Congress Must Weigh Facts on Sex Education

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 5, 2009 | Go to article overview

Congress Must Weigh Facts on Sex Education


I hate to bring this up right now when the ink is barely dry on your New Years resolution. But if history is any guide, you are likely to fall off the wagons to which you are lashed.

I dont say this to disparage your willpower. Hang onto that celery stick for dear life. And even if you start sneaking out for a smoke, at least you can comfort yourself with fond memories of your moment of resolution.

Compare that to new research about teens who pledge abstinence. Most not only break the pledge, they forget they ever made it.

This study comes from Johns Hopkins researcher Janet Rosenbaum, who took a rigorous look at nearly 1,000 students. She compared teens who took a pledge of abstinence with teens of similar backgrounds and beliefs who didnt. She found no difference in their sexual behavior, the age at which they began having sex, or the number of their partners.

In fact, the only difference was that the group that promised to remain abstinent was significantly less likely to use birth control, especially condoms. The abstinence-only programs conveyed a negative and inaccurate view of contraception.

What makes this study important is simply this: "virginity pledges" are one of the ways the government measures whether abstinence-only education is "working." They count the pledges as proof that teens will abstain. It turns out this is like counting New Years resolutions as proof that you lost 10 pounds.

When he was running for president, George W. Bush promised, to "elevate abstinence education from an afterthought to an urgent goal." A cottage industry of "abstinence-only-until-marriage" purveyors became a McMansion industry. …

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