Sunday, December 16, 2007

Is our states learning?

This was sent to me by my brother: it looks like ten to twelve states this year are rejecting federal money for abstinence-only sex education.
The number of states refusing federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.

At least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply, forgoing more than $15 million of the $50 million available, officials said. Virginia was the most recent state to opt out.

Two other states -- Ohio and Washington -- have applied but stipulated they would use the money for comprehensive sex education, effectively making themselves ineligible, federal officials said. While Maryland and the District are planning to continue applying for the money, other states are considering withdrawing as well.

Until this year, only four states had passed up the funding.

Huzzah! It looks like they're waking up to the fact that abstinence-only sex education (aside from being an oxymoron) just plain doesn't work.

Not everyone is pleased, of course. The government that offers the money isn't happy:
"We're concerned about this," said Stan Koutstaal of the Department of Health and Human Services, which runs the program. "My greatest concern about states dropping out is that these are valuable services and programs. It's the youths in these states who are missing out."

They're not happy, and they're not too bright. The youths in the states that are forced to have abstinence-only education are the ones missing out, because educating teenagers on how not to have sex doesn't work. The youths in the states that know that are also missing out because you won't give them money for a proper sex-ed course. But they're going to get something, at least, which is better than before.

The anti-sex crowd also are miffed:
"We're talking about the health of millions of youth across the United States," said Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association. "We know abstinence education offers the best for them. Now is the time to put more emphasis on that message, not less."

Yeah... "we know abstinence education offers the best for them. We don't have any proof of that, and we don't even have convincing arguments to wave away all the evidence that it doesn't, but we know it! We know it in our genitals. Thinking--that's what genitals are for, right?"

But wait, there's more from Huber!
"Our critics would have governors believe that these programs are just somebody standing in front of the class wagging a finger and saying, 'No. No. No. Don't have sex.' That's not what these classes entail," Huber said. "They are holistic. They include relationship-building skills and medically accurate discussions of sexually transmitted diseases and contraception."

Oh? Such medically-accurate discussions of STDs as "HIV ... can be spread via sweat and tears"? Or such medically-accurate discussions of contraception as "nearly 1 in 3 will contract AIDS from infected partner with 100% condom use"? Or such relationship-building skills as telling kids that "any same sex 'sexual experimentation' can be confusing to young persons and should be strongly discouraged"? Yeah, that sounds exactly like it's the best thing for children to hear. (See here for more information on what abstinence-only education really teaches kids)

The states who opted out had some encouraging things to say:
"The governor has often stated that abstinence-only education does not show any results," said Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who announced plans to give up the funding last month. "It doesn't work. He's a firm believer in more comprehensive sex education."


"Why would we spend tax dollars on something that doesn't work?" asked Ned Calonge of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. "That doesn't make sense to me. Philosophically, I am opposed to spending government dollars on something that's ineffective. That's just irresponsible."

I'm pretty sure we won't be hearing anything of the sort from Gov. Sonny "Let's pray for rain!" Perdue anytime soon, unfortunately.

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