We don't need no education / We don't need no thought control / No dark sarcasm in the classroom / Teachers leave them kids alone / Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone! / All in all it's just another brick in the wall. / All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
It's incredibly ironic that America, the self-proclaimed leading country of the free world, can produce some of the most fucked up children ever. Just found a link to a study showing that abstinence among teens may lead to risky sex acts. It's clear that they never told us that in sex ed, nor were they expecting it.
The whole issue on teen sexuality has been a hot-button topic since day one, although the level of controversy seems to depend on who is serving his term as American president (don't get me started on that). However, it seems that despite all the sex education (read: fear mongering) that the kids are being subjected to, stuff like this should be no surprise to anyone at all.
While teen pregnancy statistics have apparently gone down as of late, sexually transmitted diseases in teenagers are on the rise. Still, these are ridiculously high compared to some European countries, where America will have 79 pregnancies per 1000 teens, while France will have 20.2 pregnancies per 1000 teens. In Germany and The Netherlands, it's even lower, at 16.1 and 8.7, respectively (source: Advocates for Youth: Adolescent Health in Europe and the U.S.: Why the Difference?).
Conservative approaches to sex education and attitudes towards sex in general are often cited as one of the causes. After all, countries in Europe have nude beaches and hardcore pornography on television, whereas America will get its collective underwear in a knot over Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" incident at the Superbowl.
When I was growing up, sex education consisted of conservative educators instilling fear into the students by showing graphic abortion videos, referring to condoms as being ineffective in preventing pregnancies and spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and telling us how bad pre-marital sex is (and I'm not even talking about the quality of the sex itself). I once had a 4th grade teacher telling us that sudden exposure to cold water after a long hot day would cause AIDS. I can only wish I was kidding.
Although abortion is a bit too touchy of a subject for me to discuss personally, I can honestly say that much of what teachers tell the kids today fosters ignorance and leaves them extremely vulnerable. Teacher says that condoms have a high failure rate? Then what's the point of using them? Oh, we don't want to get pregnant and have to go for an abortion? That's fine, we'll just have oral sex instead. Oh, we can actually get a disease from doing that? They just told us that condoms were ineffective!
Ninth grade religion class had our teacher explaining to us why condoms were such a bad idea. He proceeded to draw a condom on the chalkboard and explained how semen could leak out during intercourse. Never mind the fact that the way he was drawing it depicted improper condom use (eg: didn't have the end pinched off, etc.).
I still have memories of school assemblies where they had guest speakers talking about the evils of pre-marital sex and how you had a one out of six chance of getting pregnant on your first try. After all of this, it's no wonder why Catholic school kids get a reputation for being the worst hellions.
As it is, sex is considered "sinful." Despite the fact that monkeys do it without a second thought, we're taught that it's unnatural and something that we shouldn't be doing. We're taught that it should be something only practiced within the confines of "holy wedlock" and only for the purpose of creating children.
Admittedly, I'm not currently in a relationship that allows me to be doing sinful, unnatural things that should only be practiced within the confines of "holy wedlock," but I do know enough to realize that this is highly out of touch with the rest of the world. Let' s just face it. You tell kids not to do something, you should know damn well that they're going to go out and do it. If you don't arm them with the proper information, then they're going to get themselves in trouble in the process.
If there was a teacher today that were to tell kids the truth, even if it's appreciated by the students, the teacher probably wouldn't last very long.
The future does seem somewhat rosy, being that we're willing to legalize same sex marriages here in Canada, much to the chagrin of the religious right (and to many Americans). However, given the amount of controversy, it'll be a really long time until we have North American sex education and standards up to the level of the European school system.
European Approaches to Adolescent Sexual Behaviour and Responsibility (.PDF file)
Technical Virgin: A satirical look at teen abstinence, with video clips. Sphere: Related Content