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Birth Control Education

Birth Control Education
The issue of birth control being taught and/or distributed in public schools is one worth debating. In biology and health classes students are educated in reproduction and sexuality, but not about such birth control methods such as condoms and birth control pills. While parents may touch briefly on the topic, some feel too embarrassed to discuss it with their children or deem it unnecessary. This is a very bad course of action because the world is now teaming with hormonally driven teenagers lacking vital information about personal safety. They have a longing to practice the oldest instinct that humans possess, which is to procreate. The schools have no reason to not be teaching the other, more important, half of sex education. This action makes as little sense as learning how to add, but not subtract. The city is only one of the many facing this problem in the face. It is a problem that knows no class, religion, or gender. If every community took it upon themselves to address this issue with youth, then they could eliminate a national problem.

It is easy to see that lack of knowledge concerning birth control is a sever problem facing today’s youth. While the teen pregnancy rate is far lower than it has been in the past, the number of teens infected by sexually transmitted diseases is on the rise. Half of sex education is not enough. Even though 98% of students get sexuality education, 55% of them still have questions concerning birth control methods, the prevention of STDs, and how to purchase protection confidentially. The challenge of STD prevention in the United States is clearly illustrated by the fact that 85% of the most common infectious diseases in the U.S.A. are spread sexually. This is the highest out of all the industrialized nations in the world. Why, in the U.S. the rates of infection are 50- 100 times greater than in any other of the industrialized nation. A friend of mine, whom we will call Miss. Q for confidentiality reasons, is a product of this backwards teaching. Miss. Q is a freshman in college, and was visiting home for thanksgiving this past year. While reading an article in a woman’s magazine regarding birth control she crossed a term she did not recognize. It turned out to be a term for a method of birth control, which she found out when she asked her mother, who was horrified to discover her 19-year-old daughter, had never been exposed to the word before. Miss. Q’s mother assumed that her child was taught this either in biology or health class, so she had never bothered to discuss it with her. However, after this revelation she sat down with her daughter and had a long in depth talk about the topic.

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Stories like this one can be heard all over the country. Even in towns that offer easy access to birth control to students, this problem plagues the community. Take St. Paul Minnesota for example. With a prescription/voucher from a doctor, a student can go pick up protection from a local free clinic. However, 80% of the male students and 30% of the female students who receive such a prescription never go to pick them up. A recent survey in St. Paul discovered an alarming statistic that two out of every ten boys is or has been infected with chlamydia. In fact, teens 15-19 years old accounted for 41% of chlamydia cases and 32% of gonorrhea cases in Ramsey County Minnesota.

Nothing can show us this problem better than a survey from 1995 of 15-24 year old women asked about their use of contraceptives. It was shown that only 37.3% used birth control on a regular basis. In addition to this, only 4.4% regularly used protection against STDs. Another survey from 1990 of women of all ages in this country reported that while 70.7% used protection, only 7.9% used birth control that also protected against STDs.

The major reason birth control is not taught in this school district is because nobody has thought of bringing up the question for many years. The last time the policy of sex education was brought up; there was an overwhelming sense of disapproval from the community. Some parents were even caught making comments on the moral integrity of the school district. I’m not happy about this, I’m not happy about a school district who says it doesn’t matter what your family values are. A mother said this whom has three daughters in the public school system in Oswego who wished to remain anonymous in this paper. This quote highlights another possible cause for the problem, lack of parent involvement. If parents are so set against having birth control added into class discussion, they cannot neglect having a talk about birth control with their children. Parents who do not know what is involved in a class’s curriculum may not have this discussion with their offspring because they just assumed the school taught it. Also, they may feel this a meaningless conversation because, Their kids won’t have sex until they are married, they are embarrassed themselves, or they do not think a teenager can handle this mature subject matter.

Why should a parent be embarrassed to talk about this you ask? It is because they themselves never got the education. Not only do children not know how different forms of birth control work, but also neither do their parents. Despite years of added experiences and maturity, not all adults know that some forms of birth control only protect against pregnancy, not STDs. This lack of confidence and knowledge gets passed right on down the family tree to the children, and when they become sexually active they won’t us proper protection for those reasons, lack of knowledge and embarrassment.

If we do not start educating youth in birth control, the number of 15-19 year olds suffering with sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, herpes, and HIV will continue to increase by alarming intervals. Youth is lacking vital information that can save their lives, and the lives of others.

