Most publicly-educated students have been exposed to some form of sex-education early in their lives, be it through school-guided, comprehensive sex-education, abstinence-only sex-education or from less reliable sources (Internet). Whatever their experiences, there are numerous ways incoming college students’ understanding of sexuality can still mature and develop. MSU and universities across the nation should try to strengthen and foster its students’ awareness of safe sex by requiring a comprehensive, mandatory human sexuality course for all freshmen.
To ensure an effective program, the university should assume that all incoming freshmen lack an extensive understanding of safe sex. They may come from states that are not required by law to teach sex-education and therefore do not, ones that do necessitate it or ones that only teach the most basic form. Montana state law requires sex-education, but teaching about contraceptives is not required.
There are 20 million new sexually transmitted infection (STI) cases every year in the nation and half occur among people aged 15 to 24. STI cases involving gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis have reached a new high in 2015 with high school and college students responsible for a majority of these cases. Nationally, one in four teens will contract an STI each year. With sex-education standards and age of consent varying between states, knowledge of sexual health and appropriate relationships is not universal. A freshmen-oriented sex-education program could make this knowledge universal.
Sex-education should extend beyond sexual behavior and intercourse; it should be as diverse as the students to which it is oriented. An all-encompassing course would make sure it fits the demands of all students. That accounts for teaching on the diversity of student needs such as sexual orientation, gender, body image, disability, culture, religion and abstinence. The importance of a comprehensive sex-education also involves promoting the tolerance and understanding of marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ community.
Roughly 50 percent of MSU freshmen last fall were Montana residents with Washington, California and Colorado being the top three nonresident student home states. The aforementioned states do not require sex-education unless individual school boards decide to offer it. That leaves a lot of power to local school districts who get to determine if students should learn about safe sex and contraceptive methods. In this way, misinformed students carry most of the accountability for the high STI trends in the nation. If schools take the initiative to further educate students through a formal sex-education program, the case of unwanted pregnancies would decrease and the retention rate would increase. To give students some incentive to commit to this course, MSU should use this course to satisfy a core requirement.
Growing up, our primary knowledge of sex-education should come from parents, guardians or teachers. However, when these options are not present, we turn to less reliable sources like friends or the Internet. Being well-informed is key when engaging in any sexual activity and in preventing the spread of STIs. MSU should encourage and advocate for the safety of students as well as promote a positive view of sexuality by offering a mandatory human sexuality course for all freshmen.