The Sciences

Just say no to just say no

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitNov 20, 2007 3:00 AM

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A note to anyone who wishes to comment on this post: Due to the nature of this post I can imagine how things can degenerate quickly. Please keep it mature and clean, OK? On this blog, I try to stay within the borders of reality, and let it be known when government doesn't. That is, when the government supports programs that are clearly contrary to all evidence, or suppresses programs that are reality-based (you can read that as science-based if you prefer; in almost all cases the two are interchangeable), I let it be known. So here we go again. Yet another independent study shows that abstinence-only sex education doesn't work.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

Shocking, isn't it? After all, wouldn't you expect a teenager to simply deny one of the strongest instincts bred into humans after billions of years of evolution just because you tell them to? After all, don't they do everything else you tell them to, like clean their room and do the dishes? Sheesh. It really is completely clear, and you can't wish (or pray) it away: teenagers want to have sex. Telling them not to, lecturing them, trying to brainwash them, won't work. This isn't a simple decision to make, like whether to have a peanut butter sandwich or a bowl of soup. This is a primordial instinct. What the study found is that comprehensive education efforts together with abstinence support do in fact have an effect. In other words, just telling them no is worthless, but educating them about sex, teaching them about what it is along with supporting abstinence does have a positive effect. Who would have thought that actual, y'know, eduction might have an effect? Oh yeah. Everyone but the Bush Administration. And Congress too, apparently. The article goes on to say:

A spending bill before Congress for the Department of Health and Human Services would provide $141 million in assistance for community-based, abstinence-only sex education programs, $4 million more than what President Bush had requested.

141 million dollars. I certainly hope they don't approve the bill (though I bet they will, given their history). That's the cost of a Mars probe, or a lunar lander. You could build an incredible ground-based telescope with that kind of money. Or fund research into stem cells, biological studies, health studies. Or, of course, fund an excellent sex education effort that actually will have a positive effect, keeping kids from having sex and making sure that the ones who do do it safely. But heaven forbid we actually teach them anything. Sheesh.

Tip o' the chastity belt to C&L.

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