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The Sex Education Debate

            Everyone has an opinion about sexuality education. From opinionated parents at local PTA meetings to state governors who must choose the best way to apply federal funding to the programs teaching it. The sex education debate in America takes on special relevance because sex and its related health implications are a reality in the lives of many young people. The two most popular methods used in schools in the United States are abstinence education and comprehensive sex education. And, while the federal government continuously funds programs that suggest refraining from sex until marriage, there has been no research to confirm the program's effectiveness.
             The mission of abstinence education is that children and teenagers avoid engaging in sexual activities altogether. In 1996, the United States government passed a law giving funding to states offering programs that support this approach in public schools. Schools receiving these funds must teach students that they should "just say no" to sex and are not allowed to teach about safe sex. They encourage students to develop a strong sense of self and to avoid the negative consequences that might result from sexual activity completely.
             Advocates for abstinence-only programs believe that they help youth avoid the emotional damages of sex. The late Robert Rector, from the Heritage Foundation, was an expert on many social issues including poverty and inequality as well as marriage and family. In his article, "The Effectiveness of Abstinence Education Programs in Reducing Sexual Activity among Youth", he states, "Sexual relationships among teenagers are fleeting and unstable, and broken intimate relationships can have serious long-term developmental effects." These supporters are concerned that teens who are involved in sexual activity early on will have trouble maintaining relationships later on in life. However, the mere acknowledgment that teens could be participating in sex speaks for itself.

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