Let’s talk about driving for a minute.
Driving is a surprisingly complicated activity.
When you’ve been doing it a while, it can feel natural or old-hat: you just instinctively know what the pedals do, how to steer, shift, look over your shoulder, check your mirrors, etc. There might be small variances in different cars you drive: different buttons or switches that do different things, the cruise control in a different place, the heating or A/C control works differently, etc. It might take a bit to realize which side of the car the gas cap is on.
Odds are you’ve got a basic understanding of the laws of the road, know what traffic lights mean, and you’ve got a sense of what signs mean. You develop some degree of intuition about other drivers and can sometimes predict what they will do based on their car’s body language. (Particularly when it inconveniences you.) You sort of know who is supposed to go first at a four-way stop.
But when you’re young and you just start driving, there’s a learning curve for those things. It can take months to learn, particularly if you’re in the midst of other studies, or a job, or you’re just an easily distracted teenager with more hormones than sense. (Not all teens are, obviously, but you see what I mean.) Good thing there’s a class for that. A basic driver’s ed class, which teaches you both the mechanics and laws of driving. You need know how to operate a car, and–importantly–how to do so safely.
Which is a good thing, because the stakes are pretty high. Odds are, a car is the most dangerous weapon you will ever operate in your life. It’s so easy to lose your focus and potentially hit something or someone. And the consequences of that can be *disastrous.* Not only will you potentially ruin someone else’s life, potentially forever, but you will fundamentally change your own life, potentially forever.
Driving is undeniably dangerous. You could seriously screw up.
That’s why you need to know how to drive safely. To pay attention to those around you. To know how to judge stopping distance and keep your eyes moving. Learn how the brakes work and the airbags and the other safety features. Good thing you had a driver’s ed class to teach you that.
Now imagine, however, that you didn’t have a driver’s ed class.
Or perhaps you did, but all they ever told you in class was not to drive. Just don’t do it. Only bad people drive. You’ll screw up your life and the lives of everyone around you. Seat belts or safety precautions? They’re a waste of time and don’t work. The only way to keep from killing anyone or yourself with a car is to not drive.
And then you just look at pictures of engine parts that the criminally unqualified teacher (say, a social studies teacher who has no idea about engines) glosses over them and responds to any question with a look of disgust.
This class is called “Pedestrian-Only Education.”
When you’re home, your parents look at you awkwardly and refuse to talk about driving. They are extremely driving-negative. They tell you you’re not old enough. They tell you to wait until you’ve paid a car off before driving it. In fact, if you mention liking the wrong kind of car (they’re a Ford family but you like Toyotas), they scream at you and cry and threaten to throw you out. (Gods help you if you come home in one of those cars.)
And now you finally have a car, which you need to drive to work. You’ve received no education about driving. No briefing on safety measures. Your Pedestrian-Only Education class taught you basically nothing. The best you’ve got is entirely too many viewings of the Fast and the Furious movies, plus your friends bragging about seemingly ridiculous accomplishments they’ve achieved with their own driving.
Also–and here’s the best thing–the lawmakers have been specifically removing laws about seatbelts and speed limits and other measures intended to protect you. They’ve made seatbelts way more expensive–they don’t come standard. And airbags? Forget about it.
Now. How good a driver are you going to be?
Not great, I’m guessing.
And is it any surprise that a driver who comes out of this sort of no-education, no-training, driving-negative background is at a much higher risk of potentially life-altering accidents?
So now. Let’s talk about sex for a minute.
Today, right now, in America, a disturbing number of schools in a disturbing number of states waste a disturbing number of your tax dollars teaching Abstinence-Only Education to your kids. Education that, studies have shown, dramatically increases their risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections and/or producing an accidental pregnancy. Why?
Because kids don’t avoid sex because you tell them to. That’s not how that works. But what *does* happen is that when they *do* have sex, they don’t know how to protect themselves. Because you spent all that time castigating them for something it’s only natural for them to do, and you never got around to telling them how to put on a condom.
(Not that they can get birth control very readily, because the pols are up there making it illegal or making health care not cover it. So that’s great.)
Abstinence-Only Education drives UP the teen pregnancy rate.
It drives UP the abortion rate.
It destroys lives.
And those kids who DON’T screw up when they’re young have high levels of discontent later in life, with all that sex-negative bullshit kicking around in there. (Ahem. Trust me on this one.)
Driving and Sex are both high risk activities.
Again. Think of the analogy.
We don’t expect kids to roll out of the living room and just start driving perfectly and safely with zero driving education or–worse–a class specifically designed to teach them that driving is wrong and dangerous and evil and will screw up their lives. Why would we expect kids to handle sex any better, if all the education they’ve got on the subject is a bunch of sex-negative adults telling them “just say no.”
Teach kids about safe sex.
By all means. Teach kids to be responsible and thoughtful and caring when it comes to sex. Teach them about consent–how to ask for it and how to tell if you’ve given it. Teach them about relationships and how to avoid abusive situations. Teach them about flirting. Teach them about respect.
And teach them about sex. How it works, how to protect yourself, how babies are produced. All of it. Don’t pretend that they don’t need to know this stuff.
Because kids are gonna have sex.
You wanna know how I know? Because most humans do. Not everyone drives or has any interest in driving, but almost everyone has sex at some point in their lives. And they need to be prepared.
Protect your kids. Advocate for their education and safety.
Just say “NO” to Abstinence-Only Education.