April 15, 2007

Is abstinence education a complete waste of money?

This new report seems to say so. Supporters of abstinence education are going to try to push back:
“This report confirms that these interventions are not like vaccines,” said Harry Wilson, associate commissioner of the Family and Youth Services Bureau at the federal Administration for Children and Families. “You can’t expect one dose in middle school, or a small dose, to be protective all throughout the youth’s high school career.”
Yeah, but the federal government has been spending $176 million a year on this!

Damn it! That reminds me I still need to finish my taxes. Was the report released this week for maximum effect?

But why is the federal government spending any money on propaganda aimed at American kids? Well, obviously, it's a sop to social conservatives. But can we stop now?

Wilson's idea is that the lack of results shows why we ought to be spending even more money and absorbing even more of kids' time telling them what to do with their lives. Why not spend the money on teaching them how to read, research independently, analyze, and critique? That would be real education, that would justify taking up their time, and that would put them in a position to think for themselves about what is the right way to live. And maybe, just maybe, it actually is to be abstinent until marriage.

If you really believed in the good of your own philosophy/religion, you'd want them to think for themselves.

64 comments:

peter hoh said...

IT's an old saw, but really, the government should tell kids that sex and drugs are cool and that they should avoid studying math.

Invisible Man said...

The real question, since abstinence education obviously doesn't work, duh, is how many of those who undergo the education wind-up with venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancies. But I'm sure that catching a disease because one never learned to wear a condom is a risk that the bible-thumpers are willing to take with other children's lives.

That Bush policy apparatus sure is results-oriented.

New York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
New York said...

If you really believed in the good of your own philosophy/religion, you'd want them to think for themselves.

Or raise your children in a framework that fostered his/her growth within your philosophy/religion rather than in the public school system.

Gerry said...

The report is less cut and dried than the AP and NYT makes it out to be.

First off, it is comparing the effect of abstinence only programs not against nothing, but against the programs already in place in schools. As such, the results are best described as showing that abstinence programs are just as effective as other programs. If one wants to say they are a complete waste of money, then it would be fair to say that the sex-ed programs in general are a complete waste of money, as the report shows they are no more effective than abstinence only programs.

And the canard that abstinence only programs would cause an increase in STDs was shown to be false by the study.

Further, the report suggests that there is potential for these programs to be effective, or that they stop too soon. "At the time when most Title V, Section 510 abstinence education programs are completed and youth enter their adolescent years, data from the study find that support for abstinence among friends drops dramatically. For example, survey data from the start of the impact study show that nearly all youth had friends who exhibited attitudes and behaviors supportive of abstinence. Four years later, however, the typical youth in the study reported that only two of his or her five closest friends remained supportive of abstinence."

"Youth who participate in Title V, Section 510 programs may also find themselves unable to maintain their peer networks as they advance from elementary to middle school or from middle school up through high school... To the extent that Title V, Section 510 abstinence programs aim to influence peer networks, this dispersal or dilution of peer networks after youth complete the programs presents a significant challenge to sustaining positive change."

In other words, these programs are no more, and no less, effective than currently implemented programs. However, if they are expanded and continued into later years, they might work. Or they might not. We don't know. We'd have to try.

Sounds to me like the best thing to do would be to let some areas, particularly where the population is more culturally attuned to these approaches, implement them full scale, from elementary school through high school. Then we could compare the costs and the results.

Gerry said...

"The real question, since abstinence education obviously doesn't work, duh, is how many of those who undergo the education wind-up with venereal diseases and unwanted pregnancies."

Let me help, since you did not take the time to actually read the report.

"Program and control group youth did not differ in the rates of unprotected sex..."

"Overall, the programs improved identification of STDs but had no overall impact on knowledge of unprotected sex risks and the consequences of STDs."

In other words, while the report is not exactly friendly to the most ardent proponents of abstinence only programs, it is equally unfriendly to the view that such programs put kids at risk.

Bissage said...

Abstinence education would be far more effective were it given a catchy name like Head Start or something.

Gerry said...

"If you really believed in the good of your own philosophy/religion, you'd want them to think for themselves."

That would be a great argument for either:

1) Having both traditional sex-ed and abstinence-only programs for all kids, so that they could be exposed to all of the approaches and think for themselves.

