The Washington Post’s article “Obama Administration’s Sex-Ed Program Criticized by Both Sides of Abstinence Debate” discusses how, as with many issues of late (cough, gay marriage, cough), the Obama administration does not want to commit to funding only methods of sexual education that are proven to work. But more than this administration’s specific problem, their stance on sex ed seems to represent the greater confusion our society has over …
… this issue.
The government’s initial pledge was to commit $110 million to sexual education based in “scientific evidence.” Except part of that $110 million included $9.3 million going to abstinence-only groups, including one of those awesome “pregnancy crisis centers” in Kansas, which received over $1 million. Let’s remember here that these are the centers that basically tell women that abortion is evil and not an option. But Deborah Neel, executive director of the Women’s Clinic says:
“Our program is not going to be pro-choice or pro-life. If they come into our center, we don’t say abortion is not an option. That’s stupid, because abortion is legal. But the thing is, you have to provide abortion education and abortion alternatives. You have to show the full range of choices.”
What is “abortion education”? Well, much of the time it includes teaching outright lies to women, such as how they will feel after having an abortion (hurt, horrible, depressed), and what options are available to them (keeping the baby, giving it up for adoption). Abstinence-only education doesn’t provide options; it gives one answer. A rounded sexual education shows young people everything, which does include the ramifications of having a baby. I don’t think anyone who has watched The Miracle of Life feels as though they should run out and procreate right away.
Of course, it’s not entirely the Obama administration’s responsibility to educate young people about sex. A look at Slate’s slideshow of countries (all European) with notable advertising about safer sex indicates that they get that parents need to be more involved as well. These campaigns don’t just throw condoms at their viewers and hope for the best; many of their slogans center around the idea that you should wait to be in love to have sex — you just don’t have to be married. They stress committing to a partner, and being safe with them. But for the United States, and our Puritan ancestry, that’s inappropriate because it’s an open, honest discussion about sex.
The real problem here isn’t the Obama administration’s hesitation to commit to a real game-plan; their approach is still better than the Bush administration’s, who spent $1.5 billion on programs that encouraged teens to delay sex until marriage. The real problem is our continuing inability to grapple with the age old question: Who should be telling my kids what to do? The government? The state? The schools? Or me? Of course, in an ideal country, every parent could sit down and give their kids all the information they needed. But we don’t live in that country, and misinformation is widespread. These days, I almost feel as if 16 and Pregnant or Teen Mom are all we want to watch to get the picture. But it’s such a grim one, who wants to?