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Tilting at Windmills

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December 29, 2008

ABSTINENCE PROGRAMS STILL DON'T WORK.... I don't want to alarm anyone, but it appears that teenagers sometimes have sex, even if they "pledge" not to.

Teenagers who pledge to remain virgins until marriage are just as likely to have premarital sex as those who do not promise abstinence and are significantly less likely to use condoms and other forms of birth control when they do, according to a study released today.

The new analysis of data from a large federal survey found that more than half of youths became sexually active before marriage regardless of whether they had taken a "virginity pledge," but that the percentage who took precautions against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases was 10 points lower for pledgers than for non-pledgers.

"Taking a pledge doesn't seem to make any difference at all in any sexual behavior," said Janet E. Rosenbaum of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, whose report appears in the January issue of the journal Pediatrics. "But it does seem to make a difference in condom use and other forms of birth control that is quite striking."

Got that? The difference between teens who make abstinence "pledges" and teens who don't isn't sexual conduct, it's that those who make the "pledges" engage in more dangerous sexual conduct.

After a while, this just gets repetitious -- the right insists that abstinence programs work, objective research shows they don't. Conservatives, not satisfied, demand more objective research, which further proves abstinence programs don't work. No evidence, no matter how overwhelming, seems to be enough.

But reality just won't budge. The nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that abstinence programs do not affect teenager sexual behavior. A congressionally-mandated study, which was not only comprehensive but also included long-term follow-up, found the exact same thing. Researchers keep conducting studies, and the results are always the same.

This isn't complicated. Simply telling teenagers not to have sex doesn't affect behavior, doesn't prevent unwanted pregnancies, and doesn't stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Teens who receive comprehensive lessons of sexual health, with reliable, accurate information, are more likely to engage in safer, more responsible behavior.

And yet, GOP policy makers in Washington have invested billions over the last eight years in this failed social experiment, and conservatives want taxpayers to throw even more money at programs that don't work.

The Washington Post noted that Congress and the new Obama administration "are about to reconsider the more than $176 million in annual funding for such programs." It should be a no-brainer.

Steve Benen 8:50 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (39)

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Comments

"Abstinence education programs provide accurate information on the level of protection offered through the typical use of condoms and contraception," - Valarie Huber, a proponent of Abstinence Only

I would be interested to know how the statistics would break down between rural and urban teens. I suspect that rural kids would be more likely to take the pledge, but also more reluctant to buy contraception at a store where they would likely know the cashiers.

Posted by: Danp on December 29, 2008 at 8:54 AM | PERMALINK

"the right insists that abstinence programs work, objective research shows they don't. Conservatives, not satisfied, demand more objective research, which further proves abstinence programs don't work. No evidence, no matter how overwhelming, seems to be enough."

Since the objective of the Theocratic Wingnut Conservatives is to transfer the 'sin' of premartial sex from themselves to the kids, abstinence programs work just as they want them to. The kids make a pledge, and the adults don't 'encourage' sex by explaining how to have it safely (and enjoyably). The fifty percent of cheats are just that, cheats. They are the ones who have sinned by breaking their pledge, rather than the 'country' sinning by teaching them safe (and enjoyable) sex.

So naturally no amount of study will ever get them to drop their support of abstinence education, and more importantly their opposition of comprehensive sex education.

Understand their objective and you understand them.

Posted by: Lance on December 29, 2008 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Danp has a point, but I can tell you this: I (a woman) was raised in the comprehensive sex ed days. We were taught, over and over, all about how pregnancy and stds happen, how to prevent them, and were given the message that a girl carrying around a condom is smart and in control. So, I demanded condom use in my partners without shame.

Now, teens are taught that girls who have sex are dirty whores, so carrying around a condom is automatic slutsville. Teens still want to have sex, so now they go with the excuse that they were "caught up in the moment." You can't pretend the sex was out of your control if you whip a condom out of your purse and tell your partner to put it on or get lost.

go religious right, you've made the world a more dangerous place!

Posted by: Personal Failure on December 29, 2008 at 9:04 AM | PERMALINK

premartial sex

This is an amazingly good typo.

Posted by: micah on December 29, 2008 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

The best method of preventing unwanted pregnancies is to have lawyers give lectures at schools on previous divorce or custody cases. Heavy attention should given to custody battles and child support. On child support, it should include lengthy descriptions of the percentage of income what happen if you don't pay it, along with the percentage of child support that is never collected and what happens to parents who have a hard time collecting it.

