Abstinence-only programs waste money, misinform young adults

by Jack Sawyers

Sexual education has rarely been an issue for college students.

As a rule, we have been exposed to multiple avenues of exploration about our culture’s sexuality and our own.

From the required high-school health class to more advanced biology courses, to dormitory gossip and pornographic magazines, the threads of sex have all but been unwound before us, yet still remain a mystery.

The fact of the matter is we are in the midst of Generation Sex. Sex sells us cars, shampoo, clothes, cool and occasionally groceries. Sex is the topic of conversation at breakfast, the bar and everywhere in between.

Put quite simply, we have sex on the brain.

If you are na����ve enough to have any doubts about the obsession with sex, consult two of our more recent Simpsonian columns on the search for virgins and the double standard about male and female sexuality. People are talking about intercourse, and they’re talking about it freely.

So much attention is devoted by our culture to sex and its prospects as a recreational activity and a marketing strategy, but the country’s common sense is lacking. The new vigor with which so-called “abstinence-only” sexual mis-education is being pushed by the renewed conservatism in America is ridiculous.

It seems lawmakers would rather play ostrich, putting their heads in the sand to avoid addressing the sex issue, than take a reasonable approach to the problem.

Consider this: According to information available on Planned Parenthood’s Web site, Congress has appropriated nearly $170 million to fund abstinence-only sexual education in public schools. This is the largest amount of money given at one time to the program since it was started in 1996. It brings the to-date total federal spending on abstinence-only education to over $1 billion.

Keep in mind, these programs teach nothing about or grossly misrepresent everything but abstinence. The truth about contraceptives, STDs, pregnancy and abortion is left to the kids and their friends to decipher.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember getting much accurate information about sex from the high-school hallways. Actually, I don’t think anyone does.

Granted, now that we’re in college the issue of how our high schools approach sex ed. is probably not foremost on our minds. We’ve put in our time and we’ve learned what was taught.

But the problem is not that simple. It’s less about what’s already happened to us and more about what will happen to those who’ll take our place in the next decade.

If they have no access to reasonable, informed instruction on the various risks and preventative measures associated with sex, then our nation is in for a rude awakening.

Simply trying to ignore the fact, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that half of high-school seniors have had intercourse and only two-thirds of them used contraception isn’t only irresponsible, but ignorant.

When 20 percent of high-school seniors have had four or more sexual partners, it should be obvious that some instruction is needed. Failure to educate leads to more serious consequences than over-educating.

Just look at the initial failures in the AIDS crisis and its resulting spread. Ignoring a problem rarely leads to its solution.

So, I propose this question for your consideration: Is foregoing a rounded sexual education program in favor of one that is ideal – not realistic – worth the next generation of Americans growing up without a clear conception of the inherent risks and preventative measures regarding sex?

I think not.

It’s time for America to get real.