The Waxman Report, a recent congressional staff analysis led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman, has revealed that many of the federally-funded abstinence-only
sex-ed programs backed by the Bush administration and the Republican congress are rife with inaccuracies, subjective interpretations of data and
biased information. The material was developed in part by evangelical Christian sources, and ignores scientific evidence and fact. Several million
kids have already participated in these erroneous programs.
Some of the gems taught in these curricula as revealed by The Waxman Report include:
-A 43-day old fetus is a "thinking person." (can't see how this can be taught as fact)
-Half of the gay, male teenagers in the U.S. have tested positive for the AIDS virus. (absolutely false)
-HIV can be spread through exposure to sweat and tears. (completely untrue)
-Condoms fail to prevent HIV transmission as often as 31 percent of the time in heterosexual intercourse. (actually less than 3%)
-Taught as scientic fact is the opinion that "Women gauge their happiness and judge their success on their relationships. Men's happiness and
success hinge on their accomplishments." (This sexist garbage is actually written in a sex-ed textbook....)
-Women who have an abortion "are more prone to suicide" and that as many as 10 percent of them become sterile. This contradicts the 2001 edition of
a standard obstetrics textbook that says fertility is not affected by elective abortion.
-Touching another persons genitals can result in pregnancy (there is an extremely slim chance, but the risk is exaggerated and the mechanics are not
discussed. It is taught as if you get pregnant by just touching.)
-Some course materials present as scientific fact notions about a man's need for "admiration" and "sexual fulfillment" compared with a woman's
need for "financial support." (Ugh.)
-One textbook tells the story of a knight who married a village maiden instead of the princess because the princess offered so many tips on slaying
the local dragon. "Moral of the story," notes the popular text: "Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will
lessen a man's confidence or even turn him away from his princess." (This is just beyond the pale...)
There is no hard evidence that abstinence programs work. Partisan sources tout their effectiveness, but can't link these programs to actual,
quantifiable results. Non-partisan researchers find that the success rate of abstinence education is marginal. Teenage abortion rates have fallen,
but that started before abstinence-only education was instituted in 1999 and may be attributed to more widespread condom use. A recent CDC study said
that 61% of graduating seniors have had sex, which is not significantly lower than survey results from the early 90's. A Columbia University study
found that although teens that take "virginity pledges" may wait longer to have sex, 88% of them eventually have premarital sex.
Obviously, abstinence is the only way to ensure that teens will not contract an STD or get pregnant, but when teens do have sex, accurate information
regarding contraception and sexual health is needed. In an attempt to "put the fear of God" in teens regarding the consequences of having sex,
these faith-based abstinence programs fail miserably at providing valid sex education. The result is that when teens inevitably do have sex (which
the statistics show that they will), they are ill-prepared. If they are taught that condoms don't work, why would they use them? CDC survey results
show that roughly 40% of teenagers still don't use condoms when having sex--isn't that a big problem?
$170 million was spent on these abstinence-only programs last year. Bush proposed increasing the budget for these "scare-tactics" programs to $270
million in 2005, but that was paired back to $168 million by Congress. Still, nearly $900 million is slated to be spent on teaching kids a
faith-based view of sex ed over the next 5 years. This does nothing to address the problems of kids who are already having sex or teens that fall off
the virginity wagon. I think that sex-ed based in reality is a better solution.
The backlash from the religious right has already begun, as they are trying to discredit Waxman's report by pulling out their rehashed partisan
reports and claiming that he had ulterior motives, but I don't know how you can refute a teenager's textbook that makes erroneous claims that you
can spread HIV through sweat or that half of gay teens in the US are HIV+. That is pretty black and white. Teaching opinion (not fact) based in
religious beliefs, such as biased conjecture about the consequences of abortion and referring to the fetus as a person is also difficult to reconcile.
The sexist teachings regarding a woman's role in society are just ridiculous and don't even belong in sex-ed classes (or any classes for that
matter.) The intent here is clear--to make teens associate fear, shame and guilt with sex. Sounds like religion to me.