Essay: How Going to A Religious Grade School Taught Me About the Need for Sex Ed in Schools
- Nov. 29, 2012
- 0 Comments
Growing up in a conservative family and attending a religious grade school, I was taught one thing about sex, and one thing only: don’t do it. “Sex” was nothing but a foreign word I picked up from the PG-13 movies I wasn’t supposed to watch. To be honest, sex was a distant concept to me until I entered the world of public high school; it wasn’t until the unworldly age of fifteen when I started to understand it.
My first day of freshman year was a blur. Too many faces to remember, too many loud noises to concentrate, too many tattoos and crazy hair-dos and far too many kids making out in the hallways. For obvious reasons, I felt out of my comfort zone. Reality set in that first day, and I was forced to say goodbye to the plaid uniforms and daily masses that I once thought would never end.
This was a new, far more interesting life. By the end of a day that seemed to last forever, I was relieved to see a fellow grade school peer sitting in the desk across from mine. The wide-eyed expression on her face made me feel at ease, a signal that she too was feeling just as lost. Her overall appearance was an indication of her purity and innocence. I could tell she was equally excited to see me, and together we shared our nightmarish stories about the day.
Although we didn’t run with the same crowd on the weekends, she and I cared for one another. We survived the first two months of freshman year together, the awkward time when you feel completely lost with limited people to lean on and confide in. We shared moral beliefs, as well as a lack of experience in the world of adolescent sex.
But at fifteen, she became pregnant.
At our previous school, sex was characterized as a negative thing. We were told that kids our age should not even be thinking about it. Lessons about puberty and the changes that took place in the human body as we entered into adulthood were as close as we came to sex education. With little explanation as to why these physical changes occurred, this information was useless. The diagrams of the female vulva and the chart on how to insert a tampon were uneffective in preparing me for the next four years in a public high school.
Currently, there is no federal law the mandates schools teach sex education, let alone one that specifies what information should be taught. Statistics from the Center for Disease Control show that about one in three women will become pregnant before the age of 20. With the number of teen pregnancies, comprehensive sex education, including detailed information about disease, abstinence and contraception, would be a no-brainer.
If we had been properly educated, perhaps my grade school friend would have known to take birth control every day rather than just each time she had sex. She was uneducated, misused a contraceptive and suffered the consequence. With no other option, she had the child. I was terrified for her, but mostly I was angry at our inadequate sex ed classes, which omitted any context in order to protect our religious values.
Quite frankly, it is unrealistic for teens to abstain from sex. Informing young people is key to protecting their health as they grow. For my friend, growing up meant delivering a healthy baby girl before she reached the tenth grade, and being the best mother she could ever be. But having children should be a choice based on knowledge, not a result of an uneducated decision.
Feature image photo credit: Wikimedia Commons