Abstinence Only Education A Disservice to Students

Cael Baumgarten, Copy Editor

The sex-ed curriculum refuses to address issues that harm teenagers every day, instead opting to give baseline information based on outdated standards of obscenity in order to maintain its “holier than thou” ego, thereby perpetuating teenage pregnancies, the spread of STIs, and illiteracy towards human anatomy, specifically female genitalia.

Allow me to summarize everything I learned in my 9th grade health class in three short words: don’t have sex. Mind you, I had not ever once been officially told from school faculty what sex was at the time. While the message is there, I’d feel unconfident in saying the same for the intention, or the sentiment. To be fair, I cannot claim myself a victim of the underwhelming lessons discussed inside room 1003, as I learned the ways of safe sex practices and anatomy from my parents and my own research. However, some students’ understanding of human sexuality is limited entirely to what is taught in school, and what is taught in school is disappointing. As a result of Congress’ funneling of funds into a broken system, millions of teenagers are left with no clue on how to safely handle or even suppress their evolutionary drives, LGBTQ+ students confused by their own sexuality and identity, and underage pregnant girls oblivious on where to go for help and support. The only assistance that teachings of abstinence will offer is scrutiny and judgment, a neglectful parent criticizing their child’s mistakes. 

I remember one time in that class, I wrote out “what is a condom?” on my final exam (not because I didn’t know, but just to be an antagonist). The teacher literally had to take me out in the hall and whisper to me what a condom was because they are literally prohibited from informing students on those sorts of topics. Teaching kids how to be safe is a crime in the eyes of the district. There was another time that sticks out in my memory; on the single day we discussed consent, instruction was limited to a three minute video entitled “Tea Consent,” because, evidently, consent is rated R, so the issue was reduced to the metaphor of “if they say they don’t want tea, don’t give them tea.” 

We are two decades into the 21st century, and still the school board clings to the ignorantly optimistic allure of abstinence only education, which I cannot help but find peculiar due to the overwhelming evidence and statistics supporting comprehensive sex education. How arrogant to assume that the archaic ramblings of old white folks will overpower the natural instincts found in every animal. For this reason, I am led to believe that the curriculum comes not from a genuine desire to promote safety among students but to preach antiquated ideals of morality. This is a failure of the district’s responsibility; school is where young people learn the majority of their life skills and values, and as such, what the district decides to include or exclude from the high school experience will inextricably have an effect, however minute, on every student that attends that school. By choosing to leave out crucial details about contraception, consent, and sexual identity just to feel good about their self-righteous principles of purity, the district becomes largely responsible for each and every child born to an underage mother in the state and every single child that contracts an incurable infection. It is time for schools to stop placing blame solely upon the students and take a look at themselves; if they really want to pride themselves on their holiness and moral superiority, then they should prioritize the wellbeing of young people over their vanity.

As a biological male, I was painfully ignorant of the female reproductive system for the vast majority of my life (and I can only assume that high school females are equally lost on the topic of the male reproductive system). Society’s stigma towards female genitalia is perpetuated when schools refuse to educate children about vulvas. That phrase alone might upset some people: educate children about vulvas, and therein lies the problem. The reproductive organs are an entirely natural part of the human body; today’s vilification of those organs is arbitrary, harmful, and unwarranted. If the only defense one can surmise against teaching young boys about female anatomy is “it’s obscene,” then there is a larger societal problem at work that can only be addressed when ignorance is dealt with, and ignorance can only be dealt with via education. 

The “abstinence only” doctrine comes with a subtext: “until marriage.” I am not here to challenge religious practices and traditions. And just as it is not my place to discuss the merits or faults of religion, it is not the place of schools to promote such dictatorial values onto students whose beliefs might not align with what is taught. Teenagers who already believe in abstinence before marriage do not need to be superfluously lectured in class, and teenagers who believe in sexual liberty should not be controlled and suppressed; once the connotation of grotesquery around sex is lifted, society can finally address issues like “slut shaming” to hopefully cleanse the disparity of stereotyping between sexually active men and sexually active women.

In a perfect world, teenagers would practice abstinence. But this world is not perfect. It is a fact, plain and simple, that young people are going to be sexually active. Not even the school board can truly deny this, despite the great lengths they go to to do just that. It is time for a change; the writers of Kansas school curriculum need to adapt to real life and accept that fact, and every day their heads remain buried deep within their own rectal cavities is a day in which they have failed precisely the people they have sworn and are obligated to protect.