Don’t be Fooled: Abstinence-Only Sex-Ed is Still Worthless
The Washington Post has published an article regarding a new study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine that claims abstinence-only education might work. But while conservatives point fingers at liberals in their “Aha! I-told-you-so” moment, it is important to dissect the study and understand that right-wingers are trying to pull the wool over our eyes.
The Washington Post makes the findings of the study seem so clear cut and simple:
“Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active. ”
Although these findings seem promising for abstinence-only education, the “abstinence-focused program” in the study was actually quite moderate. In other words, categorizing it as abstinence-only curriculum is misleading and false.
Were the students huddled in a room where they are told to remain virgins until marriage? Is information pertaining to contraceptives withheld from them during these “abstinence” lessons?
The study was conducted among 662 African American sixth- and seventh-graders in four low-income schools in the northeastern United States. The students were randomized into four groups.
One received an eight-hour “abstinence-only” class focusing on the risks of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. It did not use a moralistic tone or portray sex in a negative light. A second group received an eight-hour safe-sex class. The third group received a comprehensive eight- or 12-hour class emphasizing both aspects. The control group received education only about healthy living.
Did you catch that? The abstince-focused curriculum in the study did not represent most abstinence-only programs, where students are told to hold off on sex until marriage. It also did not take a moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. The abstinence-focused courses only encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married. In fact, these classes did not even portray sex outside marriage as always inappropriate, and did not forbid condoms.
Call me crazy, but that sounds a lot like comprehensive sex education to me.
“There is no data in this study to support the ‘abstain until marriage’ programs, which research proved ineffective during the Bush administration,” said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.
Pregnancy rates among teens were declining for nearly a decade until the Bush Administration began funding abstinence-only sex ed in the country’s public schools. In fact, pregnancy rates among 15-19 year olds rose by 3 percent between 2005-2006. Perhaps the only thing President Obama was able to accomplish during his first year in office is cutting spending for the faulty and ineffective programs.
Conservatives have the wrong perception of comprehensive sex ed. Students are not shown Kama Sutra illustrations with this curriculum. They are not given tutorials on the difference between missionary and doggy-style. They are told that abstinence is the only sure fire way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and transmitted diseases. However, they are also told how to protect themselves if they do decide to become sexually active. Think of it as abstinence-plus sex education.
The study essentially proves the liberal stance on sex ed is the most effective. So conservatives need to stop gloating and face reality: religious views have no place in our schools. We need logic when it comes to sex ed, not Jesus.
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