Needless to say I am an individual who believes in choices…unless some of you missed my previous blogs and ranting. I also believe in education and I believe that education is essential for any individual to make their own choices. Moreover, I believe that our society, education system, government, communities, churches, families, media, etc should all provide correct information for all to have the privilege to make choices. Not only correct but comprehensive or in other words complete or all-inclusive, I guess my silly little head thinks that seems logical; give someone ALL the information and let them be individuals with their own thoughts (since we love individuality so much here in the good ol’ US of A). So what I ask is the point of teaching youth abstinence-only education? Proudly saying, “This is not a comprehensive program”. To build uneducated robots that are full of shame and fear if they drift away from what it taught?
As I sat in the middle school classroom, it took a lot of self-control not to stand up and yell at how awful this program was and the very perilous implications that were being ignored. Throughout the 40 minutes allocated to this, I heard the words modest, values, self worth and self esteem being repeated and emphasized. Yes, important topics to talk about yet revolving those topics around abstinence is nothing less than dangerous. The message being received by the kids: I am worth less if I do have sex and am not abstinent.” But hey, it’s a low cost to pay for being able to say we are raising pure kids. Oh and forget about the currently pregnant young women in the school, their bodies alone are symbols of how worthless they are to be judged by “pure” students. It is of course the woman’s duty to stop any sexual activity since men cannot control themselves. The last thing a young girl wants to be is to be thought “promiscuous”, that would not be very lady-like or modest, now would it?
I spoke with the “educators” afterward and they told me the program started as a response to high pregnancy rates in the neighborhood. YES, EXACTLY! There are high pregnancy rates; we lower them by teaching safer sex practices for when students choose to have sex. I believe that if kids want to have sex they will either way, with the correct information or without it. Here comes the dangers if one does not teach them the safe way to have sex. As I heard from a counselor in the high school where I mentor:
“I sat across a freshmen girl who was pregnant and I asked her how this happened, I asked if she had used contraception. She replied she didn’t know what contraception was”
How can we not see the real problem here? Lack of comprehensive education is the key problem and barrier that we are facing. Each individual should receive ALL the options and no hierarchy should be in place as to what is a “better” decision and place an inferior feeling in those kids who decide to do something we don’t believe is correct. It is at this moment of thought that I stop and wonder what exactly society wants to produce: responsible individuals who can make their own choices in a safe manner or individuals who are ignorant about issues and might make those same choices in a risky manner with life-changing consequences. Here I thought our society was invested in making a better community, one that empowers people and wants them to strive for the best and to be educated in everything possible. But who would that benefit?
As Jessica Valenti (total rock star and my personal hero) states in her book, The Purity Myth,
“Young people deserve to be equipped to make well-informed decisions for themselves. Enough with teaching young women that they’re ruined if they become sexually active. Enough with telling students that sexuality is shameful. Enough”