Liberals and Conservatives Provide Best Sex Education

Article excerpt

Byline: Burt Constable

Fewer Illinois teenagers are having babies. Our kids are having fewer abortions. The number of AIDS cases in our state declined last year, with new cases plunging to their lowest point in more than a decade.

So who should get the credit for all this good news from the teen sex front?

A. Those moralistic conservatives who preach abstinence-only and tell kids that sex is something they can start learning about on their wedding nights.

B. Those hedonistic liberals who expose kids to a sexual cornucopia of information and can't shake teens' hands without slipping each kid a condom.

Research suggests that the unlikely mating of those two sides produces the best results.

While the message isn't quite as simple as "Don't have sex, and when you do, use these," studies show that blending the "Just Say No" mantra with the "practice safer sex" message is a marriage made in sex education heaven.

A reduction in the amount of teen sex deserves 20 percent of the credit while more effective contraceptive use gets 80 percent of the credit for the fewer number of teenagers giving birth, according to a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a not-for- profit organization that deals with sex and reproductive rights issues.

Conservative groups might flip those numbers.

But let's not quibble over good news. Give each side 50 percent of the credit and keep at it.

"It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about it," that great Republican Colin Powell noted in a recent MTV interview in which he issued a controversial plug for condom use.

Sticking to a conservative abstinence-only sex education strategy is no more comprehensive than would be a liberal notion of putting a jar of free condoms outside the school cafeteria.

"The very first time we talk about sexual activity, it is about abstinence," notes Vasyl Markus, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Chicago. …