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The Difference Between Sex Ed In Europe And The U.S.

American teens are far more likely to give birth than those in the rest of the industrialized world.

Although teenage pregnancy rates have been on a sharp decline in the United States since their peak in the ‘50s, according to a 2012 study, American teens are far more likely to give birth than those in the rest of the industrialized world. They’re two and a half times as likely to give birth as compared to teens in Canada, around four times as likely as teens in Germany or Norway, and almost 10 times as likely as teens in Switzerland. What accounts for such a huge discrepancy? Many point to America’s conservative approaches to sexual education.

In Europe, teens aren’t just taught about the physical aspects of reproduction, but sexual relationships, pleasure, orientation, and birth control methods. In fact, the topic is so far from taboo in the Netherlands that Dutch children start sex ed as young as age four. Whereas in the U.S., only 22 states require public schools to teach sex ed and 87 percent of schools teach that abstinence is the most effective safe sex practice (or non-practice, if you will). So while in the United States we fear that merely discussing sex will lead to teens to do it, in Europe, educating teens about sex leads to less STDs and fewer teenage births.