2) Having neither, so that kids are not being instructed in the schools that one approach is the right one and the other is the wrong one.

Ann Althouse said...

As for sex education generally, Gerry, I think it should be taught as a science class. There could also be an ethics class, taught in an academic way, with the rigor of philosophy.

I don't accept the government's appropriation of a child's time unless it meets a high standard. Compulsory education is only acceptable if it is really education. To capture an audience for the purpose of propaganda is to abuse power.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Bissage: How does "Head Stop" grab ya?

joated said...

Compulsory education is only acceptable if it is really education. To capture an audience for the purpose of propaganda is to abuse power.
So, should we be requiring students to stay in school until age 16, as the current system demands?

Wade_Garrett said...

I didn't need a study to tell me that abstinence education was a complete waste of money.

Galvanized said...

Public schooling should be concerned with rigorous academic and vocational education, and extracurricular activities that develop the individual - athletics, music, art. Public schools have no business in serving as a place for sex education. School as a socializing vehicle? Only once America's academic scores rival the best. This PSA kind of education has no more place in public schooling than does religion.

Sean said...

Gosh, this whole idea of evaluating programmatic effectiveness seems very dangerous. Are the law schools and biglaw firms of the world going to abandon their diversity programs? Fortunately, academic evaluations always find that the problem with liberal nostrums is that they aren't being implemented thoroughly enough.

Finn Kristiansen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gerry said...

'Compulsory education is only acceptable if it is really education.'

Well, one thing this study seems to have shown is that abstinence only sex-ed is pretty much identical to contemporary sex-ed in its educational results. The students seem to end up with the same knowledge.

So either abstinence-based sex-ed is education and meets that standard, or contemporary sex-ed is not education and does not meet that standard.

My preference? Let liberal areas take a liberal approach, and conservative areas take a conservative approach. If the approaches are as comparable as the study suggests, then all you end up with are regions governing in accordance with the desires of the population. And if the approaches are not as comparable as the study suggests, then we will have more data for which to make rational decisions.

Finn Kristiansen said...

That the report represents less than 1% of Title V sexual abstinence programs in existence should speak volumes.

The idea that you could go through four classes, with no followup, and have a great impact is absurd. We teach nearly every other subject differently, pounding away at math or history, year upon year.

Also, I just wonder at the methodology of getting accurate answers on sexuality anyway. There was a "dark time" in my history, when I was between jobs and went to work at a Mathematica Policy Research location in Plainsboro NJ (near Princeton, but not in Princeton, though most businesses in the area like to blur that distinction).

I was on a Department of Labor study, trying to get the results of some youth program. One of the difficulties was that when we were actually able to reach the home of participants, we then had to get permission from parents to ask the questions. Some of the questions involved criminal and sexual history. Some of the parents had no intention of saying yes when asked, "Oh can I ask your 14 year old daughter about her sex history and drug use."

The point being, getting an accurate sample of how a program works can be affected by the parents who act as gatekeepers. Their might be a bias toward parents who have no problems with sexuality with their children. (Or, even, there could be a bias the other way, with kids being less honest with granny sitting there monitoring their answers).

But then again, the phone people there made about $8 per hour, and I am sure the actual researchers "upstairs" would most certainly adjust for various anomalies involving survey participation and honesty.

After all, that's why polling is so accurate. Sorta.

Omaha1 said...

If sexuality is going to be an integral part of public schooling, I would like to see some instruction on the emotional repercussions of youthful sex. Maybe my thoughts are influenced by old-fashioned religious doctrine, but it seems to me that young males still view sexual conquest as a form of competition, while young females succumb to demands for sex as a sacrifice needed to a sustain a romantic relationship.

Simon said...

I think there are at least three different issues here being treated as if they were one. They are: teaching abstinence as the best option, teaching only abstinence without any additional education on matters like STDs and contraceptives, and whether the Federal government should be involved in this stuff in the first place.

