While the Republican party has become the party of ‘Nope’, serious harm has been done to our country by the right wing saying ‘yes’ to abstinence only education. Decisions made promoting the mandate and funding of abstinence only sexual education have a serious impact not only on the educational goals of producing literate, knowledgeable and informed students graduating from our public and private educational system. The resulting ignorance that is associated with abstinence only sex ed has an equally serious impact on our public health policies and expenditures.
I reviewed the research on abstinence only sex ed, and also reviewed the arguments for any kind of sexuality education to be included as appropriate and desirable subject matter. There were a lot of arguments in support of sex as a legitimate subject of study, and very few arguments against it; most of the against arguments boiled down to a few people who are still too embarrassed to deal with the subject in any objective manner.
The overwhelming statistics indicate that the teaching of comprehensive sex ed in schools is supported by parents, teachers, and the students themselves. According to SIECUS in 2005, more than 90% of high school and middle school parents support funding sexual education in schools, with majorities supporting that sexual education be comprehensive, include accurate information on contraceptives and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
The majority of objections to teaching sex ed at all, and the majority of support for abstinence only sex ed seem to have a close correlation to promoting a specific religious view that the minority objectors would like to impose on the larger majority.
For example, a report in 2004 by Congressman Waxman’s special investigation committee reviewing the abstinence only sex education programs supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that over 80% of them used curricula containing false, misleading, or distorted information about the effectiveness of contraceptives and the risks of abortion. According to this paper, Waxman’s committee also “found gender stereotypes and religious beliefs treated as fact, as well as deliberate scientific errors.”
I think it is a fair statement that religion should be personal, and that the religious beliefs of a single segment of society should not be presented as fact. I would hope even more strongly that we should insist on accuracy, including scientific accuracy, in our educational system.
The next best reason for discarding any further funding for abstinence only sex ed is that it doesn’t work. A 2006 study by McKeon found that despite the existence of abstinence only until marriage sex ed existing for more than two decades, peer-review study found abstinence only sex ed not effective in either delaying the first sexual experience, or in any other impact either long or short term. But it makes neo-puritans happy, so for far too many years, bad sex ed continued to be funded. This is yet one more terrible waste of tax payer’s money trying to force religion and religious belief into more and more areas of politics and government improperly.
In a previous abstinence only story, I researched a variety of documents that included statistically reviewing a comparison of the rates of teen pregnancies in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries in the world, reflecting varying degrees of development and industrialization, with the results cross referenced to the types of sexual education provided in the schools of each country. This reflects the issues that correlate sexual education with public health policy (I almost made the typo pubic health policy).
One of the most liberal countries in openly teaching comprehensive sexual education is the Netherlands, which had the lowest rate of pregnancies in young women between the ages of 15 to 19, at 8 per 1000. The US and the UK, with a preponderance of abstinence only sex ed were among the worst, at 93 per 1000 women in the same age range; while England and Wales had a rate for the same age group of 63 per 1000. There are compelling numbers available from the study of sex ed as it is practiced worldwide; this is not unique to a few countries.
These statistics represent real people, not just abstract numbers. They represent real costs as well, to the individuals involved, to their families, to their communities, all the way up to the national level. This makes how and IF we teach Sex Ed a valid interest of our government and of our educational system. It is sufficiently important to us as a nation to deserve a fair and objective approach, rather than to be dominated by the religious beliefs of anyone over fact.
Comprehensive Sex Ed is endorsed by the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine, and the American College Health Association, among MANY others. Some scientific studies suggest that far from achieving the desired goal of abstinence until marriage, abstinence only sex ed actually correlated to an INCREASE in teen pregnancy. At approximately the same time, a study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teenage Pregnancy showed that sex ed that includes discussion of contraception does NOT increase sexual activity, the great fear of those who oppose comprehensive sex ed.
A conservative, very right wing friend in response to my earlier blog article against abstinence only sex ed wanted to know what business it is of government to be involved in sex education at all. THIS is why it is the business of government, and of us all, to be involved in seeing there is objective not belief-based sexual education in our schools.