The idea of abstinence-only sex education is a travesty of the sort of concern we owe to our youngsters. But when certain groups that receive federal dollars for these programs deliberately mislead students through distortions, outright falsehoods, and pathetic allegories, it’s criminal. From today’s WaPo:
Many American youngsters participating in federally funded abstinence-only programs have been taught over the past three years that abortion can lead to sterility and suicide, that half the gay male teenagers in the United States have tested positive for the AIDS virus, and that touching a person’s genitals “can result in pregnancy,” a congressional staff analysis has found.
[The Bush admin is] providing nearly $170 million next year to fund groups that teach abstinence only…
Waxman’s staff reviewed the 13 most commonly used curricula — those used by at least five programs apiece.
Among the misconceptions cited by Waxman’s investigators:
ï¿½ A 43-day-old fetus is a “thinking person.”
ï¿½ HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, can be spread via sweat and tears.
ï¿½ Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse.
One curriculum, called “Me, My World, My Future,” teaches that women who have an abortion “are more prone to suicide” and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion, the Waxman report said.
Nonpartisan researchers have been unable to document measurable benefits of the abstinence-only model. Columbia University researchers found that although teenagers who take “virginity pledges” may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, 88 percent eventually have premarital sex.
Some course materials cited in Waxman’s report present as scientific fact notions about a man’s need for “admiration” and “sexual fulfillment” compared with a woman’s need for “financial support.” One book in the “Choosing Best” series tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying the local dragon. “Moral of the story,” notes the popular text: “Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess.”
As the article reports, there is evidence that all abstinence-only education does for teens is get them to delay having unsafe sex for a little while. By restricting talk of contraception to their failure rates, we get teens to think, “Well, if they don’t work anyway, why should I use them?” High school is a crazy time, and we cannot expect teens act as they have promised in some fourth-period health class. Teens everywhere find themselves hanging-out after school, with little to do. And it is not ususal, even in a small, Texas town, to find your “friends” saying, “You’re a little faggot. You’re 15, and you still haven’t had sex.” In times like those, one’s in-school pledge to stay a virgin is likely to mean very little to you. Having gone through all this ourselves, we owe it to our children to give them the tools they need to protect themselves as they walk down inevitable pathways of adolescence. Lying to our children about scientific fact on the government’s dime and witholding from them the information they need to stay safe is not only inexcusable, but a road to disaster. This has got to stop.