Summer break has come and gone and within the coming weeks, millions of teenagers will find themselves heading back to schools that are thriving with upbeat chatter, rigorous courses and familiar faces. But what they may also be unknowingly stepping into is a real problem -- I'm talking about bad sex ed.
Even reading the term "sex ed" may be triggering enough to send countless readers spiraling back to uncomfortable memories of stuffy classrooms and intimidating conversations with less-than-enthusiastic instructors. If you attend a high school that is anything like mine, you probably vividly remember the first time you took a sex ed course -- and how little it helped you, at that.
My high school, like the majority of Georgia schools and perhaps even like yours, strictly enforces the good old fashioned "abstinence only" course. (Cue an image of Mean Girls' Coach Carr sharing his message: "Don't have sex. You will get pregnant and die.")
While this message is supposedly backed by good intentions, it really only teaches teenagers one thing -- that they don't have a true choice when it comes to sex. It's either they refrain from sexual activity or their entire lives are certain to be ruined. They either stay abstinent or contract every STD known to man and wind up expecting a child. They either put pen to paper and sign the virginity pledge or they are perpetually doomed and lose every chance at a bright future. By stopping the conversation short and neglecting to elaborate on how to practice safe sex and what preventative measures to take, these courses are setting students up to be critically uneducated when it comes to the topic.
Now, many people may argue that the topic of sex is something that should be dealt with at home or researched by the individual, instead of it being discussed within the walls of a classroom. However, if schools are already offering the course in question, it should be obligatory to teach students thoroughly and to eliminate any one-sided conversations. Students need to be offered sex ed courses that significantly and accurately explore the topic instead of courses that sweep the conversation under a metaphorical rug. If this doesn't change, there will continue to be consequences for years to come.
It's important to remember that the potential ramifications of continuing to offer poorly designed sex ed courses expands beyond the frightening teen pregnancy rates. While schools may not be sewing bright bold A's onto every sexually active teen's shirt, they are still helping to set up a judgmental environment through promoting "abstinence only" courses. Courses like these open the door for larger issues like slut shaming, and it's time that our nation takes notice. In order to combat issues like these, we have to tackle the problem at its core and design courses that will properly educate young, receptive minds. Until schools start making changes to their lackluster sex ed courses, we cannot start expecting to see a bigger change in the American mindset.