A new survey released by the Public Religion Research Institute reports that four in ten millennials say the sex education they received was not helpful.
About 75% of the students surveyed participated in some form of sex education in middle or high school. Of those students, nine out of ten believed the courses to present medically accurate information. However, 37% said the information given to them did not help them make decisions in their own lives concerning relationships or sex.
Interestingly, that feeling differed by race, with 14% of white students and 12% of Asian-Pacific students reporting the sex ed they received was helpful. Meanwhile, 27% of black students and 32% of Hispanic students held the same sentiments, writes Corinne Segal for PBS.
In addition, 78% of millennials interviewed believed in contraception and would like to see it available on college campuses. Many linked its use with the financial security of women, with 64% of women and 55% of men feeling this way. Also, students were under the impression that sexual assault is a common occurrence in high school (53%) and colleges (73%).
Despite these findings, less than half the states in the US require schools to teach any form of sex education. Only 18 states and the District of Columbia have a provision requiring schools to offer students information pertaining to contraception.
However, 37 states require schools to teach students about abstinence, with 25 of those states requiring schools stress abstinence as an option. 19 states ask schools to tell students it is important to only have sex while married.
"Many were in school during a time when schools taught only abstinence. Others may have received clinical information about disease or pregnancy prevention, but few were provided the information young people truly need to traverse puberty, understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships, develop a positive body image, make informed decisions, communicate effectively or navigate the health care system," said Debra Hauser, president of Advocates for Youth.
In Iowa, the Ottumwa School District follows a curriculum called WAIT, standing for With Abstinence I'm Treasured. The main message of the course is abstinence, which goes for programs for teen parents as well, although preventative measures are taught, reports Jacqueline Schutte for Heartland Connection.
However, not everyone holds that view. The Philadelphia-based nonprofit Educating Communities for Parenting has for years brought a program to local schools that offered students the chance to become "parents" to baby eggs in order to teach compassion and responsibility. Recently that program has changed to bring actual infants into the classroom.
"Parenting is about real hard work. It's about nurturing and caring and about responsibility," President and CEO Anita Kulick says. "We've seen kids suffering from antisocial behaviors who are just drawn to that baby. The kids are just engaged."
Research conducted concerning the effectiveness of advanced infant simulators, particularly the RealCare baby program, found that participants hold a better understanding of the responsibilities associated with parenting by the end of the program. However, the dolls come at a price that not every school can afford – a RealCare baby starts at $649.
The dolls look, feel and act like real infants, responding to feedings, diaper changes, comfort, abuse and neglect, according to company CEO Timmothy Boettcher.
"It's about teaching them to think about things besides themselves," teacher Marcy Thomaswick of the Ezra Academy in Connecticut says. "It's just one of those assignments that really sticks with them. They remember how hard it is and the amount of care and responsibility involved."