Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ignorance is Strength: Sex Ed in the 21st Century

¡Hola! Everybody…
Is it just me or is anyone else reminded of the original Stepford Wives whenever Laura Bush opens her mouth? I saw the sound bite showing her make a pitch for funds for those impacted by hurricane Gustav and I have to
say the Republicans have improved! This time, Laura got the name of the hurricane right.

Now, I’m not one to gloat at the expense of the misfortune of others, but yes, I do find it hilarious that the very same people who were praying for misfortune to visit another are now having to deal with how to frame their convention. Of course, pointing out this hypocrisy makes conservatives squawk in self-righteous indignation, but what else is new?

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-=[ Conservatives and Sex Ed ]=-
Or: Ignorance is Strength!

During her run for governor of Alaska in 2006, Sarah Palin was asked if she would support abstinence-before-marriage programs over sex education, school clinics, and contraceptive distribution. She was firm in her answer: “Explicit sex ed programs will not find my support.”

But that response came back to bite her in the arse Monday with the news that Palin’s unmarried, 17-year-old daughter Bristol is five months pregnant.

Palin and her husband, Todd, released a statement saying they welcomed the news that their daughter would keep the baby, marry and make them grandparents - unexpectedly, but happily, they said.

McCain’s position on contraceptives and teen pregnancy issues has been difficult to gauge because he seems uncomfortable discussing such topics. However, McCain has fought money on teen pregnancy programs. Reporters asked the Republican presidential nominee in November 2007 whether he supported grants for sex education in the United States, whether such programs should include directions for using contraceptives and whether he supports President Bush's policy of promoting abstinence, and his response was, “Ahhh, I think I support the president’s policy,” McCain said.

In Senate votes, McCain has opposed proposals to pay for teen-pregnancy prevention programs. In 2006, McCain joined fellow Republicans in voting against a Senate Democratic proposal to send $100 million to communities for teen-pregnancy prevention programs that would have included sex education about contraceptives.

In 2005, McCain opposed a Senate Democratic proposal that would have spent tens of millions of dollars to pay for pregnancy prevention programs other than abstinence-only education, including education on emergency contraception such as the morning-after pill.

Over the coming weeks I will be writing on failed conservative policies and the issue of sex ed is one where conservative ideology has been proven, not only wrong, but also dangerous to the youth of this country. As a feminist, I abhor having to make point using a woman’s body, but Palin’s daughter is a prime example of what can happen when we fail to arm our children with knowledge.

According to numerous studies, comprehensive sex education is more effective at stopping the spread of HIV infection. In addition, research also shows that abstinence-only programs have limited effectiveness and unintended consequences. For example, teens who attended abstinence only sex ed programs were more likely to engage in unprotected sex, fellatio, and unprotected anal sex. Now, a perv such as myself or the good Rev. Dodson might see some advantage to that, but it really isn’t fair to our youth to send them out into this world without the necessary knowledge to defend themselves. Conservatives not only oppose comprehensive sex ed programs, they also want to stop your children from having access to such programs.

An American Psychological Association policy brief states that, “Based on over 15 years of research, the evidence shows that comprehensive sexuality education programs for youth that encourage abstinence, promote appropriate condom use, and teach sexual communication skills reduce HIV-risk behavior and also delay the onset of sexual intercourse.”

Extensive research also shows that about 20% of adolescents will have sex before the age of 15 and most who continue to be sexually active do not use condoms. Although some youth acknowledge their fears about HIV/AIDS, many do not perceive themselves to be at risk and lack accurate information about what put them at risk for HIV infection. According to the CDC, the use of condoms can substantially reduce the risk of HIV.

It doesn’t seem to matter to conservatives that science has proven them wrong, nor that the majority of parents want comprehensive sexuality programs in public schools. It seems that for conservatives neither truth nor knowledge is important here. What is more important is that they win a fear-based cultural war under the guise of “family values.” As a parent, I know how hard it is to raise a child in these troubling times. But as a parent, educator, and activist, I also realize the importance arming my child with knowledge. Contrary to the lie taught in abstinence-only programs, ignorance is not strength.



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