Abstinence education not so successful

Filed under: Teens, Your Pregnancy, Health & Safety: Babies, Day Care & Education

A few years back, we were at an outdoor concert with a dear friend of ours. He and his son had been at the Pride Parade that morning and he had pocketfuls of condoms that had been given out at the parade. He started passing them out to other concertgoers, most of whom, it seemed, had come straight from Sunday church -- it was a Gospel concert. One man, there with his fifteen-year-old son, tried to decline, saying he had talked to his son and the boy was going to save himself for marriage. At that point, my friend said "You'd better take two; he'll need them." Turns out, my friend was right.

Apparently, getting kids to say and even promise that they won't have sex doesn't mean they won't. According to a new study, mandated by congress, kids who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to be sexually active as kids who didn't. Not only that, they ended up having the same number of sexual partners as those who didn't attend the abstinence classes and they had sex for the first time at approximately the same age -- fourteen years, nine months, on average.

Officials in the Bush administration are cautioning people not to pay any attention to the man behind the curtain, saying that the students were some of the first to take part in abstinence-until-marriage education. Our government now spends $176 million dollars a year on such programs. There are those, myself included, who feel strongly that the money would be better spent on a more realistic and more comprehensive sexual education program, one which certainly would cover abstinence as an option but which would also cover the full range of sexual information.

"Members of Congress need to listen to what the evidence tells us," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. "This report should give a clear signal to members of Congress that the program should be changed to support programs that work, or it should end when it expires at the end of June." I agree. If we're going to spend that kind of money on Sex Ed, let's do it in a way that actually makes a difference.

Regardless of what the government does, however, I think we should all heed the very sage advice of one ParentDish reader who wrote recently, "I think the bigger mistake would be to assume the school's sex ed program means parents don't have to talk to their kids about sex. For some, because the school is 'too conservative.' For others, because it is too liberal. Same goes for drugs and driving and anything else that can cause huge problems if your kids don't make healthy choices. Folks, this is your responsibility. Take it seriously." I don't think I could have said it better.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.