Sex education within public schools has been a hot topic for several years now. Whether abstinence or safe sex should be taught separates passionate parents, political pundits and religious leaders. Maybe there is a middle ground: Not only do two new Texas programs do away with those two limited focuses, but they actually are doing so in what seems to be an effective way for teens.
Students in some Houston and other Texas schools are going through Parenting and Paternity Awareness and No Kidding, two programs created in order to create teens who think about how sex and getting pregnant will affect their everyday lives. Advocates for the programs specifically think that the revitalized sex education lessons will decrease the need for custodial parents (usually mothers) to have to go after financial support for their children from uninvolved fathers.
It's the reality of having a child that can catch even a prepared, adult parent off guard. By educating teens about the costs and legal responsibilities assigned to parenthood, both PAPA and No Kidding are reportedly making the youth critically evaluate what could become of their and their hypothetical children's lives should they get pregnant so soon.
To effectively teach teens about the realities of parenthood, the programs include speakers who had babies as teens themselves. Texas has a relatively large population of teen parents to choose from. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Texas has the third highest rate of teen pregnancies in the U.S. That statistic is likely why PAPA's and No Kidding's roots are in Texas.
Teen pregnancies contribute to the numerous child-support enforcement cases that wind up in the Texas family law system, cases that are often initiated by custodial mothers. The hope is that the two programs will especially affect how teen boys view paternity and accept the responsibilities tied to getting a woman pregnant. If successful, that focus will either prevent young pregnancies or, if pregnancies do occur, at least both the mother and father will have a better understanding and feeling of responsibility regarding their jobs as parents.
USA Today: "Teen parents talk legal, financial consequences of sex," 14 Dec. 2010