SCENE: A Public School Health Class
TEACHER: "Today's topic... Sexual Education. If you'll please turn to page 77 in your textbook....um yes Timmy, will you read what it says on that page? What's that...yes, please read the whole page!"
TIMMY: (reading) "uh....it just says, 'don't do it'?!"
TEACHER: "That's right, and that completes our comprehensive education on Sex, now on page 31 we will be discussing the most important topic this year, how to clip you toenails"
Coming from a conservative (actually fundamentalist) Baptist upbringing, sex was a big topic in my youth years...I mean abstinence was a big topic...SEX was NEVER openly and honestly talked about!!!
Yes, as with most churches, sex is a taboo topic except for that once a year weekend retreat where you bring in someone else to talk about the evils of sex before marriage and guilt them into signing some sort of covenant (like True Love Waits) pledging that they will remain abstinent until their marriage night (or 50th wedding anniversary). ONE problem with this approach (from both a youth and youth minister perspective) is that all this usually guarantees is that when a teen does decide to have a night of passion, they will wake up the next day with a LOT of guilt. The subliminal message: Sex is bad!
I know that that's not the message that these approaches are trying to send, but it is, in fact, the message that we do send. I'll be honest... my wedding night, I was scared that I would feel like I was doing something wrong because fear and guilt tactics were the only way anyone would ever approach the topic of sex.
After that TMI, we recently see the results from the Oversight Committee Hearing on Abstinence-Only Education, headed by Chairman Waxman. Here's some of his opening statements:
The statistics are shocking. A few weeks ago, the CDC released data showing that one in four teenage girls in the U.S. has a sexually transmitted infection. 30% of all American girls become pregnant before the age of 20; for African-American and Latina girls, the rate is 50%. And thousands of teenagers and young adults in the United States become infected with HIV each year.
If we’re serious about responding to these challenges, we must base our policy on the best available science and evidence, not ideology.
We’re here today to discuss evidence on the effectiveness of abstinence-only programs. There is a broad consensus that the benefits of abstinence should be taught as part of any sex education effort. But abstinence-only programs teach only abstinence. In federally-funded abstinence-only programs, teenagers cannot receive information on other methods of disease prevention and contraception, other than failure rates.
To date these programs have gotten over $1.3 billion dollars of federal taxpayer money, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in state funds, to conduct programs in schools and communities across the United States. Meanwhile, we have no dedicated source of federal funding specifically for comprehensive classroom sex education.
But we will hear today from multiple experts that after more than a decade of huge government spending, the weight of the evidence doesn’t demonstrate abstinence-only programs to be effective.
In fact, the government’s own study showed no effect for abstinence-only programs. In 2007, the Bush Administration released the results of a longitudinal, randomized, controlled study of four federally-funded programs. The investigators found that compared to the control group, the abstinence-only programs had no impact on whether or not participants abstained from sex. They had no impact on the age when teens started having sex. They had no impact on the number of partners. And they had no impact on rates of pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.
Meanwhile, more and more research shows that many well-designed comprehensive programs that teach about abstinence and contraception are effective. Comprehensive, age-appropriate programs have yielded results including increasing contraceptive use, delaying sex, and reducing the number of sexual partners.
In other words, the evidence demonstrates that not only do good comprehensive programs not encourage teen sexual activity, they actually decrease it. This shouldn’t be too surprising, because in effective comprehensive programs, young people are taught that abstinence is the safest choice, the healthiest choice, and a choice that they should never feel pressured to abandon.
Click to read the full transcript!
Ok, so let's get this out of the way. I'm not some person who doesn't care about our youth and is an advocate for sex before marriage. Actually, I still strongly support abstinence as the best choice... but not ONLY for religious reasons. I would actually say they are the least of my justification on that stance. No, I stand for abstinence as the best choice for psychological, and physiological health reasons IN ADDITION to my religious beliefs on the subject. (actually, they are all tied together being that I believe God wants what's best for us as a whole person, not just spiritually).
But, the Abstinence-ONLY approach of education isn't working. It isn't effective, studies have shown, and if you have truly worked with real life teenagers then it's pretty intuitive, that Abstinence-only education is not long-lasting education.
So...why do we ignore the experts? I mean I agree if a more comprehensive sex-ed. program did not give abstinence as a sexual option. But every comprehensive program and curriculum that I've studied not only spends time on an abstinence option, it ENCOURAGES that option OVER AND ABOVE all other options. AND IT IS MORE EFFECTIVE! Here we have teens (esp. male guys) at their sexual peak (hormonally speaking), and we're telling them that they are supposed to completely ignore those natural feelings, and feel guilty and dirty when they give into their hormones. Instead, we can better educate them about their bodies, what's going on, and the ones who are going to have sex regardless, will at least be better informed on their options! Studies have shown that those who are MOST LIKELY to remain abstinent because of an abstinent-only approach, will still respond with the choice of abstinence when given a more comprehensive approach to sex.
So here are my questions:
Why do we not listen to the experts and take a more scientifically proven approach? Why don't we listen? Are we scared?
I think Representative, John Duncan (R-Tenn.) summed it up best: "It seems rather elitist to me for people who have degrees in this field and because they've studied it, somehow know better than the parents...."
Yeah, all these researchers with all their research and studies and degrees thinking they know something about the field in which they are working. Because parenting REQUIRES a higher degree and....wait...what's that??? I'm being told that parenting in fact, does not require a degree or class of any sort. What many would consider the most important job in our society (raising a child) does not heed the research and use it towards better parenting, instead cling to the the way they think is best.
I know that's sarcastic, but, like my last post... we Christians seem to think that because we have the Bible, we don't need any advancements in human technology and understanding. Hmmm.... we should picket the printing press!!!! Stupid Martin Luther and his idea to translate the Bible into the vernacular and have it mass produced!
Sorry, really don't know what's gotten into me tonight to be so sarcastic, but I really do question when parents (esp. Christian parents) are so against a better and more effective way of educating teens about sex. Let me say this, I respect if you want to teach abstinence-only in your house, or even in your church. That is perfectly fine if that is your religious viewpoint. But in public schools (sit down, this may shock you), teens are 1) not all Christian or religious, and 2) are having sex. Us fighting against a more comprehensive public education program is IN FACT, not making number 2 any better, and the WAY Christians teach it isn't helping #1 all that much either.
So studies show....
Comprehensive Sexual Education is more effective....
Abstinence-only education has little-to-no effect....
Why not allow the system to change?'
Sorry for the rant and the sarcasm, but this has bothered me since I was in youth. I saw how little this old approach worked with my peers, and well... I think I will support whatever the studies show as long as the educational program still teach abstinence as the best option!