Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

With Sex, It’s No Longer ‘Safe to Be Ignorant’

March 08, 2005 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Your provocative headline on Gilbert T. Sewall’s “Common Sense for Sex Education?” (Commentary, Feb. 16, 2005) may be an oxymoron. In pondering my personal experience over half a century, I see little that makes good sense.

As a 6th grader in the mid-1950s, I went to a school program just for girls that required my parents’ permission. Amid nervous twittering, we were told briefly how our bodies would be changing, and given a small pamphlet with common questions and answers. The boys had a similar session geared to their needs.

When I married a decade later, I was, despite a college degree, totally ignorant of the human body and reproduction. Having grown up in the era of Elvis Presley, my friends and I never studied sex education. Today it is hard to grasp how different the social mores and pop culture were then. It was considered safe to be ignorant.

My daughters attended a private girls’ high school during the 1980s. Their health classes covered everything from nutrition and the dangers of substance abuse, to preventing sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy by various methods—including abstinence. These college-bound students were taught how to protect their own health and well-being. Our son had a comprehensive health and sex education program at his coed high school. Separating students by gender may be preferable, but everyone benefits from knowledge.

In 1996, we moved to a small Ohio city of 2,300 students where the school board supports an abstinence-only sex education program for middle and high school students. Each graduating class of about 150 contains several students who are expecting or have had babies. Little is taught about preventing pregnancy and disease except for abstinence, even as our students clearly are not abstaining.

Being curious, I went to a high school assembly where a young pop star touted abstinence-only behavior. Her message about safe-sex spread misinformation.

She insisted that there is no safe sex, that condoms are useless, and that dreadful diseases result from so-called “protected” sex. Hundreds of impressionable teenagers heard that day that only abstinence works. If you can’t “just say no,” don’t bother trying to protect yourself. Student surveys showed that many in the audience were already, or would soon become, sexually active. Ignorance puts them all at risk.

Mr. Sewall is right when he says, “The federal government should get out of the abstinence-only business.” But I disagree with his call to “turn sex education back to districts and schools.” We expect all of America’s children to be proficient in reading and math. They all deserve to learn the truth about protecting their bodies and minds. Their futures depend on it.

Betty Raskoff Kazmin

Retired Los Angeles Teacher

Willard, Ohio

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the March 09, 2005 edition of Education Week as With Sex, It’s No Longer ‘Safe to Be Ignorant’

Events

Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated: November 2, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: October 19, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: October 12, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated: September 28, 2022
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
9 min read