Recently, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) succeeded in getting passed in the Senate Finance Committee a new measure to re-fund the disastrous Abstinence Only Sex Education that clearly was so ineffective under the eight years of the Bush Administration. The measure would restore $50 million dollars in funding to what is nothing more than a failed ideological experiment.
Let me be clear; I am all in favor of not having a nation of pregnant teenage girls, or a nation of boys and girls that are suffering from sexually transmitted diseases. I am concerned that the ages of sexual activity, not just sexual intercourse, are getting younger and younger. I am concerned that the sexualization and maturity of our nation’s girls is getting younger and younger, including concerns about the increasingly earlier onset of menstruation. With physical changes, comes behavioral changes, including changes in libido.
An excellent paper from Pacific Lutheran University, “Sex Education in Schools“, by Boyle, Ely, Karanasos, Long, Pena, Shook, and Waggoner published in late August 2009, lists some alarming statistics. By age 17, 50% of high school teens have engaged in oral sex; between 5% and 30% of 13 year olds have engaged in actual intercourse and 9 MILLION new cases of STDs have occurred in people between the ages of 15 and 24 EVERY YEAR. As of 2006, 31% of our teens in this country had experienced a pregnancy, and this country had the highest teenage pregnancy rate of similarly developed countries.
Abstinence only sex education programs have been the ONLY kind of sex ed federally funded for the past eight years. Abstinence only sex education teaches one thing; to abstain from sex until marriage. Abstinence only sex ed drastically limits what questions may be answered by teachers, including limiting the ONLY information they may provide about condoms, for example, is the failure rate. Abstinence only programs were developed around the idea that if students are taught about preventing pregnancy or protection from Sexually Transmitted Diseases like HIV/AIDS, it is the same thing as promoting pre-marital sex, a bad assumption. Ignorance may be bliss for parents, but stupid is never better than smart, and ignorant is never better than informed.
In contrast, a comprehensive approach to sex education teaches not only about abstinence, but also provides age appropriate medically accurate information about contraception, as well as age appropriate information about relationships, decision making, assertiveness, resisting peer pressure, STDs and about unintended pregnancies. And comprehensive sex ed includes parents or caretakers as partners with teachers.
The final sentences of “Sex Education in Schools” says it well. “Teens are going to do what they want to do despite what we teach them. Hopefully, having more knowledge will lead them to make smarter choices whether they chose to remain abstinent until marriage or become sexually active before.” The famous actress, Marlene Dietrich said it well too, “In America sex is an obsession, in other parts of the world it is a fact.”