Education is a Pathway to Prevention

My middle-school health teacher was crazy. Not the type of crazy that one uses to describe their 75-year-old cat-hoarding neighbor, but rather the type of crazy that one would find it of interest to suggest institutionalization for the sake of that person’s health.

In any event, her class still met every Thursday to fulfill my state’s health “education” requirement (I quote education to emphasize the fact that it was not educational whatsoever). Keep in mind that I attended a small Catholic elementary school with a student population of 100, so the teacher-to-student ratio was exceptionally disproportionate, allowing me to be fortunate enough to have had Mrs. Smith as a teacher for three years in a row. At the time, this meant I would have an extra 40 minutes a week to socialize with my friends, but I later discovered that it would mean an absence of education, and in particular, sex education.

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I went through high school with the expectation that sex education on STIs was either 1) to have been learned earlier in life or 2) unnecessary because it was supposed that I would reserve sex for marriage (with a man, obviously), and would never have the need to learn about sexually transmitted infections as I would share them only with my monogamous partner.

When I arrived at college, this expectation was even more prevalent as the aphorism “older and wiser” becomes widely adopted the second you step foot onto campus. This poses a problem for many reasons. While my university does require each student to complete a sexual assault and harassment workshop, the workshop itself did not address subsequent problems that could occur such as STIs, which could just as easily be encompassed by a simple change in the rhetoric. And it’s not just my university – a study done by Procedia, a Social and Behavioral Sciences journal, found that over 66% of college students want to be informed at university about sexually transmitted diseases. Student organizations like Harvard’s SHEATH (Sexual Health Education & Advocacy throughout Harvard College) allow for the discussion and ultimate decline in the rates of sexually transmitted infections.

Assumptions, in general, are worrisome – assumptions of one’s sexual orientation, gender, and even education – and are inherently the causation for a multitude of obstacles that need not occur. Education is a pathway to prevention, and discomfort regarding sexual topics, especially topics like STIs, should not hinder this necessity.


Author: Courtney Coghill

Courtney is a second-year student at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. studying Political Science with a concentration in Public Policy and minoring in Journalism. She is a member of the GW Varsity Swim Team and embraces music and the arts as a means of promoting personal health. As a part of the Make Muse team, Courtney uses her athletic background, artistic passion, and creative mindset to empower other women to take charge of their well-being.