From a Political Junkie: Abstaining from Abstinence-Only

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Mon, Nov 29, 2010, 6:16 am  //  Riley Sweeney

When it comes to most things, I am a facts-oriented guy. I believe evolution is scientific fact because it has been tested and verified. I believe if you leave milk out it spoils, and an acoustic guitar goes out of tune much faster in cold weather. I believe the more money you spend on a political campaign the more votes you get, and that the price of gas will continue to go up regardless of just about anything. These are things that can be checked, quantified and measured. In short, they are beliefs that can be tested and found to be true.
I also believe in many things that cannot be quantified. I believe in God, in the power of love, in the simple perfection of nature and the transformative power of storytelling. I believe Led Zeppelin is one of the best bands ever, that Brandi Carlile is underrated, and that Nathan Fillion, Christina Hendricks and Sam Rockwell are all going to be huge celebrities in the next five to ten years. I believe Lyndon Baines Johnson was involved in the JFK assassination, that there is no global conspiracy to control everyone, and fluoride in the water creeps me out but I can’t tell you why.  In short, they are beliefs I have that I cannot back up with hard facts, they cannot be verified and proved to be true or false.
When it comes to government policy, we should always be pulling from the top category. Basing our community problem solving on feelings and unverified beliefs is not only foolish but shortsighted. We need realistic, results-based policy making. The kind that Wonks can verify and Hacks can espouse. Which brings me to my main point: abstinence-only education.
I went to public school in Olympia. Throughout my middle and high school education, I received abstinence-only education the entire time. There was very little discussion of condoms, and if they were discussed, it was only to talk about how ineffective they were and how often they fail. The pill, the diaphragm, various other methods were barely even mentioned. Just tons of scare tactics. Our classes were filled with lots of discussion about the various sexually transmitted diseases, the potential for pregnancy and why you should not have sex.
Speaking with my peers, I found it was pretty common in Washington state to get that sort of education. A few had better teachers; most had the same routine as I. All of us got our sex ed before Christine Gregoire mandated comprehensive sex education for all Washington public schools.
This goes back to beliefs and facts.  It is a fact comprehensive sex education reduces teen pregnancies. Period. Here is a news article from earlier this year talking about California. Yet we continue to throw millions and millions of dollars away on the belief that if you tell a teenager not to do something, they won’t do it. Yeah, it sounds just as ridiculous even in principle.
I could make the financial argument that giving people the ability to decide when they have kids saves the state money in the long run, especially when you consider the aid we give to families unable to get by. But I think that detracts from the simple point that abstinance-only education simply doesn't work.
The fact is, two-thirds of all American teens will have had sex by the time they graduate high school. I know it is better to prepare them with good, medically accurate information. Just telling them "no" is not enough. We need to give them all the tools they need to make good decisions. When you look at it, it comes down to trust.
One of my favorite metaphors is gun safety. If you knew your children were going to have access to guns throughout their life, would you tell them, “No, don’t touch!” over and over again? Or, when they could understand, would you explain to them what guns are, how to safely handle them, and what the proper use is, trusting they will deal with it when they are ready?
I believe no one should be sexually active until they are ready. That is my belief, but I also know the facts on sex education. We need to push for comprehensive sex education nation-wide. Every year, the Republicans at various levels of government team up with conservative Dems to throw more money down the drain by mandating abstinence-only education. It's time we just said "no" to that.

David Camp  //  Mon, Nov 29, 2010, 11:25 am

Ham - excellent essay. I would sum up your main point as: “Prohibition doesn’t work”. It didn’t work in the Garden of Edne where there were only two humans and one prohibition enforcer, it didn’t work for alcohol in the twenties, it doesn’t work for sex, nor does it work for cannabis. It is indeed a fact that cannabis use among teenagers is lower in Portugal, where it is completely de-criminalised, than in the USA, where 800,000 people are arrested every year for non-violent cannabis “offenses”.

Dogmatic approaches to anything don’t work. When I hear the words “zero-tolerance policy” I cringe becasue here is yet one more example of people taking a cowardly and stupid dogmatic approach and abdicating from using human judgment and wisdom.

Perhaps we should put a giant condom over Washington DC and protect the rest of the country from the corruption that emenates from there.

Riley Sweeney  //  Mon, Nov 29, 2010, 11:37 am

Hold on there David, I wrote this one, not Ham Hayes. I agree that prohibition does not work for many vices (sex, booze, weed) and that the best option is always better education.

Putting a giant condom on the Washington monument might help prevent the spread of Pentagonorrhea . . . the disease you get when you have screwed too many countries.

Thank you folks, I’m hear next thursday, tip your servers

David Camp  //  Wed, Dec 01, 2010, 3:10 pm

Sorry Riley, for mistaking you for a ham!

Riley Sweeney  //  Wed, Dec 01, 2010, 4:05 pm

You were just getting into the holiday spirit early.

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