Everytime my lawyer buddy shares his frequent nasty cases- and they all end up nasty- I can think only of vasectomies.

Posted by: gttim on December 29, 2008 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

What's particularly onerous about U.S. policy is that we've burdened the anti HIV program with similar policy. 1/3 of education funds in Africa must be spent on abstinence. There is evidence that the program doesn't work there either.

More at www. medicynic.com

Posted by: Cycledoc on December 29, 2008 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

Just ask Levi Johnson and Bristol Palin how well abstinence worked.

Posted by: Former Dan on December 29, 2008 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

speaking of bristol palin, has she popped out her little love muffin yet ?? getting a little late in the pregnancy, isn't it ?? or maybe, the melon head is really hers and she is not really knocked up. oh wait, that's too much conspiracy theory stuff. my bad.

Posted by: Has She Popped Yet ? on December 29, 2008 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

What we need is a new federal program to get teenagers to pledge to obey their pledges. That should do it.

(And the lawyer lectures is a great idea. Doesn't hurt to remind boys, that with DNA testing, it's not just he-said-she-said.)

Posted by: dr2chase on December 29, 2008 at 10:06 AM | PERMALINK

I was planning not to comment, but I got caught up in the moment and couldn't help myself.

Now I have to live with the consequences of having said this.

Posted by: J. Barrett Wolf on December 29, 2008 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Two quibbles:
1. Is there a breakdown by sex? Because the real trick is getting the BOYS to abstain.
2. That include oral sex? After all, these days if it's not coitus, it's not sex. I don't think Mother and Father will be too pleased to know why Judy is using so much mouthwash.

Posted by: Steve Paradis on December 29, 2008 at 10:13 AM | PERMALINK

How about we propose a study to find out whether the number of times Republicans will deny the obvious truth is an infinite number.

My observations are that teenagers who pledge not to have sex suffer more traumatic guilt when they "fail" and also that if a pregnancy does occur, the parents are less likely to ever find out about it. Why would any parent encourage this?

Posted by: Capt Kirk on December 29, 2008 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

1. Is there a breakdown by sex? Because the real trick is getting the BOYS to abstain. -Steve Paradis

I believe it still takes two to tango.

Posted by: doubtful on December 29, 2008 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Aside from your diction, I am in full agreement; one really has to stretch the definition of the word 'invest' to cover the outlays spent on abstinence-only programs.

Posted by: jhm on December 29, 2008 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

Good time to remind you of the great recent piece on this in the new yorker.

And here is an abstinence-only cartoon

Posted by: macleodcartoons on December 29, 2008 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

(Warning: this is a 'first comment of the day' and my usual *ahem* impeccable sense of taste hasn't kicked in yet.)

First on the trivial part of the comments -- no, still no news from Alaska on 'the birth.' It's funny, when there was no news by last weekend, I was sure that the announcement would come early Thursday -- and that the story would include that a car didn't start so she had to give birth in a garage -- ya kain't hardly find mangers these days.

In fact, given the frequency that early and forced marriages become abusive -- particularly if the marriage leads to a premature school-leaving -- I wish I didn't keep hearing a favorite dance tune from the late fifties -- of course, in it, "Bristol" refers to a town, not a person. (For those of you who are scratching their heads, I'll leave it to someone else who either listens to oldies or -- like me -- is an oldies. For those of you do recognize the song, don't worry, you'll be able to stop humming it in about 18 hours.)

Prup, go have some caffeine, and put the serious stuff in another comment.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on December 29, 2008 at 10:45 AM | PERMALINK
Got that? The difference between teens who make abstinence "pledges" and teens who don't isn't sexual conduct, it's that those who make the "pledges" engage in more dangerous sexual conduct.


That's always been the point, though. The people pushing the idea of "abstinence-only" have never really cared about whether or not teens have sex, what they care about is whether or not the idea of safer sex as a societal norm takes hold. If abstinence-only education successfully protects teens from the "safer sex" message, then it is "Mission Accomplished".

For some people, "the wages of sin is death" is not a statement of an immutable theological truth, it is a statement of a goal to be actively pursued.

Posted by: cmdicely on December 29, 2008 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Let's just come right out and say it. Republicans have a problem with sex. It must be dirty and shameful for them to really enjoy it.

Posted by: ArtEclectic on December 29, 2008 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

"Two quibbles:
1. Is there a breakdown by sex? Because the real trick is getting the BOYS to abstain."

