02 March, 2009

So, Texas. How's That Abstinence-Only Education Going For Ya?

Ooo, not too good:

The official seal of Texas features six flags to signify six national identities Texans have known. But a report just issued by the Austin-based Texas Freedom Network Education Fund suggests that a seventh flag may need to be added. They call Texas the "flagship state for the abstinence movement." But of course identity has consequences and the study Just Say Don't Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools reveals a flag of ignorance flapping smartly in the breeze over the state legislature that has made abstinence only the "preferred" method of teaching about human sexuality since 1995.

Noting that Texas has among the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country, the study also reports that the state spends "approximately $1 billion annually for the costs of teen childbearing." What's more, the report underscores authoritative data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found "young Texans to be "well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors" and that this may be "one of the most pressing public health issues facing our state." [emphasis emphatically added]

My goodness me, what a shock: telling teens not to have sex and trying to use oogedy-boogedy lies to scare them away from the hanky-panky doesn't work.

Look. Most of us would prefer kids don't have sex while they're still kids. There's nothing wrong with encouraging them to wait until they're a bit more mature before they do the deed.

However. There's the ideal, and then there's Mr. Reality. Mr. Reality sez, when hormones are barreling down on a person like a two-million ton freight train, our ideal scenario ends up squashed into molecules on the tracks.

I know there are some ultra-conservative parents out there who are fine with the idea of their kids getting punished for their sins by contracting STDs and bearing babies far too young. There's a lot more conservative parents out there who believe it's always those other kids having all the icky sex, but their darling angel never would, and so doesn't need to know about disgusting and immoral things like condomns and the pill. Some of them, remarkably, even continue to display this attitude as their daughter's belly swells and their son's penis sprouts interesting lesions. I know this because I witnessed it at my high school.

Those parents are a lost cause. They'll never comprehend reality, and even if the could, they'd refuse to face it. That doesn't mean their kids and others have to suffer.

It's time to strike abstinence-only from the curriculum. If Obama needs to save a few bucks, he can start by slashing the funding to those programs. I do believe that's coming - he's talked a lot about basing things on science and fact, and in this case, the science and facts have both marched abstinence-only education outside and beaten it to within an inch of its life.

We can't just sit back and snigger at Texas, though. Sure, it's got its comuppance, but those are kids who suffer the consequences. And, just in case you needed a little enlightened self-interest, consider this:

When it comes to Texas, size always matters, and it is worth noting that national textbook publishers have resorted to self-censorship to accommodate the Texas market, making Texas everyone's problem.
The whole article's worth a read. And you might want to keep that report handy the next time your local school board debates the kind of sex ed they want for your district.

When it comes to abstinence-only education, an old anti-drug slogan is particularly apt: "Just say no!"

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