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April 17, 2007

Sex Education: Another Government Program That Doesn’t Work

by Doug Mataconis

A new study shows that the abstinence-based sex education programs championed by the Bush Administration and social conservatives don’t work after all:

A long-awaited national study has concluded that abstinence-only sex education, a cornerstone of the Bush administration’s social agenda, does not keep teenagers from having sex. Neither does it increase or decrease the likelihood that if they do have sex, they will use a condom.

Authorized by Congress in 1997, the study followed 2000 children from elementary or middle school into high school. The children lived in four communities — two urban, two rural. All of the children received the family life services available in their community, in addition, slightly more than half of them also received abstinence-only education.

By the end of the study, when the average child was just shy of 17, half of both groups had remained abstinent. The sexually active teenagers had sex the first time at about age 15. Less than a quarter of them, in both groups, reported using a condom every time they had sex. More than a third of both groups had two or more partners.

Rather than turning this into a debate on condoms vs. abstinence, here’s a thought.

Why is the government involved in this at all ? Shouldn’t social conservatives, who at least in their rhetoric place the integrity of the family unit above all else but God himself, be arguing against the government teaching children about sex and morality at all ?

While that would seem to be the logical thing for them to do, they obviously find it easier to try to seize the levers of state to shape children in their image, rather than allowing parents to raise their children as they see fit.

Instead of spending taxpayer dollars to teach children about a subject on which there is clearly much cultural conflict, why not leave it up to parents to decide what to teach their children ?

Here’s how Andrew Sullivan puts it:

My own somewhat fuzzy view of the issue (developed at greater length here and here and here) is that except in areas where pervasive family breakdown requires educators to act in loco parentis more than one would like them to, public schools should take an, ah, stripped-down an approach to teaching sex, and mainly leave the whole “condoms or abstinence” issue to parents and kids to sort out on their own.

Sounds like a good idea to me.


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