In the American school system, Health is a subject not given much consideration. Yes, in elementary schools the topic might come up now and then. In high schools some time is certainly spent acquainting adolescents, teens, and young adults to the mystery that is their own bodies. But as far as American secondary education goes, we do not learn much more about the workings of the body and, in particular, its sexual functions.
Indeed, sexual education in America seems to be only lightly present in our school systems. But in those schools which successfully implement a sexual health program, most of the curriculum involves understanding the maturation process and not, necessarily, the importance of sexual health.
This is a crucial distinction. Maturation is a natural process. While we experience it as a host of changes in the body, the process is somewhat passive. We don’t really have much of a choice when puberty comes; it just does. Lifestyle choices might affect the process—or its timing—but for the most part puberty will come when the body is ready to grow.
Sexual health, on the other hand, is a choice.
Understanding not only what these new “feelings” are but, more importantly, “why” we feel them, is vital to adulthood.
Unfortunately, the most recent School Health Profiles survey from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that our schools are not doing a very good job of teaching sexual health. The report surveys schools across the country to rate how well they teach 16 CDC recommended sexual health education topics as well as, perhaps, other relevant major health topics of the day.
These sexual health education topics have all been chosen and age-adjusted by the CDC based on existing scientific evidence regarding the way young people respond to appropriate knowledge, reducing any risk to their sexual development and health.
While the report showed that all schools in America could stand to do a better job, there was great variation between educational quality. For example, only about 21 percent of Arizona high schools taught all 16 topics compared to New Jersey, where the CDC found 0 percent teach all 16. Overall, fewer than 50 percent of high schools in the US teach all 16 CDC-recommended sexual health topics.
As a matter of fact, only New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York are 75 percent successful at teaching all 16 topics.