Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Your tax dollars at work...

LUBBOCK, Tex. -- The day's guest instructor had spiked blond hair, tight black jeans and a propensity for street slang.

"You have been lied to, lied to by the media, lied to by celebrities," Ed Ainsworth told the 120 squirming eighth-graders at Smylie Wilson Junior High School. "Will this condom protect your heart?" he asked, flashing a glossy Trojan ad on a giant screen. "Will this condom protect your reputation? Go ahead and use a condom. You'll still be known as a slut."

This is sex education, Texas-style, where the only safe sex taught since 1995 is no sex outside marriage. That is when George W. Bush, who was then governor, signed a
law making Texas the third state requiring schools to follow an abstinence-only sex education curriculum.

Now President Bush is promoting abstinence-until-marriage programs nationwide, a shift in health policy that has sparked an emotional debate over how to keep young people healthy. Abstinence-only proponents say that teaching young people about birth control is simply inviting them to have sex; advocates for comprehensive sex education say that withholding detailed information leads to dire medical consequences. Lubbock's situation illustrates the limitations of abstinence-only programs.

In the seven years since their schools began teaching abstinence-only, young people here have been anything but abstinent. Teen pregnancy rates in the state remain above the national average, and Lubbock County consistently has one of the highest rates in the state. In addition, the number of Texas youths with sexually transmitted diseases has risen steadily.

You know, maybe if they mixed a bit of this with Joycelyn Elders' suggestion, they'd be on to something...