Most of the time, I can see past President George W. Bush’s incoherent babble and understand his message. Other times, his policies fly in the face of logic and simple-minded, right wing ideology conquers both science and reality.
My most recent beef with the President is not the war in Iraq; in fact, I diverge from my ideological counterparts in my support for Bush’s removal of Saddam Hussein from power. This time, it is his militant support for abstinence-only sex “education.” Not only do these programs fail to recognize any relationship besides heterosexual marriage as legitimate, they are often rife with factual errors and mix religion with science. They keep students in the dark about their own bodies and generally jeopardize their health and well-being.
The first problem with pouring $270 million of taxpayer dollars into these programs is simple – there is no solid evidence that they work. Despite claims from religious groups, no comprehensive study has been performed to determine the effectiveness of these programs. Informal studies suggest that abstinence programs delay sexual activity, at best, but even students who sign virginity pledges are just as likely to engage in premarital sex as those who do not. So why not use those millions of dollars for more useful purposes, such as paying FOX News columnists to promote the No Child Left Behind Act?
Secondly, it is a widely known fact that most Americans do not abstain from sex until marriage. Just look around Isla Vista – or any college town, for that matter – and I guarantee that the majority of people are not “waiting ’til marriage.” As the average age of marriage increases, it is only logical to expect people to experiment sexually before they wed.
Yet another blatantly obvious fact is that telling a person not to do something is generally ineffective and can even have adverse effects on rebellious students. I bet most of us were subject to DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and other anti-drug programs in middle school. Now, walk down Del Playa Drive on a Friday night. How many of us have substance abuse problems? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Now, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that teaching abstinence is somewhat effective. The fact of the matter is that not the full 100 percent of students in these programs will remain abstinent until marriage. Why should the kids who do have unprotected sex suffer so that a few pious virgins can benefit? With AIDS and sexually transmitted infections running rampant, it is immoral to censor information about safer sex
It is also interesting to note that the government advocates seatbelts and bicycle helmets so heavily, yet when it comes to matters as natural as sex, any form of protection is kept hush hush. They have even gone so far as to remove information about condom effectiveness from the Center for Disease Control’s website. Clearly, the Bush administration’s backwards policies are taking us back in time to the 1950s, when sex was an utterly taboo topic and birth control was not legal in many states.
It is reprehensible to use the health of today’s children as political footballs. I have no doubt that the religious right, or the majority of Bush’s constituency, is positively giddy that its message is finally being spread to the heathens, otherwise known public school students. What Bush and the religious right fail to realize is that indoctrinating students with abstinence does not work if they do not truly believe in staying chaste until marriage. While it is likely that a Christian child who hears the abstinence message repeated every week at Sunday school will be less likely to engage in premarital sex, what about the students who are not weekly churchgoers?
Why deny them knowledge of protection if they do not truly believe that abstinence is the moral thing to ascribe to? Teaching abstinence only education is clearly not in the best interest of today’s students. I just hope that the Bush administration realizes this before the future and health of today’s youth is sacrificed for political capital.
Brigid Kirlin is a junior global studies major.