Friday, February 08, 2008

Making Condoms Cool

Do you ever think, “Wow, I wish I was that cool in middle school”? Usually, I get that feeling when watching something like Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel. I mean, have you seen that girl’s closet?

No, for me, middle school was a lot of time spent in Dr. Watlington’s office having my braces tightened (torture chamber for teeth) and a lot time spent hiding in bathrooms during “dances” (torture chambers for hormones). In few words, I was not very cool.

So I experienced an immediate sense of jealousy when I read about two teenagers - nay, middle schoolers- who were suspended for protesting their school’s abstinence-only “sex ed” program. And while my middle school protest against horrible abstinence-only programming was to swipe a bunch of virginity pledge cards from the classroom, these girls had the courage to put themselves in the direct line of fire.

Earlier this week, Tori Shoemaker and Cheyenne Byrd donned home-made shirts that read “Safe Sex or No Sex” and went into school, teaching their classmates more about safe sex than their school’s curriculum. And, naturally, they were suspended, because, as one school official said, the shirts were a “distraction.”

Teaching safe sex practices to middle schoolers is a testy subject. After all, Middle School is split between the girls who can and can’t wear denim miniskirts. I was not a girl who owned a denim miniskirt, but there were plenty of them in my class – and the boys noticed them. As unpleasant as it is, middle schoolers, yes, those youth who only a year ago professed their undying love for Hannah Montana, are having sex.

But what do you do? This problem confronted my alma mater, an all-girls school grades 6-12 when I was a student there. When they were redesigning (thank goodness) the horrible sex-“ed” curriculum I endured, they ran into the problem of explaining sex to those less mature girls in the class, for whom those lessons are not yet applicable.

Simple. Herd all the eighth graders in a room, weed them out by skirt length, and send the girls like me away, clutching our copies of Harry Potter under our arms, then keep everyone else there for a sex lesson. No, that’s a horrible idea.

Sex ed in Middle Schools isn’t just for the kids who need it now. It’s for the kids who will need it later. A study by the Guttmacher Institute states that many teens receiving sex education are getting it too late. WE HAVE TO CATCH THESE KIDS EARLY.
The Guttmacher Institute figured it out. Two eighth graders figured it out. You can’t just slide sex-ed into a high school curriculum midway through the year and hope you only missed a few. Sex ed has to start early. Because the kids who don’t need it in middle school become the kids who learn about it too late in high school, or not at all.

Marshall Bright is a freshman at the University of Pennsylvania and an intern at the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, ACLU of Pennsylvania

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's refreshing to see youth taking a stand against an idiotic policy.

I understand that the world we live in isn't the same as it used to be, and that kids are having sex earlier and earlier. But too many parents don't want to admit that, and even worse, feel that intelligent sex education is somehow morally wrong and threatening to their children. Promoting underage sex... yeah, that's the ticket.

The funny part, though, is that so many of these parents are against real sex ed based on religious preferences. But yet, it's THEIR good religious daughters who are getting pregnant at 14.

And to top it off, if a lot of these parents have their way, soon they'll be able to LEGALLY force all these young girls to deliver once they get that pesky Roe v Wade thing overturned.

So don't teach the kids how NOT to get pregnant or get diseases, and then FORCE them to have the children regardless of their wishes or circumstances.

Ahh, I feel that loving tolerance just radiating from those parents, don't you?

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like those girls! VERY cool! If it was my high school, the next day EVERYONE would have those tee-shirts. But that was the 60's.

Not only do we need to educate our children in this area, we also need to make it easy and inexpensive for young girls to get hormonal birth control. This means freedom to consent and PRIVACY.

It is great to encourage the use of condoms, but that often requires reliance on an excited teenage boy. Not exactly a reliable delivery mechanism. A shot of depro puts the girl in control.

9:18 PM  
Blogger James said...

And--speaking as a former Teenage boy--Boys don't take it as seriously as Girls do. IMO

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand why one might want to teach our nation's teenagers about why condoms are "cool," but why must it be done in the schools? It is a laughably inefficient and ineffective way of educating students about safe-sex. Leave it for the parents, not the government, to decide how this country's next generation should be raised. It is preposterous to think that someone besides a parent should control the eduction of such a topic. Who cares what we are teaching kids, but keep it out of the schools!

12:38 AM  
Blogger Marshall B. said...

@ Anonymous -

To say that it's "laughably inefficient" goes in the face of independent and government studies that say otherwise. I refer you to one, Emerging Answers, from SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the US) that speaks directly to the fact that comprehensive sex ed works:

If sex ed were most efficient in the homes, there should be little to no change between teens receiving abstinence-only and comprehensive sex ed, whereas hard facts prove this not to be the case.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: Who cares what we are teaching kids, but keep it out of the schools!

A "who cares" attitude is NOT what our children need, and NOT what they deserve. Comprehensive sex education that teaches straight-forward facts and gives a good understanding of the consequences is sorely needed in our schools.

Parents should teach their kids their values, religious or otherwise, in the home. Teaching the facts, however, is the public schools' responsibility towards our future citizens.

7:16 PM  

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