I tend to think that federal interference in education approaches the definition of acting to "directly displace the States' freedom to structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions," Usery, 426 U.S. at 852, and so I would prefer to remove federal involvement from decisionmaking on sex education entirely (something that does not require the that principle to once again command the support of a majority of the Supreme Court for Congress to act on it). But regardless of the level at which the decision is taken, I do believe that while sex education should be abstinence first, it should not be abstinence only. Some kids are going to have sex, no matter how often - with all due respect to Harry Wilson - one administers a booster shot to the abstinence message. My concern is that those kids who slip through the net may not always know enough about contraception, and all of a sudden we're looking at ground zero for teenage pregnancy, which very often becomes teenage abortion, which accounts for cira 20% of all abortions carried out in the United States. Something is very wrong if someone describes themselves as pro-life but opposes comprehensive sex education without explaining why the two don't link up.

"Pro-life" and "anti-abortion" aren't synonyms: you have to be the latter to be the former, but being anti-abortion, freestanding, isn't enough. You have to think about the forces that drive abortion and how those pressures can be eliminated or redirected. Comprehensive sex education strikes me as one way to accomplish that. Death penalty opponents have occaisionally suggested that the execution of a single innocent person is sufficient indictment to shut down capital punishment. I have reluctantly come to agree with that position. Similarly, I tend to think that one abortion of a teenage pregnancy that could have been prevented by comprehensive sex ed is enough to override virtually any other concern, systemwide.

Simon said...

Invisible Man said...
"That Bush policy apparatus sure is results-oriented."

What orientation should a policy apparatus have other than results?

Omaha1 said...

Ann, you said,

"If you really believed in the good of your own philosophy/religion, you'd want them to think for themselves."

I would love for America's children to be well-informed about all of the various belief systems that predominate in our society, including, but not limited to, Deism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and atheism/agnosticism. However, I doubt that public schools will ever provide an appropriate forum for honest comparisons of religious "diversity".

And Simon, "results-oriented"? That kind of talk is anathema to government funded programs. Midnight basketball, anyone?

Simon said...

Omaha1 said...
"If sexuality is going to be an integral part of public schooling..."

That thought hadn't even ocurred to me when I broke the question into three parts. Sexuality education, which seems to have connotations of a curricula distinct from sex education, is yet a fourth issue.

Wade_Garrett said...

$176 million is approximately $580,000 per person per year. What ever happened to conservatism? Aren't those clowns supposed to want the federal government to stay out of people's lives? So it funds this enormous spending program telling people how to have sex? How did anybody ever think this was a good idea?

Omaha1 said...

Wade, your calculations are a bit off unless you accept a census of approximately 300 US citizens.

Simon said...

Wade_Garrett said...
"$176 million is approximately $580,000 per person per year."

Just on a very quick google search, the census bureau estimated that there were 53.3 million children ages 5 to 17 as of July 1, 2003. Even assuming, falsely, that all those kids are getting sex ed classes, that means that $176m equates to roughly three bucks per kid per year. At Wade's school, they don't need sex ed so much as basic math. Is that your final answer, Wade, or would you like to phone a friend?

Simon said...

Sorry, the link for the 53.3m number was this.

Wade_Garrett said...

You're right, I screwed up that math, I don't know what I was thinking.

Either way, it is an ENORMOUS waste of money.

Meade said...

The compulsory education should be for the parents to learn how to teach their children about sex. A tax refund for attending class. Community service (AIDs clinic, abortion clinic, orphanage, etc.) for skipping class. Someone else do the math please but that ought to save a few cool mil in unnecessary taxes.

Simon said...

Wade - I don't necessarily agree that it's a waste of money, but presumably we can at least agree that it's money that the Federal government, at least, shouldn't be spending.

Gerry said...

Simon, I join in on that. Wholeheartedly.

Omaha1 said...

Sexual behavior and standards of morality are inextricably linked in the real world. Efforts to address the former, while pretending that the latter do not exist, are unrealistic and doomed to failure, regardless of who provides the funding.

Wade_Garrett said...

Definitely, it is a waste of Federal government money. However, if the program isn't working at all - if the age of first intercourse is virtually the same, regardless of whether or not the students receive this education - then how is it not a waste of money, regardless of where that money comes from?

Mainly, I think that schools are the wrong people to teach this stuff. I'm not a parent, but I think it is ENORMOUSLY pussy of parents to defer this sort of education to public school districts. If I may create a term, it is parental malpractice.

