According to World Population Review (WPR), as of 2022, 26 states require that abstinence not only be taught, but recommended as the best way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). While this is true, as abstinence is the only 100 percent effective way to prevent these concerns in teenagers, it is in most cases the least practical. This is because teenagers are going to engage in sexual acts. This has always been the case and will continue to be forever. The most effective way to prevent teen pregnancy and the spread of STIs is to incorporate an up-to-date sex education curriculum in schools. Additionally, these courses should be taught by trained professionals.
Alabama is a key example of the importance of sexual education. In 2020 Alabama had the highest rate of teen pregnancies, at 24.8 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Alabama sex education curriculum is not required by law to be medically accurate, successive across grade levels, or taught by trained instructors. In addition, parents are not required to be involved in the development and approval of the curriculum. While there might not be an official causation between faulty sexual education in the United States and increased STI and teen pregnancy rates, it has been proven that there is a correlation.
“The United States ranks first among developed nations in rates of both teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. In an effort to reduce these rates, the U.S. government has funded abstinence-only sex education programs for more than a decade…Using the most recent national data (2005) from all U.S. states with information on sex education laws or policies,” says an article published in 2011 called Abstinence-Only Education and Teen Pregnancy Rates: Why We Need Comprehensive Sex Education in the U.S by Kathrin F. Stanger-Hall and David W. Hall. “We show that increasing emphasis on abstinence education is positively correlated with teenage pregnancy and birth rates.”
High school students also feel that sexual education is important for a well-rounded health education. “Sex [education] is important to me because it helps protect students’ sexual health,” says Franklin student Avani Stevens-Rose (11). “I also did a project earlier this year about sexual assault and read several sources that pointed towards more comprehensive sexual education, including [that] education on consent helped reduce sexual assault and improved reporting rates among victims.” There are other benefits to sex education, other than the prevention of teen pregnancy and STIs. As mentioned by Stevens-Rose, there is also a correlation in the quality of sexual education with the number of sexual assaults. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Pre-college comprehensive sexuality education, including skills-based training in refusing unwanted sex, may be an effective strategy for preventing sexual assault in college. Sexual assault prevention needs to begin earlier; successful prevention before college should complement prevention efforts once students enter college.” The physical, mental, and emotional damages that are caused by sexual assault are profusely damaging and lifelong. If there is even a chance that sexual education can reduce sexual assault, that is something we have to pursue.
As a whole, the benefits of well-taught sexual education vastly outnumber any drawbacks. Teenagers want sex education, so no adults should get to deny students access to it. Between preventing the spread of STIs, teenage pregnancies, and sexual assault, as well as a better knowledge of sexual health, sex education is an amazing resource for teens. Teenagers will have sexual relationships; there is no way around it. The only way to keep them safe is to educate them. Good sex education shouldn’t be a privilege, it should be a requirement. As a society, we can, and should, do better.