The St. Petersburg Times published the results of a poll that revealed 74 percent of Floridians were in favor of comprehensive sex education in public schools. The majority believed that an emphasis on “abstinence with information on disease control and prevention” was the most effective form of education, versus a meager 8 percent that supported abstinence-only education.
While this may seem progressive for a state that just endured a heated debate regarding evolution curriculum in schools, it is more likely the beginning of another conundrum. As is the case with evolution, groups have already begun to come out of the woodwork, prepared to prevent an inclusive and comprehensive education system.
Terry Kemple, head of the Community Issues Council, spoke with a Times reporter regarding the proposal and what his organization would be willing to do if the Healthy Teens Act – the proposed comprehensive sex education plan – was to move through legislation. Kemple’s group will make sure to “mount whatever level of campaign is necessary to derail it.”
Kemple, the Community Issues Council and similar groups fight comprehensive education because of a belief that teaching students about condoms and other forms of sexual protection is encouraging them to have sex. “This isn’t about healthy teens, this is about promoting sex,” Kemple said. What these groups continually misunderstand is that it isn’t encouraging sex; its encouraging safe sex.
At the heart of many of these groups’ argument is a concern for protecting the sexual purity of teens and others until they are married. Kemple even goes on to say that abstinence-only programs should be taught in college level academics. Kemple is also concerned about the psychological well-being of students, saying that those who have sex before marriage suffer mentally. It is hard to disagree with this sentiment. When it is widely taught that a natural act like sex is a horrible sin, the inevitable result is guilt and shame.
Abstinence-only supporters must understand that children and students are living in the same world as adults and therefore are subject to the same realities. Stop hiding sexual education behind a veil of purity.
Meanwhile, Florida is left to deal with the realities of sexually active teens, not the ideals held by organizations. Teenpregnancy.org reports that Florida had the sixth highest rate of teen pregnancy in data collected in 2000.
When children learn about every aspect of a particular subject, they will be armed with the best tools to make wise decisions. However, as long as vocal minorities seek to impose spiritual and religious morality on the general public, the only decisions that can be made will be uninformed.