Thursday, March 30, 2006

Wall Street Journal Writes About Sex Ed Controversy

The Wall Street Journal this morning has a longish story about the effects of federal funding for abstinence-only education. It's a complicated situation, where the federal government will pay states to promote nonsense. Do you take the money, or do what's right?

For some people, that's a hard decision.
A push to promote sexual abstinence in teens -- backed by a steady increase in federal funding -- is starting to affect the way sex ed is taught in the U.S.

In middle schools and high schools across the country, sex-ed classes that discuss birth control as a way to prevent pregnancy and sexual diseases are increasingly being replaced or supplemented by curricula that promote abstinence until marriage and discuss contraceptives primarily in terms of their failure rates.

Though parents and health professionals generally embrace the idea of encouraging teens to abstain from sex, some are starting to question whether kids are getting the adequate and accurate information that they will need to make responsible decisions as they grow older. Educators, parents and politicians are starting to lobby for sex education that goes beyond abstinence teachings. Bills that support this approach, known as comprehensive sex education, are under review in the legislatures of several states, including Illinois and Massachusetts. One bill in New York state, dubbed the Healthy Teens Act, calls for funding for programs that emphasize contraception as well as abstinence.

Earlier this month, Rhode Island's Department of Education instructed all school districts to refrain from using a federally funded abstinence curriculum in public schools. A spokesman for the department said officials were concerned because the program included "medically inaccurate information" as well as possible religious instruction. Sex-Ed Class Becomes Latest School Battleground

To which I say: yay, Rhode Island!

I do notice that this article starts by saying that comprehensive sex-ed is being replaced by ignorance-ed, but then their examples show the tide rolling the other way, toward common sense.

I had this conversation yesterday. We all want the same thing. Nobody wants to encourage promiscuity, everybody hopes their own children will abstain from sex. But what is the best way to get them to do that? Some think the best way to get teens not to do something is to tell them not to do it: abstinence-only education. Don't tell them anything except that they should not have sex. Don't tell them how it works, don't explain the dangers, don't tell them how to reduce the risks ... can you tell I stand on the other side of that line?
The expansion of abstinence programs has been propelled by a steady increase in government funding. The funding started ramping up under the Clinton administration. Since 1998, the federal government has spent about $890 million on abstinence programs, including sex-ed courses taught in schools (as well as pregnancy crisis centers and government agencies). But the bulk of it -- $779 million -- has been spent since President George W. Bush took office in 2001. The government is slated to spend $176 million on abstinence programs this year -- up from nearly $167 million last year and $82 million in 2001.

Schools and other groups that accept the federal funding have to promote abstinence and play down the effectiveness of contraception. In January, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services effectively tightened its restrictions on what abstinence courses can teach. In a request for grant applications, new and detailed guidelines said that an acceptable curriculum should include teaching about "the potential psychological side effects (e.g., depression and suicide) associated with adolescent sexual activity" and stress points such as the following: "Non-marital sex in teen years may reduce the probability of a stable, happy marriage as an adult" and "Teen sexual activity is associated with decreased school completion, decreased educational attainment and decreased income potential."

These statements "misuse" scientific data, says John Santelli, a professor of pediatrics and of population and family health at Columbia University, as well as a former official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "There may be some truth to the associations they draw, but their conclusions are confused," he says.

If you want to see some amazing stuff, read the report produced by Congressman Henry Waxman in December 2004 on this very subject. See it HERE

This story goes back and forth ... I'll skip down a bit:
Other groups that support the abstinence approach are urging states to further limit sex ed. Earlier this month, Kansas's board of education recommended to local school districts that teachers secure written permission from parents before students attend sex-ed classes. Some state legislatures are considering bills that would circumscribe the teaching of sex ed: A bill in South Dakota seeks to prevent any instruction in the use of contraceptives in sex-ed classes. A bill under consideration in Missouri would prohibit groups that provide abortions from teaching sex ed in the schools, effectively banning organizations such as Planned Parenthood.

Some parents welcome the new approach to teaching about sex. Gladys Aguirre was glad to grant permission for her 14-year-old son to attend the Game Plan program that was presented at Midwestern Christian Academy in Chicago last year. An instructor from a local nonprofit encouraged the kids to wait until marriage to have sex. He also talked about how to set boundaries with the opposite sex and the risk of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. Ms. Aguirre says she likes that the school is teaching her son to put his energy into something other than the opposite sex. "It's a very big start in the right direction."

But in Georgia, a group of parents successfully opposed an abstinence program at their school and created a resource center on the Web for other parents. In New Mexico, a group of parents, advocates such as Planned Parenthood, and public-health experts have formed the New Mexico Coalition to Support Sexuality Education to counter the abstinence movement and research what is effective in sex education. In Montgomery County, Md., a group of parents are working to rally support for comprehensive sex ed through www.teachthefacts.org, a Web site they formed after the terms of a lawsuit settlement forced their school board to abandon a curriculum that would have expanded its sex-ed program.

Hmm, that one group sounds familiar ... where do I know that name from?

They got the chronology a little wrong, but the idea is correct: we formed to "rally support for comprehensive sex ed," that's correct. The lawsuit came after the web site.
Some associations that deal with teens -- such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society for Adolescent Medicine and the National Parent Teacher Association -- support comprehensive sex education. Ideally, this would include age-appropriate lessons that would cover a broad array of topics by the time students graduated from high school, including decision-making, abstinence, contraception and STDs.

"Kids are not getting enough information in the schools," says Mark A. Goldstein, chief of the division of adolescent medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "The adolescents who do not receive sexual education may not understand contraceptive choices, may come in with sexually transmitted infections or an unwanted pregnancy or may be doing high-risk behaviors without knowing the consequences."

Administration officials say there is broad support for the abstinence-based approach. "In my view, prevention strategies should be about getting someone not to do that behavior," says Wade Horn, assistant secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "It's a message that parents and teens want."

But other groups are pushing for sex education that goes beyond abstinence teachings. In Cleveland, about 25 community groups recently created the Collaborative for Comprehensive School-Age Health to formulate a plan of action. In New York, more than 40 organizations have created Get the Facts NY, an alliance to support the Healthy Teens Act. Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit that supports comprehensive sex ed, just launched two new national campaigns to encourage young people to fight censorship in sex ed.

Well, there's more, but there you have it. It comes down to the same old doctors-versus-witch-doctors thing. Some people want education to be void of information, one hundred percent indoctrination. The whole curriculum is just different ways of telling students not to have sex. You don't need to know how it works, just don't do it. You don't need to know what diseases you might catch, just don't do it. You don't need to know how a condom works, or what contraceptives exist and how they work, just don't do it.

Because there's nothing as effective as telling a teenager not to do something.

3 Comments:

Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

Here's a tool we can use to help the students cut through all their relationship problems. I'm sure even Ruth will approve:

http://www.google.com/romance/index.html

April 01, 2006 1:09 PM  
Blogger simcoe smith said...

hey Dana you have try to get right information Manchester incall but google has remove this tool have you any other tool than please post it here.

September 03, 2013 9:23 AM  
Anonymous The Bond Girls London said...

Sex education is very important to avoid sex crime and other crime. I dont know why some people make this a big issue.

December 04, 2015 4:19 AM  

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