"If you build a pool, and you know your kids are going to swim, you can build all the fences you want. But if you know they’re going to jump in the pool, don’t you think you should teach your kids how to swim?"
This Beverly Hills 90210 classic popped into my mind yesterday as I lunched with my friend Grace and her new friend Angela. Angela works for a non-profit that teaches students in an "abstinence only" program. And as many of you know, I'm all about abstinence. And with that being my personal choice primarily because of my faith (although I must note that obedience to God aside, there are other upsides), I am still uncomfortable with "sex education" that only discusses abstinence. In high school, our sex education teachers were coaches (sigh....mine would only call sex "it"), and they refused to discuss any form of birth control or sexual disease protection because they weren't 100% effective. Of course, it didn't take a genius to know that abstinence was not a route taken by many of my classmates since my high school had a nursery for students' children. Furthermore, it seemed patently ridiculous to me that these classes were called sex education when they should have been called "abstinence only."
Now I'm trying to figure out exactly how I think these issues would be handled in light of what all I know now--but coupling that with the fact that as a teenager abstinence wasn't even really something I considered. After all, with lame arguments like "it's the only method that is 100% effective against pregnancy and STDs" I didn't have much reason given to me to refrain from having sex. I knew that careful use of the pill was up to 99% effective and that method coupled with condoms (and a partner who wasn't sexually experienced) was a safe bet, so the coaches' words (as well as the "Just say no" approach) rang hollow. For now, my view is that abstinence should be presented as a definite option with a thorough explanation of all of the reasons it is a good idea (not just disease and pregnancy prevention) but that details on all of the other forms of birth control and STD prevention should be shared with students as well. After all, we know most of them are already having sex and pretending otherwise is irresponsible. However, from what I understand, our federal government has financially enticed states to prevent such education--in favor of the abstinence only approach.