Secondly, the reason I waited longer than the 14.9 year average was not because of any church's teachings, or because of any education I received, but because I was informed of the risks involved. Any type of sex education is doomed to fail if it preaches "just say no" while neglecting to teach kids important truths about their bodies.

Simon said...

Wade_Garrett said...
"Definitely, it is a waste of Federal government money. However, if the program isn't working at all - if the age of first intercourse is virtually the same, regardless of whether or not the students receive this education - then how is it not a waste of money, regardless of where that money comes from?"

My point was that you don't think the feds should be spending it because you think it's a waste of money, and I don't think the feds should be spending it because sex education is a subset of education, and I think all education is a state concern. I was just looking for a point of agreement, and we can both agree that the federal government shouldn't be spending the money, even if we have different reasons for thinking that.

Omaha1 said...

Wade Garrett - the "age of first intercourse". I suppose that this an important statistic since it can be objectively measured. In my opinion, it would be more helpful for girls to understand the emotional repercussions of submitting to youthful sex. I doubt that this is ever addressed in the classroom, despite its lasting effect on their self-esteem.

Synova said...

I homeschool and when the question "what do you do for drug education curriculum?" or "what do you do for sex education curriculum?" come up the general homeschooler reaction tends toward a vacant stare as they try to parse the question.

I need a curriculum for that?

As it is, my 14 year old daughter took the "how adult are you" online quiz linked from Instapundit the other day and scored 100% on the sex knowledge part. (www.howadultareyou.com)

As I think of it, the podcast discussion that went with it with the author of the quiz and a book about adolescence might have more answers on *why* sex education fails so badly. He talked about how we try to force young people to stay children and how they respond by all the sorts of destructive behavior that can get them instant adult status (such as having a baby.)

We don't expect our young people to show judgment or self-control. One of the most common objections to abstinence that I hear is that young people *can not* show maturity and judgment because of their age. Since we're keeping them children so very hard, that's not surprising.

I've even heard an advocate of abstinence explaining how it can't work without being accompanied by an all around emphasis throughout a young person's life on having a deliberate self-discipline.

Which is why *any* program that includes "just say no" as a concept is sort of pathetic.

Steven said...

Invisible Man --

There is no significant evidence that any form of in-school sex education whatsoever works at reducing pregnancies or transmission of disease at all. There is only completely unsubstantiated faith by supporters of both contraceptive-centered and abstinence-based programs that their favored program must be working, somehow, even if it never shows up in the statistics.

Accordingly, the "bible-thumpers" are not putting anyone at any more risk or any less risk than those who advocate education about contraceptive methods. Both are are irrational, faith-based, wastes of time and money.

Seven Machos said...

I think that at some point, two things happen to adults:

1. They get scared to death that their kids are having sex because they don't want their kids having kids at the wrong time.

2. They get scared to death that their kids are having sex because they are for someone disgusted by the impurity of the thing, their kids having sex.

I don't get it. Trying to tell 15- and 17- and 19-year-olds to not have sex. It's crazy. The 15- and 17- and 19-year-old body is absolutely geared toward having crazy amounts of sex.

I add here, as I usually add when this topic comes up, that it is very likely that our great-grandmothers were having sex like rabbits at 15 and 17 and certainly 19.

Freder Frederson said...

As it is, my 14 year old daughter took the "how adult are you" online quiz linked from Instapundit the other day and scored 100% on the sex knowledge part.

Well, I hope that any 14 year old would know the answers to appallingly basic sex questions in that quiz.

There is no significant evidence that any form of in-school sex education whatsoever works at reducing pregnancies or transmission of disease at all.

How about all of freaking Western Europe? All the countries in western Europe have more comprehensive sex education than this country and their children are more sexually active than ours yet they have lower teen pregnancy rates and lower rates of STDs. The country that has the highest rate of STDs and teen pregnancy in Europe (England) also has the least comprehensive sex education programs. The more uptight a nation is about sex, the worse the problem.

Freder Frederson said...

Mainly, I think that schools are the wrong people to teach this stuff. I'm not a parent, but I think it is ENORMOUSLY pussy of parents to defer this sort of education to public school districts. If I may create a term, it is parental malpractice.

