Not an editorial I expected to read in the Christian Science Monitor

If you read the statistics, it isn't difficult to question the effectiveness of abstinence-only education in schools. It is about as effective as telling a three-year-old to not eat that big cookie on the table and then leaving the room to see what happens. However, I was under the distinct impression that there were still many people in denial of this fact -- hence my surprise when I read the following editorial in the Christian Science Monitor:

It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. The abstinence-only sex-education programs on which the federal government has been spending around $176 million a year have been shown to have zero effect. That's right: zero.

"Abstinence-only" classes in public schools, funded by provisions of the 1996 federal welfare reform law, focus on the message of waiting until marriage. They do not teach about contraception or safe sex.

But a national study that tracked 2,000 young people over several years has found no evidence that such classes as currently taught actually increased rates of sexual abstinence. It found that program participants had similar numbers of sexual partners compared with peers who were not in the specialized abstinence programs.

Among teens who had sex by the end of the period of the study, the average age of their first intercourse was the same for participants as for nonparticipants: 14.9 years.

This is especially disappointing given that earlier research seemed to indicate that abstinence programs were at least changing teen attitudes, if not behavior.

Listen, I am not going to participate in the deafening and unseemly "Ha! I told you so." that is likely to emanate from this piece, but I am curious to speculate about how they chose to end it:

So where do we go from here?

To confront the apparent failures of abstinence programs is not to give up on teen abstinence as a standard.


It may be that sex education that includes abstinence is more useful than abstinence-only classes. The head of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy said Mathematica's research supports what other studies show: "The most effective programs are those that say abstinence is the best choice but birth control and protection are also worth knowing about."

Is this indicative of a cultural thaw? The culture wars have been going on long enough that I doubt I am the only one to find any emerging consensus somewhat bewildering.

The fact of the matter is that there was really no good reason for us to disagree in the first place. Both socially-liberal and socially-conservative people want to raise their children in an environment where they will be safe and happy. Most of them would admit that this includes their children not having children of their own early. Is it possible that both have finally come to the same conclusion about how?

(On the other hand, maybe I am just reading too much into this editorial? I would be the first to admit the danger of over-reading editorial columns as suggestive of cultural trends; at best they tend to represent cultural views at the extreme ends of the spectrum.)

More like this

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The Christian Science Monitor has always been one of the better reality based news publications. It should come as no surprise that they show things the way they are.

But, of course Abstinence Only does serve it's purpose. It allows the fundies too feel righteous. A little thing like data showing the worthlessless of such programs won't stop them. We've seen the same phenomena with the Just-Say-No school drug programs, but they are still popular.

I would just like to second that despite it's name-sake church, the CSM is a independent news body which does not report conservative Christian-only news or view-points. On the contrary, they are one of the least biased of news organizations today. I highly recommend them for anyone, scientist or not, as a source for world and national news.

The Perfect Solution!

"What! Do you not know that unrighteous persons will not inherit God's kingdom? Do not be misled. Neither fornicators, not adulterers,.......will inherit God's kingdom.And yet that is what some of you were. But you have been washed clean........"
1 Corinthians 6:9

We must lister and change our lifestyle.

No idea if this post will ever get read bearing in mind how old the thread is (unless of course someone else is as sad as me and finds it!).

Also interesting to note (though in an appallingly unscientific way I can't quote references as I heard report at a seminar ages ago) some evidence to suggest that not only do abstinence only programmes clearly have no effect they often have negative effects. Ie raised levels of STDs and unwanted pregnancies due to the lack of education on contraception and use of condoms so when people fall off the abstinence wagon they jump straight in (as it were) with no protection.