Actually, in the fundie world view females are solely responsible for controlling sexual behavior. Men and boys are assumed to be helpless victims of their sexual impulses so women and girls have to be the gatekeepers of virtue. Among the many creepy aspects of life as reported in Colorado Springs are Purity Balls. These are formal dinner dance events attended by fathers and their teenage daughters where the girls promise to keep their legs crossed until upon marriage their new owners take possession. Then everyone waltzes. So in essence we're talking about grown men dressing up in black tie to spend an entire evening discussing and thinking about their daughters' hymens. Am I the only one to find this queasy-making? As far as I know, there are no corresponding mother-son dances. That's apparently too icky even for these weirdoes.

Posted by: Mandy Cat on December 29, 2008 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

could it be that "virginity pledges" are coerced, that teens have no more interest in adhering to them than as a means of getting their damn parents off their backs. nnnnaaaaaaa, of course not.

Posted by: yowzer on December 29, 2008 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Now that I've offended everybody, let's make some serious comments about a serious subject.

I wish the survey -- or the story on it -- had referred to a slightly different question, "Did you or your partner use birth control the first time you had sex?" I think both groups would be much lower, but the 'abstinence only' number might be close to zero.

I don't think that 'the pledge' is simply ignored, or being made insincerely or at the command of parents. That is probably true in some cases, but I'd expect that, in most cases, the pledge is sincere when gtaken, but that biology overrules 'good intentions.'

The trouble is that if you go on a date not expecting that sex is a possible ending, you don't take precautions the first time. (And if your date shares your religious belief and is equally swept away, neither of you will.)

To those who asked about other sexual activities, these don't get mentioned in "a-o" courses. That, after all, would be sensible, and might even work to slow the beginning of intercourse. But I can't imagine -- correct me if I'm wrong -- an 'a.o.' course even encouraging masturbation as a 'pre-date' way to relieve the biological pressure. (In fact, can anyone tell me, seriously, if female masturbation or the fact that females have orgasms too ever gets mentioned in these courses -- or if there is any attempt to dispell the ignorance that makes many 'sheltered' teenagers unsure of exactly which activities can result in pregnancy?)

There's an even more powerful argument than the pregnancy one, but I'll save that for yet another post. I'll just ask you to imagine the following situation:

You believe in 'a-o.' You are, in fact, beginning to teach it. You ask the class 'How many of you have already had sex -- I mean completely?" You get fivce kids raising their hands.

Do you kick them out of the class, since it is 'too late for them'? Or do you keep them in class and attempt to convince them to, in effect, 're-virginize' themselves?

If you pick the latter, please explain the arguments you use to tell them to STOP having sex, once they've started.

I'll wait, because there's a key point here.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on December 29, 2008 at 11:25 AM | PERMALINK

Youth pastors and other abstinence advocates usually elicit these "virginity pledges" from junior high school-age kids (12-14), right around the time they're entering puberty. When you're 12 or 13, you may know, theoretically, what sex is and have an interest in the opposite sex or whatever (heteronormatively speaking), but the whole thing still sounds a little abstract and icky and raising your hand in church and promising not to do it doesn't seem like a huge sacrifice. Then when your're 16 or 17 and madly in love, and the only thing on your mind all day is the idea of spending a blissful eternity making love to your beloved, silly pledges you made as a "kid" are easy to toss overboard.

Only problem is, in the meantime, you've also learned nothing about pregnancy, stds, or human sexuality in general, so good luck and godspeed!

Posted by: jonas on December 29, 2008 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

Is there a breakdown by sex? Because the real trick is getting the BOYS to abstain.

Only because of the continuing enormous social pressure on girls to not be a slut or a whore. Left to biology, everyone would be fucking like rabbits.

I don't think that putting the same social pressure on boys is really going to solve anything and it would take far more effort than anyone is willing to put into it since you have to start approximately at birth to get the same results you do with girls.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 29, 2008 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK
The difference between teens who make abstinence "pledges" and teens who don't isn't sexual conduct, it's that those who make the "pledges" engage in more dangerous sexual conduct.

More accurately, that's difference between the type of kids who would be expected to sign pledges and don't and those who would be expected to sign and do. It's a multivariate study, not a bivariate comparison of signers and non-signers.

Posted by: James Joyner on December 29, 2008 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

IF the US were truly a secular society, or at least reality-based, all of the Puritanical religious nonsense that gets wrapped up in so-called sex education wouldn't be there. All the abstinance-only crap that has been foisted onto on public schools is a violation of the separation of church and state, and in more civilized parts of the world - read most of Europe and Scandanavia - teenage pregnancy and stds have a much lower incidence because there isn't the level of denial about human sex drive and hormones that we seem to cherish so much here.