Recently in Washington the senate appropriations committee approved a $287.6 billion dollar fiscal 1999 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health, and Education. However, the president threatened to veto the house bill because its proposed spending cuts and a host of legislative riders on issues like requiring parental notification before minors receive birth control at federally funded clinics. Legislation locally has been limited due to the lack of initiative on behalf of all the people this would benefit. Right now health teachers at the Oswego high school are prohibited to teach birth control and safe sex, even if the student asks a question about it that pertains to a class discussion.

With all the benefits of birth control education why shouldn’t it be taught in schools? There are a number of things the school could do in order to help the problem of teenage STD infection. They could institute a condom availability program for example. Having birth control on hand when it is needed is the best way to guarantee its use. To often you hear of kids that are too embarrassed to go buy condoms, or are just too slothful to go get them. By distributing them in school whether it’s through going to the school nurse and asking for some, or if you can just go pick one up out of a basket, it can eliminate these feelings of self-consciousness and slothfulness. However, some critics would argue that having condoms around and ready to be used only encourages sexual activity. They would argue that by offering a way to have safe sex, the school district would in fact be promoting sex, which would totally defeat the purpose of the prescription in the first place. Others say that it is not the school districts responsibility to provide protection for sexually active students. After all, this is a program that would cost a good deal of money and time, neither of which public education can currently spare. Of course this is not the only road available for the school district to take.

There are many alternatives to handing out condoms in school, such as offering workshops on the topic. The school could offer after school classes about the different types of birth control available, and its use. Many teachers would argue that there is not time to include anything else into a class’s curriculum, so offering a class after school would be a great option. Students could attend if they wished to so the morality issue would not be a problem, and the school nurse, a health teacher, or a doctor whovolunteered their time could teach the class. Of course there is always the issue of money when it come to use of school facilities after school is out for the day, and there wouldn’t be a guarantee that anyone would be willing to teach the class. Another possible downfall would be lack of participation in the class. Students may avoid attending such classes for fear their friends would label them promiscuous. (I use the term promiscuous in this paper only for tact purposes; accurate vocabulary used by students would be repugnant.) Then once again you have to factor in student laziness, and other student activities such as sports to the low class sizes. So clearly the costs of this program would out weigh the benefits, so this brings us to a final choice, actually adding birth control education in with what is already learned in health class.

By having the school district add birth control education to the high schools health curriculum we have the opportunity to teach everyone about birth control since it is a mandatory class for graduation. This is the only way to ensure that the entire student body will know what their options are, how they work and are used, and they won’t be as nervous when the time comes to discuss birth control with their partner. This change would also include learning in depth about STDs, including the symptoms of them, after all, the early detection you have the more likely a chance of getting better. The option of having a doctor or nurse come in and teaching this lesson would be open, seeing as how some of the teachers would not be up to par on this topic, or have a moral objection to teaching it. It is clearly obvious that this is the preferred policy since the costs can so easily be avoided and the benefits are so great.

This preferred policy would get a lot of support from many groups, especially the Student AIDS Awareness Group. This is a group of students that devote their time to terminating the AIDS virus, which is spread by many means including sexually. Also, as students they would be directly affected by the change. By being a group they hold more power than a lone student. People are more likely to listen to a large group than one person, so this gives them the power of persuasion. This is a group whose only goal is to halt the spread of the AIDS virus, so this would be number one on their list of priorities. By teaching classes about birth control the number of new cases of HIV, which causes AIDS, could be fewer then ever before.

Another group likely to support this class just as much as the Students AIDS groups is the parents of high school students. This is a class that has the potential of saving their children’s lives down the road, so they would be behind it 100%. Unfortunately the education of their children sometimes has to take a backseat to issues such as bills, and careers, so they are not always be aware of what is, or is not being taught to their offspring. Nevertheless, little else is as important to them as their child’s well-being and safety. What’s more they are the voters, and taxpayers in the community and they have the right to determine what their children should and should not be taught, whither it is they themselves who vote on the appropriateness of the subject matter, or whom they select as the board of education members.

One last group that would defiantly be in favor of these classes is family doctors and gynecologists. These are the people who see first hand the effects that STDs and pregnancy have on youth. They are the ones who have to tell parents that their child is pregnant or will die from the AIDS virus. This is by far not a job that they enjoy doing. They want desperately for the AIDS epidemic to be terminated, and to stop seeing so many children diagnosed with a STD and become impregnated. Like the parents, they too are taxpayers and voters, but they have one more ball in their court. They are experts in this field, and have the ability to alter peoples views by simply telling them what they see every day. These are the people the school board will call and ask the opinion of while trying to decide an appropriate course of action. Unhappily this is a minor issue to doctors, whom are faced with cancers and heart disease on a regular bases.

