Sunday, December 16, 2007

Comprehensive v. Abstinence-only sex education

Via WaPo - Abstinence Programs Face Rejection
The number of states refusing federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.

At least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply, forgoing more than $15 million of the $50 million available, officials said. Virginia was the most recent state to opt out.

Two other states -- Ohio and Washington -- have applied but stipulated they would use the money for comprehensive sex education, effectively making themselves ineligible, federal officials said.

[. . .]

The jump in states opting out follows a series of reports questioning the effectiveness of the approach, including one commissioned by Congress that was released earlier this year. In addition, federal health officials reported last week that a 14-year drop in teenage pregnancy rates appeared to have reversed.
I find this article interesting because I've never thought that abstinence-only education was a very wise idea. I have not looked closely at the numbers, but I'm also well aware that both sides will find numbers and ways to use the numbers to their own advantage, so I'm not that interested in seeking them out either. The one thing that I do know is that no education program is ever going to get all teenagers to abstain from having sex. I have no problem with schools teaching that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases, but sex is also a natural human behavior that begins to appeal to individuals when they enter puberty. If all they know is that abstinence is the only sure way to avoid these problems, but then they decide they are not willing to go that route, they will not know how to protect themselves and are more likely to find themselves in bad situation. I believe they should at least know that there are other options that will help them to protect their health and well-being. I think that is what health education (and as a subset sex education) is all about.

We should teach them about the physiological aspects of our sexuality, the psychological repercussions of engaging in sexual activity, and the physical consequences that can result from both protected and unprotected sex. But it is also of the utmost importance that they know how to protect themselves if they decide to engage in these activities. It should not be about morality. Let their parents teach them about morality. Some would say that we should let their parents teach them about sex education, but I disagree. We should have trained professions who can teach them about the scientific aspects of sex and leave the moralizing at home.

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