Sunday, December 14, 2008

Abstinence Only Education = Kids Making Dumb Choices

Don't know if you got the memo, but anal sex is the new cool thing. Yep, kids are all about the two-hole these days. While there's nothing inherently wrong with this, a study out of Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center in Rhode Island revealed that this increase is the result of a general lack of sexual knowledge among teenagers. Most striking was the fact that many didn't realize you could get an STD from anal sex and only 29% said they used condoms. This is not good.

What the hell did we think was going to happen? In another edition of Yet Another Thing Bush Fucked Up, adolescents are not properly educated about sex. Well, that's what happens when you base public policy on religious dogma rather than scientific studies. For eight years schools have had to forfeit any sex-ed funding if they didn't implement abstinence only programs.

They call it abstinence only education but let's be real, it's not education. It's the opposite of education. We're telling kids not to have sex because it's bad. That's it. You're going to hell, so don't even think about it. Ever. Don't talk about it. Don't read about it. Don't acknowledge its existence. That's the only way to save your soul and prevent a life of degradation and promiscuity.

Needless to say, there are problems with this. First of all, the more taboo you make something, the more enticing it is to a teenager. They're wired to rebel. You just tell them what not to do, and they'll do it. You learn this quickly as a teacher. This may not be true of every student, but it's true of the majority. Even the best of students search for ways to rebel.

Second, human beings are wired to desire sex. The #1 thing on the mind of every teenage boy is that smart girl with braces who sits in the front row in Biology class. They're bombarded by images of sex everyday. Just turn on MTV for a few hours and you'll quickly see what it means to be "cool." One's worth as a person is defined by the amount of girls he can hook up with and the amount of money he spends on them. Every day, teenage boys are pushed to prove their masculinity and live in fear of homophobic taunts and public emasculation.

With all of this going on, kids desperately need someone to educate them about the complexities of sex. They need help understanding the emotional, psychological, and physical risks that go along with it. While parents should play a role in this education, we cannot simply assume it's going on at home. This is a public health issue. The government should play a role in eliminating unwanted teenage pregnancies and preventing abortions. Isn't that what the Christian right wants? Doesn't everybody win with a comprehensive sex education program? If anything, we should create an new sex-ed position in all high schools staffed by a specially trained counselor.

Never fear though, in just over a month, at long last, we will have a president that will use reason and scientific evidence to make decisions. It won't take much to bring about dramatic change on this issue. With just a little common sense, schools will be able to fund much needed sex education programs; comprehensive education will be a strong part of AIDS assistance programs in Africa without attaching abstinence only strings; and we will no longer be wasting $204 million spent in the US on a method proven to be ineffective.