Should Teens be Taught Sex Education in School?

Authored by Richard Alan McMahan in Child Education 
Published on 07-16-2009

In the ongoing debate as to whether we need sex education for teens in schools, the argument is often defined by two separate camps with diametrically different points of view. On one side you have educators, sociologists and medical personnel, amongst others, who will point to the alarming rise in teenage pregnancies, out of wedlock births and sexually transmitted disease as the necessity for sex education to be taught to teens in a school setting. On the other, you have concerned parents and religious institutions who suggest that this information should be at the sole discretion of the mothers and fathers who raise their children. Both of these viewpoints have merit and they are borne from a sincere desire to do what is best for the teen in question.

Educators and sociologists will offer a variety of mitigating factors that necessitate the need for teen sex education in school. They will point to the daily bombardment of sexually provocative images that teens are exposed to. Suggestive television shows and movies provide a framework for teen peer pressure that often forces teens to choose between doing what is right and what is “cool.” Lyrics in songs give ringing endorsements for sexual promiscuity and fashion or teen magazines provide scintillating images of sexually oriented topics. To bolster their argument, those who believe sex education should be taught to teens in school will point to studies that show as many as 65% of teens will have had sexual relations by the time they reach their senior year of high school. Others will point to the rapid rise of sexually transmitted diseases suffered by teens as an indication for the need for sex education. This reflects, in their estimation, a lack of sex education in the home, and as such, demands the need for sex education for teens in school. The lack of sex education in the home, they argue, is due to the fact that parents are often uncomfortable talking about this subject, so they simply don’t. Educators are trained to discuss sex related issues with teens in school and when the burden of discomfort is removed, frank and honest discourse can ensue. These are all compelling arguments and should be considered when discussing the need for teen sex education in school.

Yet, there are those who disagree. Many parents and religious organizations feel that this topic should be left for the parents themselves to discuss with their kids. Some parents will tell you that simply by educating teens in the nuances of sex, you are implying an endorsement for having sexual relations. In some parent’s estimation, the very fact that kids are old enough to learn about sex means that they are old enough to have sex. A large segment of parents who argue against sex education being taught in school will express their concern about a lack of one on one consultation that may or may not be found in a classroom setting. Still others will engage in theological discourse that provides religion as a fundamental basis as the mandate for not having sex education taught to teens in school. Often, these parents and clergy will offer abstinence as the only definitive way to avoid sexually related problems for teens. These are valid arguments and it is difficult to reconcile faith based beliefs with statistics when it is the parent’s children in question.

Should teens be taught sex education in school? Ultimately, this is a question that should only be answered with the teen’s best interests in mind. However, the social implications of not teaching sex education somewhere, whether in school or in the home are staggering and, as such, should be the driving force behind any decision made.


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