I agree that the goal of the wingnut crowd is to make all sex a personal sin rather than a national joy, to define it as a necessary evil acceptable only under very controlled circumstances - only in "marriage" for the purpose of procreation - which creates guilt and fear and gives others a great deal of power over our lives. That would also be the definition of religion in general, IMHO.

It's too much to expect the Obama administration to change the wingnut crowd, especialy when he's chosen to embrace Rick Warren, but perhaps we can get back to a biologically accurate, hormonally consistent, and rationally based kind of sex education that gives young people the information and means to make informed decisions about the use of their genitalia.

If Obama means what he says about the role of science and facts
in policy making this should be an easy move.

Posted by: rich on December 29, 2008 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I suspect that rural kids would be more likely to take the pledge, but also more reluctant to buy contraception at a store where they would likely know the cashiers.

I suspect you're right, and I'd add that younger teenagers being pressured by their parents and pastors into taking pledges they're too young to fully understand leads to those same teenagers being too ashamed/fearful to later ask questions or seek out info on contraception/safe sex. So the sin of withholding life-saving and life-changing information from tweeners is compounded later when these kids become sexually active. Like refusing to have your daughter immunized against HPV, this is lethally bad parenting.

Posted by: shortstop on December 29, 2008 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

[Warning, some comments may not be workplace-safe]

I understand the commenter who said 'boys were the problem' but, I expect from a somewhat different position. I have long argued that one reason for the problems we have with sex is that too large a proportion of males (boys AND men) never learn the difference between 'having sex' and 'masturbating using a woman's body as a Kleenex-substitute.'

It is the reason I brought up the question of women's orgasms in the previous post. Too many people -- including women, particularly ones ignorant of their own sexuality -- never learn that sex is something you do WITH somebody, not TO somebody. Ot, to quote a character of mine in a long-abandoned book "Sexual ethics is easy. Once you convince a guy there's a person on either end of his cock, everything else follows."

I am all for people having sex and plenty of it as soon as they want -- but I'm even more for people having sex ethically.

(What do I mean by that, other than the above? I'd argue that sexual ethics includes the following -- all of which intertwine somewhat:

A. Respect: which means what I imply above, but which also means that a person's choice whether or not to have sex, with who -- or which gender, and in what manner (consistent with the below) is to be respected.

B. Consent: Here I am even stricter than most Christians are -- at least in practice. Of course the obvious things, like rape, or 'rufis' (sp? -- the date rape drugs) are horribly wrong. But I'd argue that any form of action that materially 'coerces' consent from someone who wouldn't otherwise give it is a (less serious) form of rape. Lying, like saying you are unmarried because your partner would not consent if they (I'l use the ungrammatical 'they' to avoid constant 'she or he') knew you were married is a form of rape.

(I don't automatically condemn relationships where one party is in a 'position of power' over the other one. This does not mean the relationship is non-consensual -- I married my boss, for example -- but it means both parties have to be very aware of lines that can't be crossed.)

There's an interesting quibble about prostitution, but I'll avoid another side track.

C. Honesty. Much of this is covered above, but any relationship -- even a casual, fleeting, purely sexual one -- deserves honesty. Maybe the most important part that isn't directly covered above is what a person wants from a relationship. It is 'just sex,' 'sex with a possibility of something more growing from it' or 'true love and commitment.'

D. -- and most important, and yes, these rules are all good for non-sexual interactions as well -- which is my point -- responsibility. Which means both 'acting responsibly' and 'taking responsibility for one's actions.' And this doesn't just mean as far as pregnancy goes. That's important, but a person has to consider the possible consequences of his actions. (For example, I have been in situations where there's been a possibility of sex with someone I found attractive, but I realized that, even though they were willing, this would be a bad idea in the long run, maybe as simple as 'they'll hate themselves in the morning' or 'they're drunk, I didn't get them drunk, but they'll regret this when they sober up.')

But 'responsibility' also means 'taking responsibility.' Which isn't just 'feeling guilty if something unpleasant and preventable occurs' but, to whatever extent possible, correcting any damage done. And it requires another type of honesty -- 'self-honesty.' It means that sometimes you have to look yourself in the mirror and go 'cut the bullsh*t.'

