Everyone remembers their sexual education experience, if they actually got one.
Your teacher walks in front of the class and says, "All right, boys and girls, today we are learning about sex."
The people in the back of the room snicker, other students have their heads down or are red-faced. Some kids are scared and some just want to run away.
Typical feelings, but what most kids don't understand is what they will learn may be the difference between getting pregnant or not, or contracting a sexually transmitted disease or not.
Whether or not it's awkward or embarrassing, as a teenager it is important to learn the skills we need in order to be fully educated on sex. Teachers briefly touch on this in junior high and high school health classes; Planned Parenthood also provides classes.
Teenagers who learn the risks, rewards and safety precautions are more likely to make an educated choice on what they want when the issue of having sex comes up, and trust me, it will come up. Without the proper knowledge, teens end up in situations that call for the knowledge they should have learned but were never taught.
Because I missed out on this information, I ended up making poor decisions and becoming a very young teen mom. I had a health class in eighth grade, but when it came to the sex education part of the class, my teacher wasn't allowed to tell us about contraceptives or how to be safe during sex. She showed us pictures of STDs and showed us how a fetus grows; it wasn't very helpful. When it became my time to participate in the act, I had no idea what to do thanks to Utah's school sex education.
Earlier this year, the Utah Senate passed a bill that would only allows schools to teach abstinence-based sex education or would allow schools to drop sex ed entirely. How is that helpful? Gov. Gary Herbert was expected to sign the bill. Luckily, he didn't. He vetoed it and then stated that as a parent and grandparent, he thinks sex education is important to the moral education of the young generation. He also said, "In order for parents to take on more responsibility, they need more information, more involvement and more choice -- not less. I cannot sign a bill that deprives parents of their choice." Go Gov. Herbert!
Our world is filled with sex. Whether you see it or not, it is all around you, influencing your views and opinions. Teens see these images and hear about things that they believe if they do as well, they'll be "mature." I believe Utah school systems need to teach the proper use of contraceptives such as condoms and birth control. Abstinence, while it may have some good benefits, is not a proper way of teaching us what is accepted and what is inappropriate.
Abstinence is like putting a plate of cookies in front of someone and telling them not to eat it; they are going to eventually, without a doubt. This metaphor applies to teens and how we view sex. Sex is so alluring; it is in almost everything we see.
Teachers and school boards need to realize that many young people have sex, so teaching abstinence isn't going to do any good. We need to learn what condoms are safe and what the most effective birth control is. Every day there are more and more teen parents and it is because we are not armed with the proper knowledge about sex.
I think the best place to learn about sex education is in both the home and in the classroom. Parents and teachers need to step up and teach teens what they really need to know. Have the "birds and the bees" talk with your children and encourage them to attend and pay attention in sex ed class.
In Utah, we have more of a closed-minded attitude toward sex and other teen activities. Some people believe that sex education does not belong in schools and that they don't want their children seeing those kinds of things. Personally I think those parents are way too overprotective; it's human anatomy. But if you're going to be so overprotective, take the initiative and actually talk to your children about sex. We have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and all the parents have to say is, "We'll teach our children about sex" -- but will they really?
My point is we need to have a better sex ed program. Teach us about contraceptives and how to be safe before, during and after sex. Along those same lines, parents need to take the time to teach their kids, no matter how awkward it is.
Katie Baker is a senior at Two Rivers High School. Email her at email@example.com.