Comprehensive v. Abstinence-Only Sex Education in Public Schools: A Debate over Individual Health and Religious Belief

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Catherine Jackson


While there is little disagreement remaining over the presence of sexual education in public schools in the United States, the nation is still divided over one key issue. Specifically, there is dissidence over what method is most appropriate to convey sexual education in a way that promotes optimal mental, emotional and sexual health for students. Abstinence only education purposely excludes certain information in its teachings for fear of pushing youth towards sexual and deviant behaviors, and it promotes a lifestyle of no sexual content whatsoever until marriage. In contrast, comprehensive education is explicit in both healthy sexual activity and alternative sexual relationships. This essay examines both of the methods, their strengths and weaknesses, their demographics and their overall impact on youth.

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