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Sex-ed for dummies

"Sex-ed for dummies" Continued...

Issue: "'Darkest moment'," April 28, 2007

Indeed, the study did conclude that abstinence "program youth" and "control youth" reported having their first intercourse at about the same age, and subsequently having about the same number of sexual partners.

But Concerned Women for America's Janet Crouse points out that the Mathematica study contradicts the findings of 15 previous evaluations supporting the effectiveness of abstinence education. That may be because of the Mathematica study's design, which included children who received abstinence training from ages 9 to 11; researchers interviewed the kids after one year, then again five years later.

"The targeted children were too young to absorb the abstinence message, and there was no follow-up to the original abstinence message," Crouse said.

Mathematica's own conclusions, scantly reported by the major media, seem to back Crouse: In a section of the group's report titled "Targeting youth at young ages may not be sufficient," researchers wrote that their findings "provide no information on the effects [abstinence] programs might have if they were implemented for high school youth or began at earlier ages, but served youth through high school."

That didn't stop the safe-sex lobby from claiming that Mathematica's findings bolstered their cause: "This report should give a clear signal to members of Congress that [Title V] should be changed to support programs that work, or it should end when it expires at the end of June," said William Smith, vice president for public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States.

Smith did not offer evidence that the comprehensive approach works. Meanwhile, as the left makes pregnancy and STDs the fulcrum of the argument, Crouse points out that more is at stake: "Comprehensive sex education is not values based. Yet, sex involves values-especially the values of commitment, love, and intimacy. If values are omitted, the teaching implies that casual teen sex has no lasting consequences as long as the teens use a condom."

Research shows otherwise. For example, Heritage Foundation analysts Robert Rector and Kirk Johnson in 2005 found strong positive correlations between teen virginity and positive academic outcomes. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a study of 14,000 teens interviewed at intervals between 1994 and 2001, Rector and Johnson found that teen abstinence is a "significant and independent predictor of academic success." This finding held true even controlling for parental education, race, gender, family structure, and religiosity.

A 2003 Zogby poll revealed that more than 9 in 10 parents want teens to be taught that sex involves values, a message that is a dominant theme in abstinence curricula, but largely absent from "comprehensive" sex-ed programs.

The latter programs don't criticize casual sex, and sex itself "is presented largely as a physical process; and the main lesson is to avoid the physical threats of pregnancy and disease through proper use of contraception," Rector wrote. "Comprehensive sex-ed programs do not present sexuality in a way that is acceptable to most parents."

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