But -- yes there will be yet another part of this -- there are very good reasons why it is impossible to teach both sexual ethics and abstinence-only. Remember that challenge I gave above? Think about it some more, and then i'll wrap this up.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on December 29, 2008 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

The only real problem is that the alternatives, such as conventional sex ed... don't seem to help very much either. The sad reality is that teenagers generally just don't give a crap. That's certainly no excuse to subject them to an "ignorance-only" education when it comes to sexual practice. But just don't get your hopes up that tons of sex ed is going to change much either.

Posted by: Bad on December 29, 2008 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

The original article stresses two problems with 'a-o.' First is that it doesn't do anything to keep teenagers from having sex. (I'd argue that this is not, in and of itself, a bad thing, since, as i've implied, it is more important HOW a person has sex than WHEN.)

The second is much more important, that 'a-o' substantially increases the liklihood that this sex will lead to pregnancy -- and that, unquestionably IS bad. And again, the rsik -- if my assumption earlier is correct -- is MUCH higher for the first experimentations. Sooner or later, even teenagers will learn about birth control -- only, hopefully 'later' will not equal 'too late.'

But there is an even stronger argument that is rarely made, and that is that 'a-o' specifically works against the idea of teaching sexual ethics -- and, on the ethical front, too often leaves boys, in particular, with no other guidance than 'the street' or his dad, who may very well share those same ethics and all too often, either because they do or they present "Christian sexual ethics' so pathetically, exacerbates the 'street' or 'barn' attitude.

Why is 'a-o' so hopeless at teaching sexual ethics. Because it is very difficult, often impossible, for someone to say the following with a straight face:

"You absolutely must not have sex in any form before marriage. It is wrong, it is forbidden, and -- even if I'm not allowed to say it -- you'll go to hell if you do. So just don't do it but if you do, here's the way to do it ethically."

You can't both prohibit and regulate the same thing -- at least not consistently. (Sometimes, e.g., needle exchanges, there are stronger benefits than consistency.) You can't say "Don't do X, but if you ignore me, here's the right way of doing X."

This is why I gave that little 'thought experiment' before. If a person rejects the primary -- legally-mandated -- point in your sex ed classes, or has already rejected it, how do you communicate with them at all? How, especially if, like many of us, they've tried sex and found they liked it, do you convince them to stop having it? (How do you even keep them, at least out of class, from countering your arguments from personal experience?)

I have a number of ideas for what I'd consider a sensible -- if very 'way out' type of sex education, but I've been going on for several posts and have no idea if they provokes thought or sleep -- my style makes a nice Sominex-substitute. So I'll keep them in reserve until/unless someone asks about them.

Posted by: Prup (aka Jim Benton) on December 29, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Abstinence-only instruction doesn't prohibit sex. (d-uh) That could only be done by making it illegal for minors to have sex with each other, or for couples of any age to have sex if they are not married to each other, with civil or criminal penalties.

The real separation of church and state problem with sex education is the AFFIRMATIVE, not the negative values that are necessarily part of the instruction.

Folks who are eager to bitch about wasting tax dollars on abstinence-only instruction because it violates the free exercise of religion (funny how it feels differently if you say it that way, huh?), should ask themselves just what would be not be an unConstitutional state instruction in religious values for the circumstances under which kids can legitimately have sex.

There are pretty much only three broad categories:

First, the state can instruct kids that sex is only legitimate in a marriage, but this is how contraception and STD prevention works.

Second, the state can say that it doesn't matter when sex is legitimate, morality isn't the state's business, and here is how to protect yourselves... against what, exactly?

Isn't there a values judgment in protecting yourself against pregnancy? (In marriage? Outside marriage?) Or in communicating what STD's are -- that is, why they are called STDs?

Third, the state can say that you can't trust your partner, whether you are married to them or not: even if, perhaps ESPECIALLY if, contraception is forbidden by your religion.

Think it over, cuz there ain't any other options for state-sponsored instruction in sexual matters: just those three. The idea that instruction in contraception and STD-prevention can be values-neutral sorta skips over the reason why abstinence-only instruction fails.

So, ye who duck the hard questions: which one of the real options has no unConstitutional religious content? Endorsing sex only within marriage? A state-sponsored instruction that marriage isn't relevant? Or the government's advice to trust no one in your most intimate decisions?

Hmm?

Single smartest thing ever said about sex in the history of the species -- by a BASKETBALL coach, no less: when Magic Johnson announced he was HIV+, some wiseguy reporter asked John Thompson, Sr., then coaching Georgetown, if he was telling his guys to practice safe sex.

