If you wanted to go scuba diving for the first time, would you hire an instructor to train you in safety procedures, or rely on luck to keep you protected? Would you want to learn how your equipment works before diving, or attempt to self-teach at 1,500 feet below sea level? Most would agree that taking lessons before one’s first scuba diving adventure would be the appropriate course of action. Plunging into such uncertain territory uneducated is not only irresponsible, but dangerous. As a matter of fact, laws prohibit such careless behavior. Ironically however, the US government encourages, and even more mandates ignorance on a matter significantly more important than scuba diving protocol; that subject is sex education in the classroom. According to the New York Times (2008), one out of every five teenagers admits to having sex before the age of 15. These young adults, not even juniors in high school yet are embarking down a path that requires an exceptional amount of knowledge, foresight, and understanding; yet government funded sex education programs demand that educators leave out the pertinent information in hopes that teens will refrain themselves. The truth is these abstinence-only (AO) programs provide a mere fraction of the necessary information teenagers need to make well informed, healthy choices for themselves; therefore schools need to be teaching comprehensive sex education curriculum. The magnitude of government support and funding for abstinence only education could easily lead people to believe the program is a raging success. After all, the government rose financial backing for these programs 166 million dollars since 1997 (Bruggink, 2007). Some would take that as a strong indication that the program is doing its job correctly. Consequently, the Title V abstinence-only program has received over 1.5 billion dollars from congress since 1996 (Song, 2008); yet this is only the second largest government funded abstinence only program available. According to Bruggink (2007), “[t]he Associated Press reported that the largest program has gone from $20 million to $113 million in seven years and that President George W. Bush is requesting $141 million next year” (¶ 8). This is an exuberant amount of money being put forth; so if funding automatically equaled credibility, the controversy surrounding sex education would seemingly be an open and shut case. As Washington has proved again most recently however, the truth always lies much deeper than the pocket book. By closely examining the information provided by these programs, one quickly learns the price of education does not always reflect its quality or effectiveness. What lessons, then, are abstinence-only programs teaching today’s youth? Obviously AO programming would primarily advocate sustained virginity, but certainly one would assume there must be a broader explanation to warrant such a large price tag. Unfortunately, there is not much more to the curriculum than that one area of concentration. Federal funding regulations stipulate that programs can only receive government grants if the program adheres to a strict, explicit curriculum. First, the benefit of contraception use is decisively forbidden; instructors may only address the subject of contraceptives if providing students with the failure rates of each method. Secondly, the curriculum must remain on the perception that the expected standard of sexual activities occurs only within a mutually faithful, marriage between one man and one woman. Furthermore, instructors must lecture students that participating in sexual activities outside of marriage is liable to cause physical and psychological harm (Lindburg, Santelli, & Singh, 2006). One program, No Second Chances, has gone as far as telling students who are sexually active that they should “prepare to die…you’ll probably take your spouse and one or more of your children with you” (Bruggink, 2007). One can only guess the program is referring to HIV/AIDS...
References: Advacates for Youth. (2007). Sex Education Programs: Definitions & Point-by-Point Comparison. Retrieved October 21, 2008 from advacatesforyouth.org: http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/rrr/definitions.htm
Advacates for Youth
Bruggink, H. (2007, July/August). Abstinence-Only Funding (Finally) Set to Expire-But Don 't Applaud Quite Yet. The Huminist , 64 (4), pp. 7-8. Retreived October 8, 2008, from ProQuest database.
Duberstein Lindberg, L., Jones, R., & Santelli, J. (2007). Non-coital sexual activities among adolescents. Retrieved July 30, 2008, from Guttmacher Institute: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/JAH_Lindberg.pdf
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Lindberg, L., Santelli, J., & Singh, S. (2006, December). Changes in formal sex education: 1995-2002. Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 38(4), 182-189. Retrieved September 14, 2008, from EBSCOhost database.
Song, K. M. (2008, March 20). UW researchers say comprehensive sex ed cuts teen pregnancies. Retrieved October 8, 2008, from The Seatle Times: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/health/2004293974_sexed20m.html
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