Having “the talk” is dreaded among parents — at least among the parents I know.
Recently, a friend from the gym recounted how he took the plunge, sat his 11- and 12-year-old daughters down and had the talk. He timed it before taking his daughters to receive the HPV vaccine that the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women receive at ages 11 or 12. The vaccine prevents the human papilloma virus types that cause most cervical cancers. The virus is a sexually transmitted disease.
During the talk, my friend’s daughters came to the realization that their mom and dad had sex in order for the daughters to be born.
“Do you still have sex?” one daughter asked, almost horrified.
“How often do you have sex?” the other asked with scientific curiosity.
Our friend decided that the conversation had gone far enough and replied that the topic of sex is a private matter and that additional details about him and his wife would be just that — private.
However, at the gym, among friends, he couldn’t help but joke that he and his wife were much more intimate before the daughters were in the picture. We, as parents, couldn’t help but join in the joke and chuckle.
But sexual education is neither a private nor a joking matter.
Sexual education is a medical, scientific and economic matter.
This spring, the topic of sexual education became a hot topic at the Statehouse. Ultimately, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law a bill that allows parents the opportunity to choose whether their child opts-in or opts-out of human sexuality education through school after reviewing the curriculum.
State Sen. Dennis Kruse, R-Auburn, authored the bill that requires schools to provide parents with any curriculum pertaining to human sexuality education in any class.
Understandably, supporters of the bill see the matter as a win for family values.
The real issue is how to increase parental involvement when it comes to sex education, which cannot be taught in full without moral and personal life behavior implications.
A school can and should provide instruction on human biology and the consequences associated with certain behaviors. But it is a parent’s duty to provide the moral compass.
When I was in middle school, my mother, then a prosecutor with Noble County who handled the child support division, was instrumental with starting Campaign For Our Kids, a program that promoted abstinence by clearly informing high school kids about social, economic, health and personal consequences of teen sex. The program did not discuss contraception or reproductive biology — it left that up to the school. The discussion also did not focus on morals, only on the real-life risks and consequences.
My mother felt compelled to form the organization because she was seeing too many young, single parents’ lives upturned due to teen pregnancies.
Teen pregnancy remains a problem in our communities. While the teen pregnancy rate has declined in recent years, the teen pregnancy rate in Indiana is 49 per 1,000 females ages 15-19, according to the CDC. In 2015, Indiana was ranked No. 17 on final teen births rates among females ages 15-19 (with No. 1 representing the highest rate), according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Nearly 20 percent of Hoosier high-school freshmen reported ever having sex, according to the most recent CDC data. About 34 percent of high-school sophomores reported ever having sex.
Teen pregnancy affects the immediate family and becomes an economic issue.
While our region may not need every student to pursue a college degree, we need workers to complete high school and, ideally, some additional education so that we have the skilled workforce we need. Teen pregnancies often delay the ability of students to fulfill their education and career goals.
The medical side of sex education is that it is medically safer to be in a monogamous relationship. Not having multiple partners and using proper protection reduces the probability that a person contracts an STD. Nearly 70 percent of the 34,000 cases of chlamydia in Indiana in December involved people younger than the age of 25, according to the state’s most recent data. Any medical complication costs money, even if minor. No individual, nor society, needs additional health care costs that could be avoided.
It appears, at least from recent stats, that our state could use more sex education rather than less. But the education needs to start on the home front, for moral guidance, and the community and school can fill in the basic, factual instruction as children mature emotionally and physically. Together, we should equip children with the knowledge to make the best decisions for their lives.