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These days, many teens have sex even without realizing the possible risks that they might have, for examples, STDs, unexpected pregnancy, etc. So it is a very important for family, schools and even societies to educate teens to have proper attitudes and values toward sexual activity. However, none of the sex education programs have been pretty successive in lowering the risks I mentioned above. In addition, both abstinence program and traditional sex education have failed to show the effectiveness of their curricular in delaying teens to have sex. According to Jane (2006), it is hard to say whether traditional sex education programs are more effective or abstinence programs are more effective. This is why educating youth on the risks that come along with becoming sexually active and the choice between abstinence and sex education has caused widespread controversy and debate. In this paper, I am going to consider the issue of sex education for teenagers. First of all, the general definition of sex education and abstinence program will be explored. Secondly, I will point out the reasons why traditional sex education and abstinence program should be changed. Afterwards, I will recommend new strategies of sex education for teenagers and it will be analyzed in some more detail. Finally, I will identify and discuss the critical thinking errors (resistance to change, faulty common sense, oversimplification, stereotyping and hasty conclusion) that pose the most serious risks to people's thinking about the issue of sex education.
Basically, sex education covers all aspects of human sexuality. The purpose of it is to inform teenagers about sexual anatomy, reproduction, health, sexual intercourse, contraception, abstinence, responsibility, sexually transmitted infections and other aspects that are associated with sexual activity (Campos, 2002). School programs, public health campaigns and other social institutes are aimed to provide teenagers with appropriate sexual education.
The curriculum in high school usually includes formal sex education as a separate course or as a unit within other broader courses, such as biology and physical education. However, some schools do not have sex education because of all controversial topics regarding sexuality. The issues such as premarital sex, safe sex activities, sexual orientation etc are ignored in these schools.
The issue of sex education is one of the most debatable problems in our modern educational system. According to the traditional forms of sex education, teaching should be oriented on sexual abstinence. These programs teach young people to abstain from sex until marriage. They also reject contraception as a technique to interrupt pregnancy. The traditional form of sex education is also known as abstinence-only sex education.
Conservative methods of sex education are supported by administration. In 1996, The Program of the Social Security Act was established by government. It is a program of financial assistance for abstinence-only sex education programs, which has a number of requirements for grant recipients. In general, these education programs have to emphasize the social, psychological and health benefits of abstaining from sexual activity. The discussion of contraceptive methods is not permitted in accordance with the requirements (Bruess & Greenberg, 2009).
However, the opponents of conservative methods of education insist on reformation of sexual education. According to their point of view, rapid spread of a number of issues regarding sexual activity approves that traditional forms of sexual education are inefficient and useless. These issues include sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and unintended pregnancies. These forms of education, also known as comprehensive sex education, teach about the techniques of contraception as a way to avoid unintended pregnancy.
According to the opponents, abstinence-only sex education has negative effects. It does not provide children with practical information about the risks regarding sexual activity and how to avoid them. In contrast, it provides children with strict moral principles and, as a result, teenagers start to avoid constructive discussion about their sexual life with adults.
A number of medical and scientific communities criticize abstinence-only sex education programs. They consider them as ineffective. These communities include the American Psychological Organization, the American Medical Organization, the American Academy of Pediatricians and others (Campos, 2002).
There is scientific evidence that comprehensive sex education programs are more effective than abstinence-only sex education programs. For example, the outcomes of the study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy show that two-thirds of comprehensive sex programs had a positive effect on teen sexual behavior, while abstinence-only sex education programs did not have such level of effectiveness (Campos, 2002).
The opponents of contemporary education programs suggest new strategies of sex education, which we are going to consider. First of all, the main concept of the new approach is to give theoretical information about all aspects of sexual activity. New strategy of education has to avoid all possible thinking errors. Stereotypes and values should be revealed during the process of learning.
Traditional sex education programs consider teachers as authorities, who have to influence children's system of values and beliefs. In contrary, new approach suggests perceiving students as adults. It is important for teachers to cultivate children's responsibility. In order to improve self-esteem, children have to become aware of their own responsibility.
Educational environment should be supportive. Children's initiative and active participation also should be encouraged. For instance, discussions about sexual activity may be applied, in order to involve children in a process of learning. Another important aspect, which has to be considered, is sharing of children's own experiences. This practical technique has to be applied in order to help children to understand that the educational material does not have just theoretical value. First of all, this knowledge is needed for children's life.
Traditional sex education programs have a purpose to inform. In our opinion, this aspect is not the only important part of the whole educational process. Psychological assistance may improve children's self-esteem. Practical techniques of psychology and psychotherapy may help teenagers to solve their problems that are associated with sexuality.
Hence, we have briefly analyzed the issue of sex education for teenagers. Now we are going to identify and discuss the fallacies that pose the most serious risks to people's thinking about the issue of sex education.
The first critical thinking error is resistance to change. This mistake usually comes from insecurity and fear. Social and cultural patterns provide people with a sense of stability and security. However, the resistance to change may result in limitation of creativity. Defenders of traditional forms of sex education believe that abstinence-only sex education is the most effective one because it is coherent with a system of moral principles. However, they ignore modern social and cultural changes, which have to be integrated into the sex education program.
The next error is called faulty common sense. It appeals to common sense as authority. In order to avoid this error, it is important to test every idea. For example, common belief that contraception results in diseases is not scientifically proved (Campos, 2002).
The third error is oversimplification. Defenders of traditional sex education programs believe that information may prevent teenagers from destructive behaviors. Other important determinants of children's behavior are ignored. In contrary, new strategies of education consider the issue as a complex problem. These programs also use psychological tools in order to prevent teenagers form destructive patterns of behavior.
Stereotyping is another cognitive error. There are many stereotypes regarding sex education. For example, there are stereotypes about gender roles. However, there is no scientific evidence about them.
Hence, we have considered the issue of sex education for teenagers. We have analyzed different forms of sex education. Afterwards, we have explored new strategies of sex education programs. Finally, we have identified and discussed critical thinking errors that pose the most serious risks to people's thinking about the issue of sex education.