Sex, as defined by Wikipedia, "is a process of combining and mixing genetic traits, often resulting in the specialization of organisms into a male or female variety," However, sex does not only connote gender but also refers to the profound and intimate way of expressing one's love for someone else. Moreover, the very act of sex may result in procreation, which is a fundamental characteristic of all known life. Each life form, whether human being or animal, exists as the result of procreation. If it weren't for sex, all creatures on Earth would die out.
Although sex is a critical part of life, it is often a topic of taboo, especially in certain cultures like Palau. For a long time, sex has been considered only as a personal matter, something that should not be discussed in public, and some even think it's immoral to talk about sex. In the school systems, sex education is limited and some lacking altogether. There are concerns over the appropriateness of sex education in schools and some teachers are not comfortable to teach it. Many people fear sex education in thought that it promotes sexual activity, not knowing that sex education is not based on the process (sexual act) itself, therefore encouraging sexual activities, but the possible consequences that wrong understanding of sex may cause. Appropriate sex education may help solve some of these "consequences", or adolescent issues and problems that we are facing today, especially in Palau.
Sex education is a very broad topic that covers a widespread of ideas about our sexuality and reproduction. It not only describes sexual reproduction and sexual intercourse, but also covers topics of abstinence, contraception, sexual behaviors, orientation, sexual pleasures, values, decision making, communication, dating/relationships, and/or sexual transmitted diseases. Sex education can be divided into what are called abstinence-only and abstinence-based, also known as comprehensive sex education. Abstinence-only education focuses on abstaining from sex as the ONLY option for adolescents until marriage while comprehensive sex education emphasizes abstinence but also deals with birth-control methods. Sex education may be acquired formally and informally, either from school or health care providers, or informally, from information received from a parent, friend, and/or the media. American writer, editor, and author, Regina Paul, tells us that children are bombarded daily by the "sexually-themed" media with sexual topics and images; however, the information provided may not be as accurate as we would like it to be ("10 Reasons Why We Needâ€¦").
Lack of formal sex education, especially in the school systems, is due to many factors such as opposing religious or conservative views, fear that comprehensive sex education encourages children to experiment in sexual activities, and concerns over appropriateness of sex education. Some people prefer the "abstinence-only" approach and/or believe that comprehensive sex education is not necessary. For example, Catholic schools teach sex based on the teachings of the church. Ms. Elicita Morei, current principal of a Catholic high school in Palau, says during an interview that sex education is covered partially in different classes. In science classes, students learn about sexual transmitted diseases/infections (STDs/STIs), and in religion classes, students are taught about abstinence, chastity, and virtuousness. Catholic schools are "arms of the Church"; therefore, their teachings emphasize that the main purpose of sex is to continue God's kingdom through procreation, but only after marriage.
Others are just plain conservative or "traditional" when it comes to dealing with sex, making it difficult to educate children properly about sex-related issues and topics. This is especially relevant to old people as is the case of Irene Dizon, a 79 year old, retired teacher of Palau High School. Mrs. Dizon states during an interview that she did not receive any form of sex education when she was young and specifically emphasizes that "it was not necessary". Children were "obedient" and "did what they were told." She added that sex was a topic of taboo, therefore, was kept a secret and was never talked about especially at home. This generation who comprise the parent and grandparent population think that an informal abstinence-only type of sex education is enough for a child and are reluctant to accept change in favor of preserving the status and traditional values and customs of long ago.
Adding to the list of reasons to not formally educate children on sex and sexuality are unsettled concerns over the appropriateness of sex education. Questions arise whether exposing children to sex in the schools is appropriate and at what age they would be able to handle the information. An article found on medicalnewstoday.com, argues whether or not comprehensive sex education at home or in schools are "placing ideas in kids' heads too early, and therefore leading to early sexual experimentations." A report published in October 2010 found on www.guardian.co.uk, states that most teachers in England do not have the confidence to talk about sex with their students, that "eight out of ten teachers feel they don't have the training or confidence to deliver information properly".
Complex issues contributing to lack of or limited formal sex education has led to many downfalls and disadvantages, therefore increasing the vulnerability of a child to many risky behaviors, including unprotected sex at a young age. This problem is compounded by others as we see increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, opening doors to poor economic choices, lack of education, low self-esteem, abortions, and suicide. When opponents of sex education argue that their children are not receiving proper education because "schools are pulling too far away from the basics" and becoming "side-tracked with social issues", maybe they should look at the statistics and ask again what the "basics" should cover.
Former US Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders from Arkansas, says that "the reason for high HIV and STI rates in the Southern States is because they are less likely to have sex education and talk about it as part of our schools and a part of our system." She adds that "abstinence-only programs that do not teach contraception will not solve the issue" (qtd. Lack of Sex Education in U.S. Increases). A report published in December 2006 found on www.guttmacher.org, states that by their 18th birthdays, six in ten teenage women and more than five in ten teenage men have had sexual intercourse. Whether we like it or not, teenagers are having sex, and most of them without the proper education that they deserve. Parents need to realize that it is much better that teenagers are equipped with the knowledge, given the fact that more than half of their children are engaging in sexual intercourse.
In an article published in medicalnewstoday.com on July 10, 2005, experts say that lack of sex education and contraceptive use are the main causes of high abortion rates (1/8 of the population every year). A survey conducted by the National Committee for Population, Family, and Children in Korea, report that "the average sexual debut in the country has decreased from age 19 to 14.5 today." It is not uncommon for a 14-year old girl to want or seek abortion. A 14-year old girl is still a child herself and a whole lot of education, more than the comprehensive sex education, is needed to help her live the rest of her life after abortion, adoption, or a decision to keep that baby. As much as we'd like to believe in the sacredness of our bodies, we cannot deny these statistics, and we cannot continue to believe that what we've been doing is enough to solve some of the adolescent issues that we are facing in the community today.
Comprehensive sex education can be beneficial for both parent and child. Reuters.com reports that adolescents who received comprehensive formal sex education were 60% less likely to have been pregnant or gotten someone pregnant than teens who had no formal sex education. Although abstinence-only programs can be effective, comprehensive sex education has been proven to be much more successful. An article found at http://social.jrank.org, states that abstinence-only education accounts for about one-quarter of the decline in pregnancy, but three-quarters is due to better use of contraceptives." An article by Sullivan Anderson says that "students need programs that do not end after two weeks" but instead give them "a safe space to return to for advice" (qtd. in "Most Arguments Over Sex Educationâ€¦"). Sex education does not only prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, but also helps teenagers to "deal". It is not easy being a teenager.
Although decision-making adults including parents and educators have deep-rooted beliefs, be it religious or otherwise, they still need to consider the mind of teenagers and the changes that their bodies are going through. It cannot be guaranteed that the young, peer-pressured and hormone-driven adolescent will abide by the teachings of the church or "just because" explanations. The world is changing and adolescents are being exposed to newer issues, including explicit sex in the media which is not necessarily the education on the topic that we would want teenagers to receive. Parents need to realize that formal and appropriate sex education does help, and in ways that go deeper than just delaying sexual intercourse. These include issues that the individual will have to face in the course of one's life and decisions that cannot be reversed. I think this is an area of research worth exploring and as more and more are educated that there is such thing as "appropriate" sex education, they would be more open to the idea. This would be a giant leap in the controversy over sex education.