Letter to the Editor

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

This letter is in response to Amanda Cole’s April 12 editorial, “Abstinence-only education harms teenagers.” I could not agree more with the points Amanda made in her article. She writes about the importance of sex education that ensures teenagers are informed from a reliable source.

The reason the article left such an impression on me was due to one of my friend’s blog posts that I recently read. My friend Lorena is currently serving in the Peace Corps as a teacher in Burkina Faso. Her most recent entry includes her recap of “Women’s Day,” celebrated on March 8 in Burkina Faso. She writes that it is the “one given day to praise all women.” Typical festivities include men doing the cooking. Lorena took the day as an opportunity to teach a group of her students about HIV/AIDS and contraceptives.

The Peace Corps provides its teachers with all the necessary supplies for sex education, including male and female condoms and a wooden penis and vagina. While such explicit teaching is almost unheard of in American sex education, in Burkina Faso, high rates of infidelity and infection make it an even more pressing need.

American policies could certainly learn from the Peace Corps model. No one is out there teaching people how to protect themselves. As Amanda wrote, “[Teens will] get their information from less reliable sources, like the Internet, magazines, and TV.” But by keeping safe practices secret, what are we really achieving? Lorena addresses this same type of misunderstanding in Africa. She writes about how men will list reasons not to use contraceptives, including superstitions. Ideas like these stem from a lack of education.

Lorena ended her post about Women’s Day by highlighting the fact that she knows not everyone will agree with her teaching. But she points out that “a person’s health is a little more important than the fact of whether it’s right or not to use a contraceptive.”

I hope that educators and policymakers in our country can step back from the situation a little as well and question the goals of sex education. Does teaching students in a classroom really encourage them to have sex? I think the value of having an informed population is much greater than that risk.