Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2015

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Women and Gender Studies

First Advisor

Celeste Montoya

Second Advisor

Abby Hickcox

Third Advisor

Deepti Misri

Abstract

Sex education in public high schools is a critical topic in women and gender studies because sex education content impacts young people’s experiences with and understandings of sex, gender, relationships, and behaviors that impact health and quality of life. This paper critiques the sex education policy and practice in Colorado in order to increase opportunities for youth empowerment. The methods utilized in this paper are critical historical analysis of sex education policy development in the United States, critical discourse analysis of a sex education curriculum that is recommended by the Colorado policy, case studies of sex education extracurricular leadership programs, and interviews with high school-aged leaders in the extracurricular programs. Evidence is presented that the sex education policy in Colorado focuses too strongly on narrow outcomes, including increasing condom use, delaying sexual debut, and reducing a student’s number of sexual partners. The conclusion suggests that increasing the critical thinking opportunities in sex education design will support student learning and agency within sexual experiences and relationships. The paper calls on policy makers to involve sexual health community leaders and youth perspectives in future policy development.

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