In my last post I touched upon the topic of the digital divide as a means of emphasizing the importance of having access to information and an outlet through which to express oneself. Last week, I saw the documentary, The Education of Shelby Knox which got me thinking more about this idea of access, but in a more tangible sense. Through viewing Shelby Knox’s fight for access to sexual education, it became even more apparent to me that the educative system, even within our country, one that is considered to be of the most “developed” in the world, does not expose young people to information that can be critical within our lives. Not all parts of the United States are as extreme as Knox’s town, Lubbock, Texas, but even in more liberal states such as New York, the amount of time spent and the material covered in health classes is nowhere near substantial.
In her lecture yesterday, Shelby Knox discussed the standing of the United States in terms of the sexual education curriculum since the making of the film. She stated that with the Obama administration, initially there was no funding for abstinence only educative courses. Currently, the decision regarding whether or not to offer sex ed varies state by state, with some states offering both alternatives, and so, paying to teach “abstinence only”.
So, what do people do who aren’t offered sex ed at their schools or those who want to know more?
Most resort to the Internet in order to answer their questions. This works well for many young people, but the problem of access to a computer comes up in this context yet again. In many rural areas and even in impoverished suburbs and urban settings, many young people do not have the ability to own their own computer. There are libraries.. but who really wants to research STDs or where the nearest clinic offering free/low cost contraception is in a public setting? Many young people are much too modest for that.
However, accessibility goes far beyond merely the theoretical aspect of the word. Not only is the inability to access to information, both online and off-line problematic, but also the scarcity of facilities offering contraception and abortions is of great concern. Young people in many rural and even suburban settings face this problem. Knox brought up an example of a young woman living on a Native-American reservation who had to drive 2 hours to the nearest clinic. Furthermore, in areas characterized by their conservatism and radical religious beliefs, this is even more likely to be the case.
How do we fight back?
Knox once again returned to the use of the Internet as a means of empowerment and resistance to this situation. It is up to those of us who do have the ability to fight back to do so, to improve the situation throughout the whole of the country, possibly influencing the outside while in the process of doing so.