to teach their children about sex, but sex education is nothing new, and research shows that proper sex education actually delays teen sex. But according to a new report from the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), many schools are teaching sex education courses that are severely outdated.
The NYCLU's survey of 82 schools found that students are learning gender stereotypes, biases and in some cases, flat out inaccuracies.
In the NYCLU's “Birds, Bees and Bias: How Absent Sex Ed Standards Fail New York Students,” they examined the textbooks, lesson plans and supplements teachers used to educate 540,000 New York students about sex. Executive director Donna Lieberman summed up the findings in a conference call on Wednesday:
“Too much is missing. Too much is inaccurate. There are far too many stereotypes and far too much bias."
When it comes to AIDS education, for example, 44 percent of schools teaching it are using scientifically inaccurate information. According to blog Albany Watch, one district even showed students a diagram that illustrated the timeline of HIV leading to a death sentence. It included an arrow pointing at a tombstone that read "RIP."
Students were also egregiously misinformed about safe sex. While 80 percent of districts taught some information about condoms, only a third of them provided demonstrations, and some schools were teaching flat-out dangerous misinformation. They told students that condoms containing a certain type of spermicide could prevent the transmission of HIV. But, in actuality, the spermicide they cited (which is still on the market) makes it easier for the HIV virus to spread. According to the report:
"But for more than a decade, Nonoxynol-9 has been known not to prevent transmission, and to possibly increase HIV transmission in women. Misinformation of this nature is both medically inaccurate and potentially dangerous."
Furthermore, in one school, students were advised to use condoms only if they were having sex with multiple partners.
With blunders like this, why teach sex-ed in the first place?
Less immediately dangerous but potentially harmful to social evolution and students' identity, the NYCLU also found that gender stereotypes were reinforced in much of the curricula. The materials included diagrams of male and female brains, illustrating that men almost exclusively think about sex while women are needy and jealous. While that may be a long-standing gender stereotype (and fodder for 90s standup material), it's generally untrue.
"Both the state guidance document and the national standards say high school student should learn about gender stereotypes and how stereotypes about gender roles can be limiting for men and women," the report reveals. Further, they add: "The national standards add that middle and high school students should learn about gender identity; gender expression; transgender people, sex stereotypes and gender non-conformity; and that biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation differ."
And that's another area where these schools have failed, and, I think it's safe to assume, schools across the nation are likely failing. There was relatively no information on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. For students questioning their sexuality or gender identity, sex-ed could be a very informative source of guidance. Unfortunately, there's nothing offered.
The report also found that there were moral overtones to a lot of this information, and in some instances, shame-based messages. In some cases, schools taught that sex is only appropriate within the context of marriage. One textbook read:
"Waiting until marriage to have sex preserves traditional marriage…Actions that preserve traditional marriage preserve the family."
So, basically, the message is: don't have sex before marriage or you're ruining your future family.
So there have been countless studies showing that sexual education and teaching about condom use prevents teen pregnancies and STDs much better than abstinence based sex ed yet the curriculum is that bad?
I always hear people talk about how, in the United Sates, teen pregnancy is almost an epidemic. In my area, that isn't far from true. I'm only 22 yet could probably count the amount of people that I went to high school with who don't have children yet on one hand - many of them already have two or three children because they started at 16 or 17. Hell, we have television shows glorifying teen pregnancy in the United States has one of the highest rates in the Western world yet this is what kids are taught in school? Granted, we didn't really have any sexual education when I was in high school but I thought that I had a unique situation.