Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Abstinence-Only Federal Constraint to Go Away

Somebody forwarded me this article from the Congressional Quarterly's website CQ Today.

It will be nice to see this particular political atrocity wither away quietly.
Democrats plan to let a federal abstinence-education program die quietly next month, demonstrating that pursuit of their legislative agenda can sometimes be passive.

The authorization for Title V abstinence-education grants expires at the end of June, and those on both sides of the sex-education debate agree that the $50 million-a-year mandatory-spending program — which draws an additional $37.5 million match from the states — stands little chance of winning an extension from a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Democrats generally favor a broader approach to sex education, but the issue is a tricky one politically. So Democrats are not calling attention to the impending demise of the abstinence-only approach, which was established under the 1996 welfare overhaul (PL 104-193) and is now operating under a six-month extension (PL 109-432) — or to the possibility that a $110 million discretionary-spending abstinence program funded through the Department of Health and Human Services may be zeroed out for fiscal 2008. End of the Line Is Near for Federal Funding of Abstinence-Only Sex Education

It's a "tricky one politically" because it is so easy to make it sound bad. After years of dealing with the CRC, I can just hear them saying "Liberals want to encourage children to have promiscuous sex and get abortions."

This soundbite problem is at the core of a lot of the crazy things that have happened in recent years. You take something sensible on one hand, and take its soundbite refutation on the other, and because people are too busy to pay attention the soundbite ends up having some effect. They don't think about what's going on, they just hear some agreeable words and go with the flow.

In Montgomery County, we've heard people say things like "The new curriculum encourages children to engage in promiscuous sex," or "The classes force children as young as twelve to declare their sexual orientation publicly." It's not hard to follow a couple of links, for instance at the top left corner of our Resources page here, and see that the new curriculum does no such thing. But people don't usually bother to do that. Either they accept what they're being told -- which most people in our county don't -- or they write groups like the CRC off as extremists. (This latter option is especially easy when the soundbites are ridiculous.)

I am curious to see what the next stage will be. Not-paying-attention has been very costly for America. We have lost our prestige in the world. We have spent billions of dollars wastefully instead of improving our lives. Well, I'm not going to list all the steps backwards we have taken. But I am curious to see if people will start thinking critically, or if they will just hook up with a different set of soundbites now. OK, I admit it, I'm old and cynical, I know what the answer to that question is.

One of the biggest steps backwards was the federal government's restriction that it would only fund abstinence-only sex ed. There were a bunch of rules about what you couldn't include if you wanted federal support. These rules weren't what the majority of Americans wanted, most people want a nice, comprehensive, straight-ahead curriculum so young people know what sex is about, including how to protect themselves from disease when they become sexually active.

It wasn't what people wanted, but it makes an easy soundbite. Everybody wants teenagers to wait, nobody wants to see young people behaving irresponsibly. So there's no resistance when somebody argues that teens should be abstinent, I mean, what's to argue with, huh? But ... when you take the next step, and act like teens will be abstinent, and therefore don't need to know anything about sex, you have committed a terrible mistake.

Easy soundbite, bad policy. We're not sorry to see this one go away.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, if everyone agrees with comp ed, it seems it would be easy to make up a "soundbite" supporting it.

What you call "soundbite" is simply free speech. The way to counter it, assuming it should be countered, is with free speech. Sneaky end-arounds by a legislature out of touch with the American people is not democracy but a subversion of it.

May 16, 2007 10:28 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

Here's a link to a story on Cybercast News (a Christian Right website) about these anti-abortion activists who go and lie to people at Planned Parenthood and illegally tape them on hidden videos, trying to trap them into lieing and breaking laws:

If the police did that, it just wouldn't be allowed. The Alliance Defense (the group that is suing Arlington on PFOX's behalf) is defending them.

I know that in Romans the Apostle Paul says the best response to other people's sinfulness is clean living. I know there are commandments against lieing.

Anonymous: would people who break laws and lie to entrap other people into breaking laws and lieing be holier than thou?


May 16, 2007 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


The people who hid Anne Frank were breaking the law and they even lied about it.

You think they were holier than thou?

May 16, 2007 1:53 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

Actually, I agree with you; there are definitely times when lieing is a perfectly moral thing ("Didn't you like the socks I gave you for your birthday?"). I can see the anti-abortionists arguing that entrapping people into lieing is justified by preventing the murder of unborn children. You have a point.

I suspect that the view of some people at CRC that people who support the curriculum that was just tested are murderers would justify in their minds all sorts of supposed transgressions.

But to me, that is moral extremism. Just because I support saying positive things about lgbt people to students, it doesn't make me a murderer or similar to a Nazi, it doesn't justify CRC outing that teacher to his school community and trying to endanger his job, it doesn't justify rudeness in private, on blogs and in the press, it doesn't even justify ignoring my emails. But that is, of course, just my humble opinion. People have to make their own moral choices


May 16, 2007 2:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Just because I support saying positive things about lgbt people to students, it doesn't make me a murderer or similar to a Nazi,"

Yeah, I agree with you Robert.

May 16, 2007 2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What you call "soundbite" is simply free speech."

Actually, it's framing.

"Sneaky end-arounds by a legislature out of touch with the American people is not democracy but a subversion of it."

So tell us how you feel about "sneaky end-arounds" by an Executive branch that thinks it can bypass "quaint" provisions of the US Constitution?

"If Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) is to be believed, no one in the Senate, not even himself, realized that the law had been changed governing the nomination of U.S. Attorneys -- a change that gave the administration the power to appoint federal prosecutors indefinitely without Senate confirmation.

In later remarks during this morning's hearing, Specter explained to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) that he didn't know about the provision until she approached him on the floor and asked about it recently. He then asked his chief counsel, Michael O'Neill, who explained that the provision had been inserted into the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act at the request of the Department of Justice.

So Specter is angry at the insinuation that he "slipped in" the change... but not even he knew that his own staff member had made the change."

May 16, 2007 3:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

andrea said
Wasn't the recent champion of abstinence -only ed- Randall- "I had a $275 massage- no sex"- Tobias?

May 16, 2007 4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Actually, it's framing."

No, it isn't. Brevity can be a virtue. Let's make it a challenge for TTF to try to come up with soundbites to support their wacky views.

May 16, 2007 5:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So tell us how you feel about "sneaky end-arounds" by an Executive branch that thinks it can bypass "quaint" provisions of the US Constitution?"

And where was the Constitution bypassed?

May 16, 2007 5:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate."

May 16, 2007 10:21 PM  

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