U.S. Sex Education and the Counter-Culture
I’m lucky to live in a sort of Catholic counter-culture, with my own Catholic company employing a wonderful Catholic staff, sending my kids to outstanding independent Catholic schools, and even residing in one of the better dioceses in the United States (Arlington). So sometimes I forgot how hard other Catholics have to struggle.
A case in point is sex education, an issue that hasn’t had a direct impact on me or my family for quite a few years. But it still has a big impact on the wider culture, especially in the public schools, as a federal study shows. Last month, the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a “Review of Comprehensive Sex Education Curricula”. This study was commissioned by Senators Santorum and Coburn in order to give legislators the information they need to evaluate federally supported comprehensive sex education programs.
An organization called Project Reality, which has been devoted to abstinence education for over twenty years, provides a summary and analysis of this federal review on its web site. According to the summary, even the programs with the most balanced discussion of abstinence and safer sex discuss condoms and contraception about seven times more than abstinence. Several of the programs actually recommend various sexual practices, rather than simply acknowledging them. Most teach students how to buy and use condoms, and they stress that condom use is the key to being a responsible teenager. Some also teach how to buy and use abortions. None of this, I suppose, is surprising.
Nor is it surprising (since we already knew it from both common sense and the experience of Scandinavia years ago) that these programs are utterly ineffective in retarding the rate of “unsafe” sex. In general they have no impact on delaying the initiation of intercourse, no impact on abstinence, no impact on contraceptive use, and no impact on pregnancy rates. The general culture may be too far gone for these programs to make things much worse, but they certainly don’t make things better.
In general, to make things better, you need to make sure the kids you care about most are in a counter-culture. If any readers are still unclear on this point, I hope you can’t say you heard it here first.
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