Timothy Buckley, Dave Rodgers
Schools are dispensing condoms in Daly City, Santa Rosa, Los Angeles, and other areas around the state to protect students from sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Two CTA members share opposing viewpoints on this issue.
As a teacher, my motivation is to teach my subject matter and to impart two necessary skills students will need to be successful in their lives: ethics and critical thinking. Passing out condoms at school sends a mixed message to our students, and leads our public education system down a slippery slope of determining what is right and moral — and what is not.
I understand the noble intentions of passing out condoms at school: It prevents the spread of venereal disease and lessens the chance of unwanted pregnancies. But it conveys the message that the public school system promotes underage, premarital intercourse. That is not the role of the public school. The public school’s mission should be to provide the tools necessary to make those moral decision: ethics (the ability to know right and wrong, good from bad), critical thinking (the reasoning and judgment based on the information presented), and finally action/reaction (doing something, but then knowing that those actions can lead to consequences).
By giving condoms out to our underage children, we are preventing them from using the decision-making skills needed in real life situations; we are making those decisions for them. Moral decisions like this issue should be made in the home. We live and work in a society that is not only multicultural, but has multi-values. Respect the fact that families will provide a moral structure for the children.
Besides, if we begin that move into moral teaching, whose morals do we teach? For example, do we teach the Judeo-Christian view? Morals based on Islamic or Eastern philosophies? Is it based on a culture’s or nation’s set of values? Where does it end, and whose values and morals will be perceived as irrelevant and wrong?
The best and most effective way to deal with this situation is to do what we do best — educate. Let’s teach about the effects of STDs and human reproduction in school. That is not morality-based, but facts. Let’s give our students the information and critical thinking skills to make the wise decisions.
Ironically, what we need to do is to have faith that our students will make the right decisions. Passing out condoms at school prevents that, and sends a message that our public institutions support certain dangerous and possibly inappropriate behaviors.
Timothy Buckley, King City Union Elementary Teachers Association, teaches seventh-grade language arts.
Tulare County, where I live, has had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. In fact, the Central Valley leads the nation in the number of teen pregnancies nearly every year. Providing access to contraception is the key to changing this.
Students do not use condoms due to embarrassment, confidentiality, cost, access, transportation, and the perception that the risks of pregnancy and infection are low. Many students do not know where to find or get to a local clinic where they can get them for free.
Who better to trust to give them something that could be useful in preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy than the student's school? Of course, we must invest in proper health education instruction from a qualified teacher, who can show students how to use them before handing them out. Studies consistently show that talking to kids about sex or handing out condoms does not make them more sexually active. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Abstinence is great, but let's be realistic. Students don't always listen.
Nearly 3 million teenagers will get an STD this year. Most parents will tell me their kid is not having sex, but they know other kids are having sex. There are a lot of naive parents out there. The cost of teen pregnancy is staggering. Two out of three teen moms never finish high school. They typically end up depending on public assistance for most of their child's life and beyond.
Condoms, if used correctly, are very effective at preventing pregnancy and many STDs. As a society, we need to step up and realize we live in a different world than we did 20 or 30 years ago. Condom commercials are now on television. With the Internet and other electronic media, children are exposed to sex at earlier and earlier ages. Making contraception more accessible to students just might be a step in the right direction.
My district does not allow condoms to be handed out. They will not allow us to show how to use them, but we can tell them. That's insane. We may very easily save a life, in more ways than one, by making this type of contraception available in our schools.
Dave Rodgers, Visalia Unified Teachers Association, teaches health science.
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