I doubt that the reporter realized what a fishhook question he was asking, but Thompson did. If he'd said something like, 'what they do off the court is their own private business', he'd have given up the father-figure image he'd spent decades building. But if he had said "I tell 'em if they can't be good, be careful", he might have been personally fired by the Pope: Georgetown is a Jesuit school.

So Thompson simply whirled around and LOOMED over the reporter (the coach is 6'10"): "I want you to just TELL me how anything as powerful as sex can ever POSSIBLY be "safe"'.

And yet -- no sex education class can teach that simple truth, either: it's unConstitutional.

Posted by: anonymous on December 29, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm going with Saul Alinsky here: "Personalize" the issue.

First choice: Rick Warren.

1. His church believes in Male Headship - the male is always to be in control. Sexual or physical abuse is to be accepted by the woman.

Think on that for a moment.

2. His church has been applauded for their "wonderful work on HIV/AIDS" particularly in Africa. Guess their policy....... yep: Abstinence Only. They have denied condoms to millions. (Condoms are 90%+ effective in eliminating HIV transmission.) They've successfully pressured governments to prevent NGO's to stop distributing condoms.

HIV infection rates have doubled in countries while Saddleback has been active.

How many have died horrible deaths as a result?

There's more but.... What's Obama going to say to Warren when the public finally catches on to this "moderate" evangelical leader? Will Africans rise up and throw these "saviors" out?

Posted by: D Pecan on December 29, 2008 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

-- and that the story would include that a car didn't start so she had to give birth in a garage -- ya kain't hardly find mangers these days. - Prup (pre caffeine)

Man, this is a hard crowd. If this past 8 years have taught us nothing, it is that _anyone_ can be pResident.

Sorry for begin so off topic.

Posted by: Kevin on December 29, 2008 at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK

It seems abstinence pledges are as mutable as pledges to PBS.

Posted by: fry1laurie on December 29, 2008 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Second, the state can say that it doesn't matter when sex is legitimate, morality isn't the state's business, and here is how to protect yourselves... against what, exactly?

I'm not getting what your objection is to the state offering factual information to citizens. The state can't refuse to teach evolution in schools because it might offend some people's religious sensibilities, so why do you think that teaching the facts about sex should not be allowed because it might offend some people's religious sensibilities?

The only reason there's a "value judgement" in teaching about pregnancy and disease prevention is that you've created one. Should teachers not be allowed to tell students that you can prevent disease by washing your hands because they're infringing on the rights of Christian Scientist students to believe that disease can only be prevented by prayer?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 29, 2008 at 7:17 PM | PERMALINK

Mnemosyne says " there's a "value judgement" in teaching about pregnancy and disease prevention [because] you've created one."

Only if you assume that everyone agrees with you that pregnancy is like disease. See how this thinking about democracy thing works? Sometimes people don't agree with you.

As I understand it, Christian Scientists do not object to hygiene. So it doesn't help to project ignorant prejudice, either.

My question stands: what of those three options -- and they are the only ones -- for instruction about sex does NOT unConstitutionally require a religious instruction by the state, infringing on the free exercise of religion?

What Mnemosyne is trying to do -- and doing it badly -- is to draw the same distinction that advocates for abstinence only attempt to draw: between PREscriptive and DEscriptive instruction in these matters.

That is, one thing that abstinence only and advocates for 'just the facts' instruction have in common, is the idea that the instruction should give the facts, as Mnemosyne sorta blithely muffs.

So in the many abstinence only programs that DO teach basic facts about contraception, STD transmission and the like, it's like the ads for medicines that are required to describe side effects -- which is precisely what folks are criticizing about abstinence only programs: even condom manufacturers acknowledge, for example, that a properly stored, properly used prophylactic works only in the high 90s (that's how science works), while condoms which are not properly stored, or not properly used (e.g., the not unusual first use that happens AFTER initial penetration, when the couple sort of hits the re-set button and hopes). To teach the facts about contraceptives and STD transmission necessarily requires explaining that prevention techniques do not always work (they don't, so you have to explain and provide detail), AND the simple fact that the only 100% effective form of prevention is abstinence.

Precisely the part you guys are objecting to.

Any program that properly focuses on only the facts winds up sounding like those ads that explain how using the product 'may cause headache, drowsiness, itching, uncontrollable bleeding and an erection that lasts for more than four hours...'

The real cutting edge fight on this stuff is where I'm drawing it -- and you guys haven't gotten there yet: how do you work within those three -- and the ONLY three -options, without unConstitutionally providing religious instruction?

