New Jersey has continuously ranked as having one of the top public school systems in the nation. There are many reasons for this, but my own personal belief is that New Jersey is very progressive in their teaching methods- including sexual education.
Here is my story on how I learned about sex inside the classrooms of Middletown, New Jersey.
I was in fifth grade when we watched “the video”. You know the one where you watch a baby being birthed and you learn about “the change” your body was about to endeavor. The entire class was split up into two groups – obviously male and female. We were put in two different rooms and shown videos, had our teachers teach us about parts of our body, and even received goodie bags as a way to thank us for not giggling threw the whole presentation. Lucky for me, I have a twin brother who was in the other group, so I got the inside scoop on what they learned too.
I honestly don’t remember much from middle school. I try to block out my awkward years so that explains that one. But moving forward to high school, I vividly remember sex education. Family Life Education is required for grades 9 and 12. So freshman year, we learned about the basics of our anatomy and how reproduction works with medically accurate information. I remember distinctly that we were not taught in a means of abstinence only until marriage setting. We were taught in terms of sexual and reproductive literacy. We knew what each STI was and how birth control worked. Most importantly we were never told to not have sex, and it was certainly not stressed that we shouldn’t have sex. They just gave us the information and it was our decision to do what we wanted to do with it. The only message we really received from abstinence is that it is the BEST way to not receive STIs and get pregnant- and trust me that message was delivered and received.
In our senior year, we had a very in depth sexual education that went past family planning. We discussed HIV/AIDs, homosexual relationships, pregnancy prevention and contraception’s such as abortion and Plan B. We were given resources to where we can find all the things we need and were given condoms. I remember my teacher passing out female condoms and other forms of contraception for us to see how they properly worked. We talked about sexual harassment and domestic violence as well. I honestly can’t think of a relevant topic we missed. My teacher was fantastic at delivering her message and made us feel as little embarrassed as possible. She also let us know that we could go to her if we had any questions we wanted to ask in private, which some students did.
Looking back on this makes me smile. This education could have saved one of my classmates from an STI or other sexual traumas. Coming to South Carolina and living in a state with some of the highest teen pregnancy rates, HIV/AIDS population and other STI prevalence was total culture shock for me. Because that’s what it is- a culture. From my point of view, the culture here is that people are ashamed of their own anatomy and that law makers are the sole influence on this. By not educating our fellow citizens and youth on sexual education, we’re just influencing an increase on these high rates and prevalence’s. Our education isn’t political; our education is a human right.
Your 16 year old neighbor, who is 4 months along, may not have been if she was taught how to properly use a condom. Your friend who is HIV+ may not have been if they were taught the risks of unprotected sex. Your sister, brother, cousin or whoever you know who engages in risky sexual behavior when drinking maybe wouldn’t be if they were taught that drinking lowers inhibition and often leads to this risky sexual activity.
By not teaching our students what sex education really is, in all its comprehensive and medically accurate aspects, we are failing them.
So South Carolina- let’s talk about sex baby. Make your voices heard to your local lawmakers that it’s time for a change!