1. Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. If you were a Weekly Geek last May and already did this theme, pick a different theme than the one you did at that time.
2. Educate readers about your topic by telling us a little about it and any involvement you’ve had in this issue.
3. Find books addressing your issue; they do not necessarily have to be books you’ve read. They can be non fiction, fiction, poetry, etc…Give a little synopsis of the book or a link to the description.
4. Use images which you feel illustrate your topic.
Last summer, there were news reports that, after years of decline, the rate of pregnancies among teenagers was increasing. The reports weren’t clear on whether this should be considered a trend or what the possible reasons for the increase might be, but cutbacks in support and funding for comprehensive sex education in favor of an “abstinence-only” curriculum were frequently suggested as a factor.
Twenty-six years ago, I was nineteen years old and pregnant. Both my then-boyfriend and I were Catholic-high-school grads, and we were Catholic enough ourselves to follow its teachings against artificial birth control. However, I will say from experience that unless you have a very regular cycle and/or track it consistently, “natural” birth control is not the most effective birth control. And since we clearly weren’t Catholic enough to follow the no-sex-outside-marriage teachings, we needed effective birth control. A few years later, the AIDS crisis was underway, and protection from bigger and scarier things than pregnancy became necessary.
It’s undeniable that abstinence IS the most effective means to prevent sexually-transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. It’s also unrealistic to expect that hormone-addled adolescents are going to practice abstinence when they have an opportunity to do otherwise (although some will, and more power to them). For that reason, and speaking as a former pregnant teen myself, I continue to support comprehensive sex education for teens. As a parent who has raised one son to young adulthood, and a stepparent to a teenage daughter and a future teenage son, I think that much of the responsibility for that education rests at home; however, since I think that our schools are supposed to prepare our kids for life in society, they need to play a role too.
Given that sometimes it’s very difficult for parents and teens to discuss this topic – even when both think the discussion is important – books can help, even novels. In a post last fall, I talked about how teen sexuality and its consequences have long been a staple theme in young-adult literature:
Sex education is about more than mechanics, of course, and is part of the overall discussion in Nancy Amanda Redd’s acclaimed Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers, a book that remains on my shelf to be shared with my stepdaughter.
An Amazon.com search for books on “sex education for teens” brings up several pages of results, including the promising-sounding 100 Questions You’d Never Ask Your Parents (but you never know, they might anyway…it depends on how open the lines of communication are, I think) and S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College. The latter book is by the founder of the website Scarleteen.com, which has a decade-long history of
…provid(ing) sex and sexuality education, information and advice for millions of young adults, parents and allies each year! We’re read by 20,000 – 30,000 users daily, and are often the most highly ranked teen sex education website online despite never having any public funding or doing any advertising.
I wasn’t familiar with that website until I began working on this post, but I’ve bookmarked it now – it looks like a fantastic reference for both parents and teens.
Much as we might want our teens to “wait until they’re married,” all of us who were once teens ourselves know that chances are pretty high that they won’t. I feel that turning a blind eye to this is irresponsible parenting, and unfair to our teenagers. I think responsible behavior from our teens is a very reasonable expectation, but we need to make sure they’re clear on what that means and what they need to know in order to fulfill it – and that means all aspects of “the facts of life,” like it or not. One fact of life, for both parents and teens, is that you have to face reality.
** EDITED TO ADD this link to a Broadsheet post about “abstinence-only” education programs in Florida , which are part of why I chose to write about this issue – and why it is an issue in the first place.