Posted by: anonymous on December 29, 2008 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

Only if you assume that everyone agrees with you that pregnancy is like disease. See how this thinking about democracy thing works? Sometimes people don't agree with you.

So your assumption is that everyone agrees with you that women should be constantly pregnant and give birth to as many children as humanly possible, so therefore we can't even mention family planning to teenagers? What century are you living in? I'd really rather not return to the days where contraception was illegal and a woman's only option to end an unplanned pregnancy was suicide, thank you.

To teach the facts about contraceptives and STD transmission necessarily requires explaining that prevention techniques do not always work (they don't, so you have to explain and provide detail), AND the simple fact that the only 100% effective form of prevention is abstinence.

Precisely the part you guys are objecting to.

I haven't seen a single person -- myself included -- say that sex education should discuss everything except abstinence. In fact, the most effective comprehensive sex education programs discuss how students can determine for themselves what their moral issues and attitudes towards sex are, which seems to be something you want to avoid like the plague. I have never heard of a comprehensive sex education program that does not mention abstinence as a valid option -- please point me to a few of them.

Comprehensive sex education programs teach kids good decision-making and risk-evaluating skills. Please explain which religion is being established by the state when they teach these skills, keeping in mind that that's what the 1st amendment forbids: the state establishing a specific religion that everyone must follow.

In fact, abstinence-only education -- which is what we are ACTUALLY objecting to, not the strawman in your head -- is more likely to run afoul of the 1st amendment since they are imposing a specific moral view (no sex until marriage) with no opposing views.

The real cutting edge fight on this stuff is where I'm drawing it -- and you guys haven't gotten there yet: how do you work within those three -- and the ONLY three -options, without unConstitutionally providing religious instruction?

Oh, please, go ahead and enlighten us. This should be hilarious.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on December 29, 2008 at 10:09 PM | PERMALINK

Atrocious reading comprehension, willfully misrepresenting others' arguments, talks like a fifth-grade girl, continually slathers self with unearned praise...hey, damn it, we were told that theAmericanist wouldn't be released from his little inpatient program until the first of the year. These busted state budgets are making our lives worse in ways we never imagined.

Posted by: shortstop on December 29, 2008 at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK

Shortstop: "Atrocious reading comprehension"

Mnemosyne illustrates: "assumption is that everyone agrees with you that women should be constantly pregnant "

"to run afoul of the 1st amendment since they are imposing a specific moral view (no sex until marriage) with no opposing views."

What I observed are the actual options:

"First, the state can instruct kids that sex is only legitimate in a marriage, but this is how contraception and STD prevention works.

Second, the state can say that it doesn't matter when sex is legitimate, morality isn't the state's business, and here is how to protect yourselves... against what, exactly?

Isn't there a values judgment in protecting yourself against pregnancy? (In marriage? Outside marriage?) Or in communicating what STD's are -- that is, why they are called STDs?

Third, the state can say that you can't trust your partner, whether you are married to them or not: even if, perhaps ESPECIALLY if, contraception is forbidden by your religion."

And what I noted about those options: "The real cutting edge fight on this stuff is where I'm drawing it -- and you guys haven't gotten there yet: how do you work within those three -- and the ONLY three -options, without unConstitutionally providing religious instruction?"

To the extent anybody spoke to it, Mnemosyne acknowledged that the first option is unConstitutional -- although, being thick, she figures this is an argument both FOR and AGAINST what she wants.

It's an argument FOR a ban on abstinence-only, because Mnemosyne thinks for the state to state two facts would be an unConstitutional establishment of religion. What are those facts? One, that the only way to reliably avoid pregnancy is to abstain from intercourse. She insists that this can't be a fact without context, or else it is "abstinence-only".

Okay, context: what about marriage, and that majority of Americans (you know, the ones who pay for schools) whose religions teach that within marriage is when pregnancies ought to happen? Do you want the state to teach that these folks are wrong? Misinformed? Does that violate the actual Constitutional law, i.e., the free exercise of religion?

Of course it does, but you guys are in sneer mode, rather than thinking: gotta go with what you practice, I suppose.

If you were honest, you'd say what you are FOR -- that is, you want the state to provide instruction that directly endorses sexual behavior prohibited by the faith of 200 million Americans, give or take. You just don't want to admit that you want a minority to impose an unConstitutional policy on the majority, because then you'd realize how hard these questions really are, to honest folks.

Which leads to your other objection, teaching a second fact: within a marriage, the only certain way to avoid STDs is for both partners to have been abstinent before, and faithful after.