Everybody already knows that the Catholic Church is seriously against the practice of using birth control due to the scripture. The church has the power of words on its side, which can be just as powerful as a vote. Devote followers take the word of priests as if it were the word of god himself. Through this manner the church has the opportunity to sway a good number of the votes onto their side. Of course this is not the only issue the churches of this community have to deal with, so this is not likely tobe high on their priority list. This is an issue that would have to take a back seat to such things as confirmations, weddings, baptisms, funerals, church school and masses of course.

In addition to the Catholic Church, teachers might be against this as well. After all they are the ones who need to teach this topic to the students. Some health teachers would complain that their classes have too much jammed into them right now, and adding another topic to teach would force them to spend less time on more important topics. The health teachers alone however could not change the minds of the school board and community members. As a consequence of their union, O.C.T.A., they have the enough sway to say they do not want to teach birth control methods and use to students. Nevertheless there is still the matter of money problems they have to deal with. Money problems like classroom budgets to salaries they have to worry about, and while they might not want to teach this topic, they probably wouldn’t take the initiative to protest it.

While the church and health teachers might take some opposition to this change, it is not a very high priority to them. On the other hand the school board has nothing else to worry about than school policy. Currently there are a handful of conservative school board members that would protest the teaching of birth control to the student. While there are other things to worry about, such as the budget, school violence, and training rules, some members would take this under their arms as a project to concentrate on. This is a group that has the power of veto, and is the one who ultimately decides whether or not they want to make the change to the curriculum. If the members opposing the change outnumber those supporting it, it dies. While parents, and students, and the Catholic Church might influence their decision, it is in fact, their decision.

