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Abstinence Only Is Not Education

First of all, let me just make this clear to you, I am in no way writing this article to debate the fact that abstinence is not the best way to avoid pregnancy/STDs/your genitals falling off/whatever. Duh. We all know that, and nobody is going to argue against that. Just like the best way to avoid getting in a car accident is to never get into a car, the best way to avoid a hunting accident is to stay away from Dick Cheney, and the best way to avoid death is to stay huddled in a dark, locked room in the fetal position.

This article is about abstinenceonly “education”, and as the more quickwitted of you can tell by my use of quotation marks, it is not an article in favor of abstinenceonly “education”. No matter what your religious/moral/spiritual beliefs are, the fact of the matter is that taxpayer money is spent on misinformation and outright propaganda.

So, what is actually being taught in abstinence
untilmarriage programs at schools? Although in my freshman year I took a required health class in which the “abstinenceonly” sexed format was taught, I have to confess that I remember little about it. Mostly because I would rather pass notes to my friends than listen to my (overweight) health teacher rattle off a sermon that my parents had already given me about 10 times. I do remember that there was no mention of contraceptives in the high school course, although when I was in 8th grade health, we were taught about several methods of contraception. I think this was mostly due to having a young, straight out of college male teacher in middle school, and a middle aged “born again”, gospel preaching Christian woman the next year. Also we had several guest speakers, who used the usual “just say no” persuasion method, which is to tell you one minute to not go along with the crowd and “be yourself”, and then tell you the next that most people don’t do _, and therefore you shouldn’t either. I do have to give the fine state of North Carolina some credit though, for at least giving valid information about some STDs, although all they told us about contraceptives were “they don’t work all the time”. Now although this is an omission of the truth, it’s not technically a complete lie, although it does leave kids vulnerable to even more inaccurate misinformation later on. So, that was my experience with the abstinenceonly education system. While it was boring, lame, and relatively pointless, I think it’s safe to say that almost no one in the class walked away with any radically idiotic ideas. Well, except for the ones they already had floating around their head, of course. However, not all school districts rely on the “don’t do it just because I said so” method. According to the Washington Post, here are some of the things being taught to teenagers and preteens at schools across the country: abortions lead to sterility and an increased risk for suicide, a 43 day old fetus is a “thinking person”, half of gay US teenagers have tested positive for HIV/AIDS, and it is possible to get pregnant by touching another person’s genitals. I don’t even have a comment for this garbage, other than that if you are over the age of 8 and believe any of it, then I completely agree with your decision not to attempt to reproduce. While there actually is a small risk of pregnancy due to mutual masturbation, let me emphasize the fact that it is extremely small, and can be gotten rid of by simply wiping your hands before you stick them anywhere a baby can pop out of. In 2005, Congress spent $168 million on abstinenceonly programs in schools, which is about $100 million less than what President Bush had enthusiastically proposed. Not only has the president financially backed abstinenceonly programs, but his administration was responsible for forcing the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to discontinue a project entitled “Programs That Work”. The project was aimed at identifying sex education programs scientifically found to be effective at preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs. In addition, the Bush administration has required the CDC only to track participants of the program’s “attendance and attitudes”, which obviously does not reflect actual success of any of the programs nationwide. In fact, during George W. Bush’s tenure as governor of Texas, despite spending $10 million dollars on abstinenceonly education, Texas’ teen pregnancy rate was the fifth highest in the nation. Not only are these programs highly ineffective, (because let’s face it—who pays attention in health class?), but they perpetuate dangerously false information, and is closer to propaganda than true education. Surely the most regurgitated argument for abstinence only education in public schools is the matter of religion and morality. If you’re one of the millions of Christian teens who have decided to abstain from sex until marriage, that’s wonderful. Really. Congratulations. However, I have some potentially bad news for you. Here it is: you will make mistakes. Maybe you won’t make a bad decision about sex, maybe you’ll be a perfect little girl or boy, but what about your friends? Your family? A study done by Columbia University concluded that, although students who take virginity pledges may wait longer, about 88% will eventually have premarital sex, and are less likely to use contraceptives. Whatever your decision about sex before marriage may be, the most important thing to remember is to make the decision for yourself, not your partner, not your parents, not your friends, and especially not fearbased propaganda techniques. In the end, when all is said and done, it is you who will have to live with your decisions. Your health teacher or your pastor/priest/preacher will not always be there for you to make them for you or tell you what to do. Maybe you’ll regret your one night stand with Mr. or Ms. Thang, and maybe you’ll regret not having that one night stand with Mr. or Ms. Thang. Do some research for yourself, or talk to your doctor(who is required by law in most cases to keep whatever you say confidential, even from your parents) about contraceptives and birth control.
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