Friday, July 21, 2006

Sex Ed: Is Less More?

Here's the latest spin on Sex Ed in public school classrooms:
After participating in a two-week sexual education program designed and implemented by an academic medical center, more middle-school students said they would hold off on having sex for the first time, Texas researchers report.

"Involvement by the medical profession can assure medically correct content, appropriate research outcomes, and enhanced quality of medical information in this important area of adolescent health," Dr. Patricia J. Sulak of the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple and colleagues note in a report.

School officials in Temple had approached health care professionals at the medical school for assistance in developing a sex education program for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Parents and school officials wanted to emphasize postponing sexual activity, so the program focused in consequences of teen sex, as well as "skill building, character building, and refusal skills," Sulak and her team point out in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Students who were considering having sex were "encouraged" to meet with a health care professional.

A total of 26,125 students completed surveys before the program, while 24,550 filled out identical surveys afterwards. Students in all grades showed an improvement in their knowledge, on average, after the course.

Before the sex ed program, 84 percent of students said they would delay having sex until after high school. This figure rose to nearly 87 percent after the program.

The biggest effect was seen in the percentage of kids who said they wouldn't have sex until after marriage; before the program, about 60 percent said they planned to remain virgins until they married, while nearly 71 percent said they would after the program.

Other factors associated with planning to delay sex included attending religious services and watching two hours or less of television on school nights. Students whose original parents were still married were also more likely to report that they would wait to have sex.

Students who rated themselves as "less than C" students were more likely to think that teens should "have sex whenever they want," and also fared worse on knowledge tests after the program.

Kids who start having sex earlier are at greater risk of sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy, Sulak and her colleagues note. "By placing medical emphasis on risk avoidance and primary prevention of disease," they conclude, "encouraging adolescents to delay sexual onset can lead to significant health benefits."
Speaking from a purely personal viewpoint, I'm delighted that I've never had to teach Sex Ed to our junior high's 7th and 8th graders.

In California, sex education is a requirement. Unless the parents sign a waiver exempting their child from the requirement.

I wonder how many sex-related questions will appear on California's federally-mandated-and-soon-to-be implemented standardized science test that our 8th graders will soon be taking?

And isn't it interesting that those students whose parents do sign those waivers will still have their child's test scores included so that the school will be held accountable by the federal government for that missed instruction?
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