The U.S. needs to get serious about sex education


Teen pregnancy statistics show that in America the number of babies born to mothers between ages 15-17, has decreased 43 percent from 1991 to 2006. So why does it seem like teen pregnancy has actually increased?

The Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.

Pat Sundberg, a former nurse and a current instructor of the Teenage Parent Program at the Oakland ALC in Cambridge says, “I don’t have statistics but I am seeing more young women and men accepting the responsibility of pregnancy.”

Maybe people have felt as though teen pregnancy were increasing because the media has recently started putting it into the spotlight. Movies like Juno focus on the issues of teen pregnancy, and pregnant teen celebrities like 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears have played a part on why everyone is hearing more about teen pregnancy.

Although the rates have declined in the past few years, the United States still has the highest teen pregnancy rates in the world. Yet teens in Canada, Sweden, and Britain are said to be more sexually active than the teens in the United State; what are these countries doing differently? Simple They are teaching students how to protect themselves from STD’s and pregnancy. Unfortunately, many Americans seem to think that if U.S. schools did the same, they’d be giving the “go ahead” to be sexually active. And even when sex education is taught, it often gets short shrift.

For example, Jessica Murray, a pregnant 16-year-old, says of her sex education experience, “I took the class in 7th grade, but I wasn’t sexually active then so didn’t really care.” Murray also says, “At the school I went to we pretty much learned about STD’s and watched a video of a baby being born. It was only a week long class, and P.E. was taken more seriously than that.”

Educating students about sex and forms of birth control should be emphasized throughout middle school and high school. But a study shows that 15 percent of Americans think that schools should teach their students about abstinence-only, and should not provide information on where to obtain condoms or other forms of contraception. 36 percent of Americans believe that Sex Ed should teach teens how to make responsible decisions about sex, and not focus on abstinence-only. The majority, 46 percent, believe that though abstinence is best, some teens don’t abstain, so schools should also teach about condoms and contraception, also known as abstinence-plus. Though only 15 percent of Americans believe in abstinence-only, 30 percent of schools that do teach Sex Ed reported to teaching abstinence-only. 47 percent of the schools reported to teaching abstinence-plus, and 20 percent taught mainly on ways to make responsible decisions about sex.

Teen pregnancy is and always will be an issue, but what more can be done to prevent more of these cases?

“Our culture needs to emphasize self worth, respect and responsibility for all ages- birth to death,” Sundberg says, “Our media in its many forms ‘advertises’ sexual activity but you rarely see a condom being used, a pregnancy, the hardship of single parenting and/or the results of sexually transmitted diseases.”

Parents can help educate their children; brothers and sisters can help educate their younger siblings, and teachers can further educate their students. By communicating about these issues, the rates of unplanned pregnancy and STD’s can be significantly decreased.