While nice in theory Wade, parental malpractice is not a actionable claim in this country. Unfortunately, the public schools have to take up for a lot of slack where the parents just don't want to deal with the issue (hell, a lot of parents don't know much about sex themselves). Teenage pregnancy, abortion and STDs are a public health crisis. Ignoring it by saying it is the duty of the parents to deal with it or pushing bullshit solutions like abstinence only programs are completely irresponsible.

Seven Machos said...

Ah, Fred, the good old "in Europe..." argument. I have learned that, as a general rule, at least 80 percent of the time, whatever you hear when people make this argument turns out to be absolute, unfettered bullshit.

So, I just googled this. Turns out you are full of it, Fred. The long and short of the mutilated WHO table below is that STD cases are higher in Western Europe than they are in the USA.

If everything is so great in Western Europe, why don't you nutty liberals move there? Seriously. It's not like they aren't talking immigrants. It's not like they aren't giving out welfare to immingrants.

STDs per million people.

North America 156 3 19 14
Western Europe 203 4 20 17

(I won't screw up the comments section with my inability to do html. Google stds western europe united states. It's the second hit.)

Synova said...

Freder, it's hear-say but I'd heard that young people in Europe actually have sex (statistically) later than young people in the United States. That it's actually a reaction against the free-sex habits of their parents.

Seven Machos, yes, you're quite right. People who want to have sex ought to. Asking them not to is completely unreasonable. Feel the itch, fella, go for it.

The idea of being faithful is a crock. You might be attracted to anyone at any time and if they are willing, why who's to say no? Sexual feelings should always be acted on. It's foolish to expect anyone to do anything but act on their sexual feelings.

Seven Machos said...

Fred -- Schools absolutely don't have to take up the slack. They are choosing to, at the expense of valuable knowledge.

I taught SAT courses for many years. The number of kids from the very best schools in America who don't really understand, just for example, what a fraction is, or how to read well, is astounding. I can only imagine what it is like in the general populace.

Seven Machos said...

Synova -- The natural age to begin having sex is about 16. That's when your body tells you, let's get to work. The socially constructed age for people to settle down and commit to a monogamous relationship is about 22 to 30. You'd be a complete moron to get married at 16 or even 18 in this country if you want to be happy and successful.

So, there's this great gap between 16 and when you settle down to get commit. What are you suggesting about that time?

I suggest we tell people the hard truths about STDs and about out-of-wedlock/unwelcome children. People are not stupid. If they can jus be made to see the consequences, they'll make the right moves. They'll use condoms and get into shorter monogamous relationships and vet their sexual partners better and, well, pull out.

Synova said...

Sorry Seven, were you being sarcastic?

And Freder, of course the questions are basic. How and when is pregnacy possible? How are STD's transmitted?

I'm not sure what you think students are supposed to know.

You seem very concerned about this public health crisis. Where do you think this "crisis" came from? A lack of knowledge? One of my aunts thought she was dying when she got her period. Several others hadn't a clue about sex well into adulthood (which made wedding nights either traumatic, comical, or both.)

This was, of course, in the "pre-crisis" days. So where did the crisis come from? I'd expect most any 14 year old to have basic knowledge about sex and reproduction, far more than in previous generations, so what is the cause of the crisis?

Are you willing to be honest about that?

It can't be knowledge, so what is it?

Mindsteps said...

Unless I am missing something, the actual write up of the study suggests that it was not well designed and impossible to replicate as reported here: http://www.mathematica-mpr.com/publications/PDFs/impactabstinence.pdf

I was unable to find in the study a description of the control group other than they were student's on a waiting list. Waiting lists are notoriously poor control groups, particularly in behavioral and social science investigations.

From the study, we have no idea what the control students were exposed to. There does not appear to be an attempt to offset the possible effects on program students being in some sort of 'special' group. For example, a more effective control group might involve placing control students in a program that is comparable to the abstinence only program in every possible way with the exception of the core abstinence interventions. Indeed, even if there was a favorable effect for the abstinence intervention, because the abstinence and control groups were so different in so many ways, we would not be able to confidently say that it was due to the presentation of abstinence messages. This study's random assignment of students into treatment and control groups did not take care of the serious control group problem cited above.

Moreover, from my reading of the study, there was no attempt to control for allegiance effects. Allegiance effects are those in which superior outcomes are attributable to the researcher’s affinity for the treatment being assessed. Some scientists suggest that, in behavioral and social science, allegiance effect can account for over fifty-percent of the effectiveness of a treatment intervention.

