Comprehensive Sex Education

For progressive parents, comprehensive sex education is widely embraced as a program touching "all" the important parts of sex education - as the label insinuates. This includes the value, importance and use of condoms. It includes discussing homosexuality/gender identities other than heterosexual. For supporters of this approach, broadly educating youth in order to ultimately make informed decisions about their sexuality is a societal good and the public school system is well-positioned to offer this education.  They believe this education should start early. 

For some conservative parents, the label "comprehensive" to describe this approach to sex education is an unfortunate misnomer, given the central and crucial elements of healthy sexuality it often leaves out - especially sexual abstinence before marriage and fidelity between partners within marriage.  The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy advocates a comprehensive sex education but acknowledges the importance of abstinence for teens, and strong parental and faith leader roles.  Whether or not priority is given to relationships between men and women is another huge issue within sex education.

Some frame this debate over comprehensive sex education as an intrusion upon parents’ rights to determine what their children are taught in this area and have fought for “opt out” requirements and other ways to keep control over what their children are taught, and when they are taught it.  

Like most contested interventions and programs, strident debates happen over which kind of sex education program is effective. Although often framed as a purely scientific question of effectiveness, it seems clear sharp contrasts in philosophy around “healthy sexuality” play a role in the conversation about effectiveness - including in what studies are done - and how they are interpreted.   There is also debate about whether some sex education actually promotes early sexual activity and other risky or undesirable behavior.  The controversy over sex education  plays out in school board consideration of sex education curricula.

QUESTIONS TO PLAY WITH:

  • Have much have you relied on the schools to teach your children about sex?  How much have you made this your own responsibility?  Is there some other place, like church, where your child/ren have received education about sex?
  • What impact, if any, does the frequency/availability of sex/references to sex in public culture and in the media have on this question of what youth should be taught in school?
Contributors: 

Mary Jacksteit

There is currently no content classified with this term.