H ave you walked through the halls of your local middle school lately? It’s pretty shocking – teachers piping Usher’s “Seduction” through the sound system, filling classrooms with, massage oil, giant pillows and lit candles.
All right, I’ll stop. School- sanctioned sexual activity isn’t very funny, and that goes double for pregnant 11-year-olds.
You want to hear a real joke? Try the government’s continued push for abstinence-only education, despite years of research indicating that it has no statistical impact on teens’ age of sexual initiation or eventual number of partners.
If abstinence-only programs were merely worthless, we might laugh them off. Yet a 2004 congressional study showed that most commonly used curricula were filled with falsehoods regarding reproductive health: e.g., condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission 31 percent of the time, and AIDS can be spread through sweat and tears.
And it’s not only kids who are being misled. That Zogby poll? Please.
Contracted by an abstinence group, it repeatedly positioned abstinence education as including “age appropriate discussion of contraceptives” with a “higher emphasis” on self-esteem building over “condom usage skills.”
Who wouldn’t say yes to that? Yet the survey couldn’t be more misleading; abstinence-only programs contain no discussion of contraceptive use. (Parents used as political pawns in this report should contact Zogby and ask for their time back.)
Pregnant teens? No one wants that. Yet I doubt the solution lies with people such as Pam Stenzel, a Bush appointee to the Department of Health and Human Service’s task force for abstinence education guidelines.
Here’s Pam, when she thinks she’s only among “friends,” addressing the effectiveness of an abstinence-only curriculum at a religious convention: “I don’t care if it works, because at the end of the day . . . I’m answering to God.
“AIDS is not the enemy,” she adds. “A hysterectomy at 20 is not the enemy. . . . An unplanned pregnancy is not the enemy. My child believing that they can . . . sin without consequence . . . spending eternity separated from God, is the enemy!”
Well, Pam and I agree on one thing: Know your enemy. As for dispensing vital birth control and health care information? We owe it to the next generation not to abstain from that.
Andrea Sarvady (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and educator specializing in counseling and a married mother of three.