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Debate: Sex education

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Should children be given sex education in schools?

This article is based on a Debatabase entry written by Eliot Jones. Because this document can be modified by any registered user of this site, its contents should be cited with care.

Background and context

If this debate is about whether there should be any discussion of sex whatsoever in schools, it becomes very hard for the Opposition to argue. A more balanced debate tackles whether such discussion is limited to encouraging sexual abstinence (refraining from sexual activity until the age of consent or marriage), or whether it is assumed that the students will be sexually active and should therefore be taught to practise safe sex.

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Effect of education - Is sex ed having a positive effect?

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Yes

  • Ignorance about sex is the primary cause of the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): The spread of AIDS in the 80s and 90s has shown us that education and information is more important than ever. Giving sex education in schools is crucial to this spread, and may be supplemented by frank discussion at home.
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No

  • The sex education message is not getting through to teenagers: This is judging by the number of teenage pregnancies and continuing spread of STDs. Identifying sexual responsibility with formal education can be counter-productive, as it can be fashionable to ignore what you are taught in schools. The most effective channel for sex education is the media, and particularly TV, films and magazines.
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Argument #2

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Yes

  • Teacher-led discussions can encourage students to consider the responsibilities attached to sexual relationships: As the US Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (1991) state, ‘all sexual decisions have effects or consequences’, and ‘all persons have the… obligation to make responsible sexual choices’. While Hollywood promotes casual, thoughtless sex as the norm, teacher-led discussions can encourage students to consider the responsibilities attached to sexual relationships.
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No

  • Sex education should be taught one-one-one, not by a teacher: Open discussion of sexual practice and relationships among younger teenagers encourages sexual activity before they are ready, by adding to peer pressure, and devalues its own message because of the risk of classroom ridicule. It is better to discuss sexual responsibility in a one-to-one context, either with older siblings or parents, or perhaps via Internet youth portals.
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Abstinence only - Should abstinence only the only view that should be taught?

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Yes

  • Abstinence is a rather outdated view, based on religious teaching, which may be a personal choice but is not to be expected as the norm for everyone: Young people express their sexuality as part of their development to adulthood. It is not having sex that is a problem, but having unsafe sex or hurting people through sexual choices.
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No

  • Any classroom education there is should encourage abstinence: Sexual promiscuity is encouraged, not controlled, by sex education; advocating safe sex on the one hand dilutes the message of restraint on the other. Children are at risk of severe psychological and physical harm from having sex too young, and should be encouraged not to do so.

Motions

  • This House believes that sex education should take place at home
  • This House would rather not discuss it with its parents

This debate in legislation, policy, and elsewhere

See also

External links and resources

Books


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