|Kids Shouldn't Be Learning About Sex from TV
Group: alabama.politics · Group Profile
Author: air hammer Date: Sep 19, 2008 23:03
Kids Shouldn't Be Learning About Sex from TV
By Kelli Conlin, AlterNet. Posted September 19, 2008.
Kids that don't get sex ed in school don't run to the Bible for
information -- they get their ideas about sex from sordid teen dramas.
The New York streets are filled with posters advertising the return of
the hit TV show Gossip Girl: photogenic teens embrace beneath a quote
proclaiming that the show is "Every parent's nightmare." While Gossip
Girl may be filled with the endless sexual encounters of high school
students, the fictionalized private school is not this parent's
September nightmare. My real-life nightmare is that kids are once
again beginning a school year that will most likely not provide them
with comprehensive sex education, leaving them at the mercy of shows
such as Gossip Girl and the revamped 90210.
Unfortunately teen melodrama hardly pretends to provide the important
information young people need to keep themselves healthy and safe.
Rarely is there discussion of sexually transmitted infections (STIs),
birth control methods, relationship negotiation, parent-child
communication or abstinence -- all of the components included in the
medically accurate, age appropriate sex education program our students
so desperately need.
In a state that ranks among the highest in the nation in both teenage
pregnancy and STI rate, it is a travesty that our schools do not
provide this critical information. Did you know that one in four teen
girls has an STI? Or that more teens are having sex while fewer of
them are using condoms?
We know that real sex ed works: students who complete comprehensive
sex ed programs delay sexual activity, have fewer partners and are
more likely to use condoms when they decide to become sexually active.
It is patently irresponsible to look at information that tells us that
over 6 in 10 New York teens have sex before graduating high school
(and over one in ten has sex before the age of 15!) and yet deny them
the information they need to keep themselves healthy and safe. But the
fact is that -- lacking a statewide program, a mandate or funding --
the decision whether or not to teach sex ed currently depends upon the
resources, will and comfort level of individual principals or school
boards. This haphazard approach means that a student in one school may
be receiving full comprehensive sex education, while a student up the
street may simply be told to "just say no."
Ironically, many people view New York as being the pinnacle of
reproductive health care but the reality is that we lag behind other
cities and states when it comes to sex education. The Democrat-led New
York State Assembly has tried to help rectify the situation. For the
past four years, the Assembly has passed the Healthy Teens Act (a bill
that would set up a funding stream to help schools provide
comprehensive sex education) with bipartisan support. Unfortunately,
the Republican-led New York State Senate has repeatedly failed to act
upon this bill, completely abandoning the students who entered our
high schools as freshmen and then graduated without ever having
received sex ed.
On the bright side, New York did refuse federal abstinence only
dollars and that money was re-routed toward pregnancy prevention
programs. While a positive first step, that was not nearly enough. All
students deserve accurate information; it is incumbent upon state
leaders and urban city officials to act swiftly to ensure they receive
it. In two months, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to vote for
elected officials who will make sex education and reproductive health
a priority; it is high time that we send a message to our elected
officials that they need to stop stalling and move quickly to ensure
that every student gets sex ed every grade, every year.
Because while I'm sure that primetime TV is, for many, simply escapist
entertainment, it is not where we want young people learning their
facts of life.
Kelli Conlin is the President of NARAL Pro-Choice New York.