Education Report Stirs Abstinence-Only Debate||
A report out this month by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California found
that many teachers who use abstinence-only education are giving false information
about student's sexual health. This report and the reaction to it continue the
debate over the best way to teach about sex.
Students speak out about sex education
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Abstinence education teaches that abstaining from sex outside a monogamous,
life-long relationship is the expected standard. The only discussion of contraceptives
is about failure rates.
are currently three main federal programs that support abstinence-only education.
Since 1996, these programs have received $900 million in federal funding and will
be receiving approximately $170 million in 2005.
In contrast, comprehensive
sexuality education teaches kids that abstaining from sex is the safest way to
avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, but also discusses where to
get contraceptives and how to use them. Right now, the federal government does
not give any money to these teaching methods.
Waxman Report |
The Waxman study found that many of the sex education curricula use outdated
studies and/or medically inaccurate information.
One curriculum said that
condoms are only 69 percent effective in preventing HIV transmission. According
to the Centers for Disease Control, when used correctly, "latex condoms provide
an essentially impermeable barrier to particles the size of STD pathogens."
report found that the materials took stands on controversial issues and taught
one perspective as fact.
"Many of the curricula present as scientific
fact the religious view that life begins at conception," Waxman said. One
program calls a "43-day-old fetus a thinking person," he added.
curriculums also rely on what Waxman called damaging stereotypes about boys and
girls, including that girls care less about achievement and their futures.
Why kNOw curriculum teaches: "Women gauge their happiness and judge their
success by their relationships. Men's happiness and success hinge on their accomplishments."
Critics of the report say that Waxman used outdated teacher's manuals and
took religious references out of context. They claim the report was a political
tool to discredit abstinence education.
"Unfortunately what they continue
to do for purely political reasons is to take issues and information out of context
to try and discredit abstinence education, which is a disservice to our children,"
said Alma Golden of the Office of Public Health and Science.
Many supporters of the abstinence-only education believe that teaching contraceptive
use promotes sexual activity.
got two days of abstinence and then, wink, wink, we know you can't do that, so
here's all this other information. In Texas, the buckle of the Bible Belt, that
would be considered extremely offensive to the vast majority of parents,"
says Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life.
President Bush and his
administration are also strong supporters of the abstinence-only education program
as well as many religious groups such as Focus on the Family, a group based in
Colorado Springs, Colo.
Critics of the abstinence-only education, such as Terry Bergeson, the superintendent
of Washington state schools, counter this argument saying that "although
in a perfect world, teens would not be having sexual relations; the reality is
that a vast majority do and they need good, honest information about their sexuality
A Columbia University study found that although teenagers
who take "virginity pledges" -- pledges to remain abstinent until marriage
-- may wait longer to initiate sexual activity, 88 percent eventually have premarital
in the debate say that research really shows that abstinence and comprehensive
sex education work best when taught together.
"We don't have to chose
one or the other," Dr. Douglas Kirby, senior research scientist with ETR
Associates, a nonprofit health-education organization, told MTV News. He said
that emphasizing abstinence but encouraging contraception "is not inconsistent
for young people." It is possible to decrease sexual activity overall while
increasing proper condom use, he said.
controls sex-ed? |
At this time, the federal government does not mandate sexuality education.
An estimated 22 states mandate some form of sex-ed, but the responsibility of
choosing what to teach is often left up to local school districts or school boards.
Compiled for NewsHour Extra by Ashlee Brown