16 January 2011
"No Baby" Campaign...
If this is not an advertisement for finding an effective way to provide sexual health and reproduction lessons in school, then it is hard to work out exactly what would be. In one Memphis, Tennessee, high school there have been 86 teenage pregnancies within the last 12 months. Some of those young women, 15 - 19-years-old have given birth and the others will soon do so. Reports suggest that Frayser High School is not extraordinary as the rate of teenage pregnancy in the area where Frayser High School is located is currently running at 26%.
The mind boggles as I really cannot get my head around the idea of more than a quarter of the girls being pregnant. This is particularly so when I think back to my high school days where it would have been hard to find 25% of the student population that was sexually active let alone a quarter of the girls being pregnant.
A "No Baby" seems to be a case of closing the barn door after the horse has bolted. Nevertheless, a response of some kind has to be made in order to attempt to arrest the continuing increase in teenage pregnancy numbers.
The thrust of the campaign is teaching girls that it is alright for them to say no to sex. The overriding theme of the program is to develop the confidence of young woman and to empower them to make decisions by educating them to their rights. The program, from what I can tell, is also educating these young women about pregnancy and the challenges it will pose to them now and in the future. The program is also designed to ensure that these young woman are well-educated to the best practices of pre and post-natal care.
The scope of the problem facing the Memphis area school system is obvious when one looks at overall US statistics relating to teenage pregnancy. The data from 2009 states that the national average for 15 - 19 year-olds is 39 births per 1000 girls. However, this rate is much higher than the numbers in Western Europe. In Australia, the numbers are pretty low, but they are rising. This rise is attributed to a decline in the quality and frequency of these issues being discussed and taught in the classroom environment.
It is unclear whether the lower numbers in Western Europe and Australia are attributable to better education or just better teenage awareness of contraception and pregnancy. In Australia, at least in NSW, the responsibility for teaching students about sexual health falls under the curriculum of the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) framework.
PDHPE is not my area of expertise. To be honest I have only looked at the curriculum sparingly. I have only looked at one text book on the subject, the one used by Cootamundra High School. To my uneducated self, there seems to be more than enough in the curriculum and the textbook to get the job done.
My personal view is that it is critical that we arm our children with all of the tools necessary to allow them to make informed decisions about what they want to do and how they want to do it. It is important that we encourage our children to be responsible and to take responsibility. Therefore, I am in favour of ratcheting-up the time that is spent on the teaching of sexual health / personal development in the classroom. The reality, as I see it, is that it would be remiss not to try.
I have a good few years yet before I will have to be sitting young Will down for the inevitable birds and the bees talk...