The fact that people would be against protecting the future leaders of the country from life altering diseases is indeed ill fated. By ignoring the fact that the United States has the highest percentile of people infected with STDs out of any other industrialized nation in the world, we are merely guaranteeing our position. It is feasible that in only two years the number of 13-19year olds in the United States with a sexually transmitted disease will rise from 3 million to 4 million, making up .83% of the total number of cases in the world, and 33% in this country. On the other hand, if this policy is implemented we could see a possible decrease of one million cases every two years. The education system must step in somewhere. Ignoring the problem has only
forced us deeper and deeper into a hole that there is climbing out of. If left unnoticed, soon most of the youth in this country will be infected, and they will have children who are infected and so on and so on. It has been said that knowledge is power, so why is the worlds’ most powerful nation so naive?
Does Sex Education Work?
Should sex education be taught in schools?
The question is no longer should sex education be taught, but rather how should it be taught. Over 93% of all public high
schools currently offer courses on sexuality or HIV.(1) More than 510 junior or senior high schools have school-linked health
clinics, and more than 300 schools make condoms available on campus. The question now is are these programs effective, and
if not, how can we make them better?
Why do youth need sex education?
Kids need the right information to help protect themselves. The US has more than double the teenage pregnancy rate of any
western industrialized country, with more than a million teenagers becoming pregnant each year.(2) Teenagers have the highest
rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) of any age group, with one in four young people contracting an STD by the age of
21.(3) STDs, including HIV, can damage teenagers’ health and reproductive ability. And there is still no cure for AIDS.
HIV infection is increasing most rapidly among young people. One in four new infections in the US occurs in people younger
than 22.(4) In 1994, 417 new AIDS cases were diagnosed among 13-19 year olds, and 2,684 new cases among 20-24 year
olds.(5) Since infection may occur up to 10 years before an AIDS diagnosis, most of those people were infected with HIV
either as adolescents or pre-adolescents.
Why has sex education failed to help our children?
Knowledge alone is not enough to change behaviors.(6) Programs that rely mainly on conveying information about sex or moral
precepts-how the body’s sexual system functions, what teens should and shouldn’t do-have failed. However, programs that
focus on helping teenagers to change their behavior-using role playing, games, and exercises that strengthen social skills-have
shown signs of success.(7)
In the US, controversy over what message should be given to children has hampered sex education programs in schools. Too
often statements of values (my children should not have sex outside of marriage) come wrapped up in misstatements of fact
(sex education doesn’t work anyway). Should we do everything possible to suppress teenage sexual behavior, or should we
acknowledge that many teens are sexually active, and prepare them against the negative consequences? Emotional arguments
can get in the way of an unbiased assessment of the effects of sex education.(8)
Other countries have been much more successful than the US in addressing the problem of teen pregnancies. Age at first
intercourse is similar in the US and five other countries: Canada, England, France, the Netherlands, and Sweden, yet all those
countries have teen pregnancy rates that are at least less than half the US rate.(9) Sex education in these other countries is
based on the following components: a policy explicitly favoring sex education; openness about sex; consistent messages
throughout society; and access to contraception.
Often sex education curricula begin in high school, after many students have already begun experimenting sexually. Studies have
shown that sex education begun before youth are sexually active helps young people stay abstinent and use protection when
they do become sexually active.(10) The sooner sex education begins, the better, even as early as elementary school. What kinds of programs work best?
Reducing the Risk, a program for high school students in urban and rural areas in California, used behavior theory-based
activities to reduce unprotected intercourse, either by helping teens avoid sex or use protection. Ninth and 10th graders
attended 15 sessions as part of their regular health education classes and participated in role playing and experimental activities
to build skills and self-efficacy. As a result, a greater proportion of students who were abstinent before the program
successfully remained abstinent, and unprotected intercourse was significantly reduced for those students who became sexually
Postponing Sexual Involvement, a program for African-American 8th graders in Atlanta, GA, used peers (11th and 12th
graders) to help youth understand social and peer pressures to have sex, and to develop and apply resistance skills. A unit of
the program also taught about human sexuality, decision-making, and contraceptives. This program successfully reduced the
number of abstinent students who initiated intercourse after the program, and increased contraceptive use among sexually
experienced females.(12)
Healthy Oakland Teens (HOT) targets all 7th graders attending a junior high school in Oakland, CA. Health educators teach
basic sex and drug education, and 9th grade peer educators lead interactive exercises on values, decision-making,
communication, and condom-use skills. After one year, students in the program were much less likely to initiate sexual activities
such as deep kissing, genital touching, and sexual intercourse.(13)
AIDS Prevention for Adolescents in School, a program for 9th and 11th graders in schools in New York City, NY, focused on
correcting facts about AIDS, teaching cognitive skills to appraise risks of transmission, increasing knowledge of
AIDS-prevention resources, clarifying personal values, understanding external influences, and teaching skills to delay
intercourse and/or consistently use condoms. All sexually experienced students reported increased condom use after the
program.(14) A review of 23 studies found that effective sex education programs share the following characteristics:(10)
1.Narrow focus on reducing sexual risk-taking behaviors that may lead to HIV/STD infection or unintended pregnancy.
2.Social learning theories as a foundation for program development, focusing on recognizing social influences, changing
individual values, changing group norms, and building social skills.
3.Experimental activities designed to personalize basic, accurate information about the risks of unprotected intercourse and
methods of avoiding unprotected intercourse.
4.Activities that address social or media influences on sexual behaviors.
5.Reinforcing clear and appropriate values to strengthen individual values and group norms against unprotected sex.
6.Modeling and practice in communication, negotiation, and refusal skills.
What still needs to be done?
Although sex education programs in schools have been around for many years, most programs have not been nearly as
effective as hoped. Schools across the country need to take a rigorous look at their programs, and begin to implement more
innovative programs that have been proven effective. Educators, parents, and policy-makers should avoid emotional misconceptions about sex education; based on the rates of unwanted pregnancies and STDs including HIV among teenagers, we can no longer ignore the need for both education on how to postpone sexual involvement, and how to protect oneself when sexually active. A comprehensive risk prevention strategy uses multiple elements to protect as many of those at risk of pregnancy and STD/HIV infection as possible. Our children deserve the best education they can get.
Aegerter, Ernest E. Understanding your Body. Philadelphia, Pa.

George F. Stickley Company.

Bodanis, David. The Body Book. Boston / Toronto.

Little, Brown and Company. 1984
?Brain.? Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.

?Brain.? The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol 2.

?The Brain: Mystery of Matter and Mind.? The Human Body.

Aegerter, Ernest E. Understanding your Body. Philadelphia, Pa.

George F. Stickley Company.

Bodanis, David. The Body Book. Boston / Toronto.

Little, Brown and Company. 1984
?Brain.? Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia. 1996 ed.

?Brain.? The World Book Encyclopedia. Vol 2.

?The Brain: Mystery of Matter and Mind.? The Human Body.

Medicine and Health Care


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