Most of my thoughts are reflected all so well by other contributors, to which you can check their links over there at Ren’s…so my contribution will be a bit more brief. Mostly, it will be an expansion on a comment I sent there today.
Personally, I do happen to believe that sex education is pretty much FUBAR..mostly because of the natural monopoly that the Christian Right has established over the dominant ideology with their "abstinence only" policy of denial combined with their meme of "Sex is a privilege given only to married couples for the direct purpose of procreating God’s/Allah’s, Yahweh’s/whatever deity is king of the moment’s childen; anything else is sin and heresy and a direct threat to homeland security worse than ‘Islamofascism’". I’m not so sure, though, that using the schools as a vehicle for an alternative would be an effective counter solution.
The problem I see is that all the political and social institutions in this culture are driven by a lot of sex negativity and sexual denial to begin with; and it doesn’t necessarily come exclusively from the Christian Right. Even the most supposedly liberal and hip and cool parents are just as capable of passing extreme judgements on adolescents about their sexuality and their sexual development, even as they pay begrudging respect to the incessant growth and popularity of sexual imagery driven by both the improvements in technology (especially the Internet) and the natural thirst for information previously hidden from young adolescents and young adults. Of course, there is much to be concerned about when it comes to teenage sexuality….STD’s, reproductive issues such as unwanted pregnancy and abortion, proper health care, and simply negotiating sexual desire with others who might not have their better interests in mind. But simply firing stats about how many women get infected with the variant strains of herpes or other STDs or moaning about how many young girls are dressing like the Pussycat Dolls and reading Jenna Jameson’s bio without wanting to burn it afterwards is no more effective than merely throwing condoms at young men and telling them, "Just do it, as long as you wrap up." (Not that the latter shouldn’t be part of the message, mind you."
The main issue here for me is that most young adults don’t have the resources or the access to non-judgmental, accurate, and humane information about their personal sexuality, and that the alternatives (either watching porn or relying on the usual misinformation and disinformation) simply don’t meet their needs adquately enough. The fact that the overwhelming majority of these adolescents happen to be working class who often rely on material designed basically for the more economically privileged might be a factor that has been lost on a lot of sex-ed activists. For these people, it isn’t enough merely to offer condoms at the local clinic; there has to be a complete system of health care available and accessible to them. So, it is as much a class and economic issue as it is a cultural issue…indeed, the two simply cannot be seperated.
My own personal solution to this dilemma is to combine progressive peer- and community-based structures of role modeling and mentoring where adults and the more mature adolescents can do the bulk of the shoe leather and educating work on demystifying sexuality and providing the accurate and non-judgmental information and resources needed; with an overall assault on economic inequality overall. A focus on a radical, sex-positive, humane, and egalitarian approach to sex education that doesn’t rely on imposition from above, but rather on reform and even revolution from the masses and from those most affected would do much good, in my view. This is NOT the libertarian Right "if it feels good to you, it’s OK, and damn the consequenses for everyone else" approach that is far too commonly pushed as an opposite to the "faith-based abstinence only" lies; it simply acknowleges that adolescents are, no less than adults are, sexual beings who do deserve both support, respect, and the full array of choices and responsibilities for exercising their right to explore that aspect of their being. If, after some time, the educational establishment decides to catch up and adopt this approach, that would be fine by me….but until then, I wouldn’t trust them to teach my nephews and nieces about the facts of life any more than I’d trust Playboy or Penthouse or the next Vivid feature.
And yet…..even they would be totally preferable to the numbnuts who currently populate the White House and who are channelling the worst of sexual Puritanism to impose sexual ignorance on the rest of us.
OK…that should be enough for now, I guess. I’d say more..but I gotta go earn my paycheck.