Funding for sexual education

April 13, 2007 at 9:25 am (Sarah's Posts)

http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-na-abstinence8apr08,1,4821225.story

I saw this article today after hearing an NPR segment to the same effect yesterday.  The buzz is about how the federal program for sex education (which is linked to federal funding for health education) limits the scope of what is taught from A, B and C (abstinence, being faithful, condom use) to only A.  This is an issue that most of us have heard about before in the context of HIV or any other STI, but it is back in the US news because five states (Wisconsin, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Montana and New Jersey) have dropped the federal funding in favor of being able to teach kids a more encompassing curriculum.

This issue makes me rather irrationally angry, so I’m trying to be sane about it here at least.  This paragraph from the article highlights what makes me the most angry: “Smith said: “The question state leaders are starting to ask is, ‘How much of this is really about teaching kids, and how much of this is simply pushing forward a social policy favored by President Bush and the conservative right?’ ” ”

I understand somewhere in my head that those who do not want children to learn about ways to protect themselves if they are sexually active believe that they are doing something that is good for children.  But the paternalistic and arrogant attitude that young people should not even have information so that they can decide for themselves makes me bonkers.  I believe that, if even one teenager has decided to have sex, they have the right to know information that will protect them.

Nothing terribly innovative, but I saw this article and got hot and bothered.

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5 Comments

  1. emlsewhere said,

    Just wanted to add that this is an international issue with program funding as well. In many cases, there is a preference for abstinance-only programs over ones that also teach about condom use. I am seeing this here in Uganda, and I wonder what it means in a context where the highest-risk individuals are married women.

  2. Alexandra Coria said,

    A couple articles (1 AP, 1 Washington Post) on a study that indicates that abstinence-only education doesn’t work:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/14/AR2007041400493.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/13/AR2007041301003.html

  3. msoule said,

    Erin
    Definitely this trend in the Administration has a much, much more global reach than is good. I think that’s what makes me the maddest. Not only do we have a paternalistic view of sex ed here in the States which is damaging to our social fabric (but who’s surprised? The country founded by the Puritans, a group so fanatical that no one else wanted them around…) but we are exporting that view vigorously in our funding choices in HIV/AIDS programs in other countries. What have you heard in Uganda about who gets funding? I’m sure there’s a “preference” but does it extend to an “exclusivity?”
    In India, there is also a counter-intuitive (from the conservative standpoint) jump in risk of STI and HIV/AIDS in married women. If the men and the sex workers they visit were educated to use condoms, this risk would likely be greatly decreased. The other way of going at it is bludgeoning these people over the head with ideas that they are amoral and that they should be faithful to their one partner. It seems like we know where that path leads, but some people insist on continuing down it.
    How do we battle this kind of putting on of the blinders?

  4. emlsewhere said,

    M, I think that I’m a bit limited in what I’m supposed to say politically in open internet forums, but I’ll say that right now a ton of organizations in Uganda are getting funding through PEPFAR. In a lot of ways, PEPFAR is providing really strong support to important programs here. I also know that the fact that PEPFAR funds provide such a huge percentage of potential funding means that, in many cases, organizations are aligning their policies and programming with some of the restrictions and recommendations of that policy in order to get funds. Maybe one of you folks with more reliable internet access could do some research on what the exact restrictions of those funds are and post them. Maybe I’ll have some better practical answers/insight on this as I continue doing HIV-related health work here for the next few years…

  5. Farrukh Chevalwala said,

    The subject matter of sex education has been a topic of debate for long. For a long period the focus of the sex education classes has been primarily on abstinence, which we can safely consider ineffective as the teenage pregnancy and rate of transmission of STI in teens have inclined. The broad understanding of the STI and the transmission sources, combined with methods of preventing teenage pregnancy will help teenagers make a more informed decisions and give control over there life choices. Just like one needs to educate self on the driving rules for safe driving for self and others in the community sex education serves the same purpose as it not only effects the health of one individual but effects the communities health as well. Sex education should cover all aspects of the subject and should be given a major importance and be a mandatory part of the school. It is a global issue and funding should be made available by state funding. According to ABC news, the new researches are now focusing on promoting the use of proper contraceptives including birth control pills in many middle schools in several states. Although, the debate and the research still continue over how safe the birth control pills are in that population.

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