Abstinence-Only Education Reaches New Lows

Amanda has a really good post about a variety of things, from the importance of abortion to flip-flopping to sex education. On sex education, she quotes a Washington Post article by Marc Fisher that documents just how disgusting abstinence-only education can get. Says Fisher,

In the matter of the “gum game” — the yucky attempt in Montgomery County schools to impress upon teenagers the dangers of sexual promiscuity by asking them to share a piece of gum — all involved now appear to be appalled at themselves.

The idea that abstinence is the solution to such social ills as teenage pregnancy is based more on ideology than on facts. Of all developed countries for which data is available (p. 15 in the PDF), Poland has the least promiscuous teenagers, followed by Portugal. But out of 28 countries for which teen birth data is available, Portugal has the seventh highest teen birth rate and Poland has the ninth. English-speaking countries overall do the worst; dropping them, Portugal becomes fourth out of 23 and Poland becomes fifth.

In the US, research into abstinence-only education shows that its effects on STDs are not statistically significant. The Heritage Foundation tried weaseling out of it by saying that the research showed teens who pledged abstinence had lower rates of STD infections than teens who didn’t, but the research did in fact show that the difference isn’t statistically significant.

And, note, pledges are supposed to be the most benign and effective form of abstinence promotion. Scare campaigns don’t generally work; politically they’re disastrous – just ask Jerry Kilgore – while in marketing and in social promotion, they just fail to produce results. The anti-drug scare campaigns that permeate schools have after all failed to curb drug abuse.

And here’s the full text submitted about another favorite exercise that won’t be used anymore: “Exlax game.”

In this game, students were handed squares of Hershey’s chocolate, but before they popped the candy, they were told that a few kids had instead received Ex-Lax laxatives. Still want to eat it? Few did, and, in fact, Tierney assures me that although this exercise “really freaks them out,” it is only a mind game designed to drive home the idea of random risk — no laxatives were distributed to students.

So, if it’s not about results, what is it about? The obvious answer – sexual control and prudishness – is only partially correct. The organization that organized those games was a conservative group that the school system outsourced sex education to, so we can assume its motives are the same as those of the uderlying conservative pro-life movement.

Saying that this total opposition to birth control is due to sexual control is of course consistent with opposition to abortion. But it’s not the only thing that’s consistent. Modern conservatism is anti-pragmatic on everything: on foreign policy it would rather breed enemies than talk to enemies, on economics it would rather kick people off welfare rolls than offer retraining to reduce the need for welfare, on interrogations it would rather torture terrorists than get them to produce good intelligence, and on abortion it would rather ban abortion than offer good sex education.

That’s how opposition to stem cell research, which has nothing to do with sexual control, ties in. The route from a pro-life belief that embryos are people to opposing stem cell research is very short. It’s very much what the Political Survey defines as the pragmatic/idealist dimension of politics.

So it’s likely that sex education and birth control are tagged with the same association to abortion. Pro-lifers have set up what they believe to be the culture of life, defined by fetal and embryonic personhood, and immutable moral codes overruling practical considerations. In contrast, it says, pro-choicers have a contraceptive mentality. In that framework, abortion, contraception, and sex education are all symptoms of the same problem.

5 Responses to Abstinence-Only Education Reaches New Lows

  1. muppt says:

    I cummed

  2. Arem says:

    Hmmm… I can’t really agree with your conclusions. But I will say that I agree that scare tactics don’t work. In fact, I think sex education in general doesn’t work. What better way to raise a child’s interest in sex than to talk about it a lot with all his friends around? I think effective sex education should be done at home, by the parents.


  3. Alon Levy says:

    It’s always more effective like that, but it’s only possible within middle- or upper-class liberal homes. And even then, some parents just skip that part of their children’s education; mine did, even though they’re very liberal and affluent.

    In terms of school curricula, the comprehensive system in NL evidently works better than the system in Poland or Ireland or Portugal.

  4. muppt says:

    you can get free sex education at the zoo

  5. muppt says:

    another way to educate your children is to get them to spend 1 night with a hooker. This will greatly boost the prostitution industry by integrating it with the education system.

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