Mnemosyne -- being half-honest, if stupid -- acknowledges that these are facts. She simply objects to teaching them AS facts, because that would be "abstinence-only". (Think that's unfair? Prove it. Try the Lunesta example.)

That this skips over WHY abstinence-only programs (notably pledges) fail, is beside the point: you folks sneer rather than think. She doesn't actually know why abstinence-only programs fail, cuz it's the same reason other programs violate the first amendment.

If she was smarter, and more completely honest, she'd recognize that I simply noted that you run into ALL of these same problems, no matter which of the three approaches to instruction you endorse: I outlined 'em.

Again, if Mnemosyne was smarter, and more completely honest, she'd notice that I explained the distinction between her concept of how this sort of instruction works, and the reality of it: she wants instruction to be DEscriptive, while I note that the practice of instruction is necessarily PREscriptive -- as she points out, giving the game away, "Comprehensive sex education programs teach kids good decision-making and risk-evaluating skills. Please explain which religion is being established by the state when they teach these skills..."

It is not possible to teach a kid "good decision-making and risk-evaluating skills" about sex that do not contradict religious prohibitions on making certain decisions (having sex) or taking specific risks (more than one partner).

C'mon, Mnemosyne: are you really THAT dishonest as to argue something so stupid?

To be accurate, instruction MUST teach a kid 'you can do it, but there are risks, and this is how to minimize 'em'. That necessarily violates religious doctrines that insist you MUST NOT do it.

It'd help if you were blunt: It isn't the state's job to ban instruction that violates various religious doctrines, now is it?

So -- golly, it takes you guys forever to get to a point -- how can that NOT interfere with "the free exercise of religion"? More to the point, it is wildly unpopular across very large swaths of the country. So you're left making stupid arguments about ineffective policies with serious Constitutional flaws that are politically unpopular.

Oh, but you can dis me for noticing. I suppose that makes up for it.

But that still leaves the three options, about which you've said only that one is unConstitutional -- conceding my point, but you're too dumb to notice.

LOL -- besides, it's the nature of this sort of instruction that, focused strictly on the facts, you wind up with precisely the sort of Lunesta-ad nonsense that contributes to, if it doesn't actually cause, abstinence-only programs to fail: when you require that a program contain ALL the facts, you necessarily either emphasize that "safe sex" is a contradiction in terms, OR you teach the essentially religious notion that it is a good thing to violate the faith of a majority of Americans: take your pick.

In the first case, you wind up with the practical problems outlined upthread: kids must be taught that some tiny percentage of the time condoms fail even if they are worn properly, so (even after the instruction with bananas so often-banned on Constitutional and political grounds) they have state sanction for not relying on an imperfect method to go with their religious instruction not to plan for sinning -- not an effective way to get the result of reduced pregnancy and STD transmission, now is it?

In the second case, as Mnemosyne half-notices, you have the state preaching a religion.

About which, you've said nothing that ain't a personal insult based on a distortion of what I said.

Man, you guys wouldn't recognize a respectful argument if bought you a drink and slipped off your underwear.


Posted by: anonymous on December 30, 2008 at 9:16 AM | PERMALINK

Past the point, but cuz I care about the truth enough to look it up: the CDC surveys DO show that rural kids (and Hispanic girls who drop out before 15) tend to have sex younger, even if they took sex ed.

Despite the headlines, so far as I can tell, the CDC surveys do NOT differentiate between private and public school instruction. That's pretty significant, in two ways:

First, public school kids who come from religious households are a sample with a range of special and relevant characteristics: they may be lower-income (can't afford parochial schools), or rebellious (outsiders).

Second, private school kids who get sex ed instruction (of ANY sort, including abstinence-only) may have a very different pattern of conduct.

It'd be worth knowing -- but the CDC doesn't study it.

Given these gaps in the data, it seems unlikely to me that it is legit to conclude that "abstinence-only" programs actually fail to delay sexual conduct. They might -- but that hypothesis would be contradicted IF, in fact, sex ed in parochial schools works the way the CDC finds sex ed works in all other circumstances.

So abstinence-only programs may very well work in the right circumstances, e.g., as instruction specifically motivated by religious values that are unConstitutional in public schools.

They may fail, even in private or parochial schools -- but ONLY if the CDC's finding that any sex ed (including abstinence-only) delays sex is wrong.

But we don't know either of those things, because the CDC doesn't study it -- and you guys are too ignorant and arrogant to ask.

Posted by: anonymous on December 30, 2008 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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