COLUMN: ‘Abstinence-only’ breeds ignorance

Ryan deBiase

Teenagers will have sex. It’s a given, it’s in their blood, or, rather, their genitals. To compensate, the hyper-conservative Bush administration has more than doubled its funding for “abstinence-only” sex-education curriculum to be taught to adolescents.

A House report for Representative Henry A. Waxman titled “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs” available on outlines the numerous, blaring misconceptions thrust upon the sexually budding minds of adolescents. To promote saving intercourse until marriage is a noble endeavor, decidedly, but to misconstrue facts about contraception is a gross injustice not only to our youth, but also to our education system in general.

The discrepancies highlighted by the Waxman report are glaring to say the least – “over 80 percent of the abstinence-only curricula … contain false, misleading or distorted information about reproductive health.”

For instance, the curricula downplays the effectiveness of condoms, decrying “the popular claim that ‘condoms help prevent the spread of STDs,'” saying that it’s “not supported by the data.” The program does not stop at merely red-flagging prophylactics, either.

The curriculum also presents misleading information about the risks of abortion, blurs the line between science and religion and promotes gender stereotypes. To deal in abstractions like, “Conception … occurs when one sperm unites with one egg … This is when life begins,” does little to quell the insatiable curiosity associated with pubescence. Furthermore, to say a 43-day-old fetus is a “thinking person” is just plain misinformed on any level.

Upon further investigation, it becomes apparent that this abstinence-only program promotes the conservative lifestyle that was so effective in propelling Bush to the presidency. Promoting gender stereotypes outlining a woman’s need for “financial support” (i.e. from a man), and a man’s need for “admiration” (i.e. from a woman) will only lead to ignorance among diversity issues, such as homosexuality, and remains distant from any relevant reproductive topic as to call the whole program’s motives severely into question.

It would seem as though the Bush administration is pushing this abstinence-only campaign to further progress its own conservative agenda. Why would an educational program blatantly misinform the youth of the nation on such pertinent issues as birth control and abortion? Why do gender roles even matter in the discussion? Why lie to the kids?

Yet, it seems this program will all be for naught. History dictates that when you tell a stubborn teen not to do something, he or she will strive to do just that, out of spite. This remains the most dangerous aspect of abstinence-only education. As stated before, teens will always have sex, it’s just a matter of how educated they are about the act. If a lesson on the biology of intercourse is swept under the carpet in place of a “you’ll understand when you’re married” lecture, the young sexually active will be completely ignorant to the consequences of their actions.

But the Bush administration seems to pride itself on ignorance. The less our society knows about our surroundings and ourselves, the more we will rely upon those in power to guide us. Put simply, knowledge, carnal or otherwise, is power, and this administration would like to limit us of both as much as possible.

Ryan deBiase is a senior English major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].