May 23, 2008
This past Tuesday, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Online featured a terrific editorial
by local mom Lynn Koller. It's inspired by her son, a 7th grader in a school that teaches federally funded Pure Energy Abstinence Education Program. The article kicks off with him telling her about that day's speaker, who urged "that everyone abstain from sex until marriage, because sex outside of marriage can cause serious physical and psychological problems."
Smart, funny, and spot-on, Koller's editorial reads like a checklist of all that is ineffective, inaccurate, and discriminatory about abstinence-only programs. Highlights of her critique include the following observations:
• The program's insistence that sex outside of marriage can cause serious physical and psychological problems "teaches the children of single parents that their mothers or fathers are engaging in illicit acts of danger."
• "The message blatantly discriminates against those who fall somewhere outside of heterosexual on the vast spectrum of human sexuality, who do not desire marriage, or are prevented by law from marrying in Florida."
• As a recipient of federal abstinence-only dollars, the Pure Energy program isn't allowed to discuss contraception with teens except to emphasize failure rates; this means that in addition to failing to provide teens with medically accurate and complete information about sex, the programs also fail to teach how to use condoms to prevent pregnancy and diseases.
• The speakers "have no credentials in health, education, or any related area," and they are teaching opinions as facts. (Per Koller: "It's not teaching; it's preaching.")
• "Abstinence-only programs don't work, in spite of our government investing more than $1 billion in them over the past decade. Major studies have repeatedly demonstrated that these programs are unsuccessful in reducing teenage sex, STDs or unplanned pregnancy. The April 2007 study commissioned by Congress found that the programs have essentially no effect."
As for the argument from other parents that abstinence-only programs do no harm because their children receive proper information at home," Koller will have none of it:
These arguments are seriously flawed. While students may receive sufficient sex education at home, as a community we cannot tolerate intolerance toward others promoted in our public schools and cannot dismiss the effect on our community. We cannot allow unqualified "coaches" to teach students that condoms are ineffective barriers against pregnancy and disease. We cannot allow our public schools to be soapboxes for evangelists."
But don't settle for these tidbits. Go read the full editorial