Ultimately, the abstinence only program apparently could not even muster 'placebo' effects.

Seven Machos said...

Synova -- It's old people freaking out. That's the crisis.

I think sex is something that people ought to talk to their kids about. If communities want it in their schools, fine. If they don't, fine. I personally think that sex ed in school is dumb because the kids either (a) aren't going to listen to the gym teacher or (b) the group dynamic is going to screw it all to hell.

Seven Machos said...

Sex ed in about 25 minutes:

1. You must avoid becoming a parent until you are ready. Your life will be ruined is why and the child will have a bad life in all likelihood.

2. You must avoid getting STDs. They are painful and embarassing is why. If you get a serious one, you'll die. Some never go away.

3. Here are the ways we know to avoid getting pregnant when you don't want to and getting STDs.

Wade Garrett said...

Freder - Fair enough. Ideally, kids would get something at school AND something at home. However, the "you're better served not having sex until marriage" lecture should come from your parents, if anybody, and its selfish for parents to pawn this responsibility off onto public school teachers.

Schools SHOULD be teaching kids about sex, but in a more scientific way - this is how sex works, these are the risks involved, this is how you can avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. But they shouldn't be moralizing.

Synova said...

Okay, you weren't being sarcastic. I think I know where you are coming from.

We are facing a strange time when we expect young people to remain and act like children far far past sexual maturity.

But grandma didn't necessarily get married at the age of 15 or 17, and she most likely *wasn't* having sex like a rabbit before she did get married. But yes, people found mates in a more reasonable time-frame considering when they were biologically ready for that.

Young people aren't stupid and preventing pregnancy and STDs should be a no-brainer even for those who are sort of stupid. Even for teenagers. Recognizing that a sexual relationship makes you physically and emotionally vulnerable should also be a no-brainer.

Does anyone really not know this stuff?

Sex ed that explains biology (this is where babies come from) might take all of one afternoon with a internal organ chart, so what is the purpose of sex ed or abstinence education but to try to bully kids into behaving properly. (What is considered "properly" varies a bit but either approach is essentially aiming for the same control over young people's behavior.)

I just don't see that it even begins to address the reasons that they *don't* behave properly, which I've been saying for a long time, is primarly about wanting to be grown up.

If it doesn't make much sense to do risky or unwise things in an effort to be grown up, consider that sex is biological maturity and having sex is establishing and demonstrating that maturity.

If it's the only option given you, it's pretty much the only choice to take.

The "oh fine, have sex then, just do it safely" is a sad poor substitute for offering young people actual opportunity to practice and demonstrate maturity and start practicing being an adult.

It's sort of saying, "We can't stop you doing this, but by golly we're gonna make you stay children if it's the last thing we do."

Yes, getting married young tends not to work well in our society but that's probably as "biology based" as hollywood marriages not tending to work well.

amy said...

"Young people aren't stupid and preventing pregnancy and STDs should be a no-brainer even for those who are sort of stupid. Even for teenagers. Recognizing that a sexual relationship makes you physically and emotionally vulnerable should also be a no-brainer.

Does anyone really not know this stuff?"

Synova, if you asked 10 teenagers they'd probably all agree that its better to wait to have sex and sex can cause emotional problems blah blah. Fast forward a few days; a hot date on a Friday night; kissing leads to petting etc. etc. Do you want one of the kids to have a condom or don't you? I remember age 16 and 17, the sheer physical imperative was very hard to resist. My parents are good sorts but didn't think their little girl would have sex until at least 25 and thus didn't bother with any home discussion of sex. Luckily I had a good sex ed book and knew enough to use condoms and go to planned parenthood and get on the pill.

I would bet that you have never hung out with an average crowd from an average high school, or you wouldn't be asking those questions.

Omaha1 said...

The last few comments suggest that sixteen-year-olds having sex is OK, as long as they are aware of the risks involved, and take appropriate precautions. I just want some assurance, that with all the "instruction" these young people are getting, that the women know not to submit to sex for the purpose of securing a commitment from the target of their affection.

In spite of my lingering moral objections, I suppose that if both sixteen-year-old partners have acknowledged the purely recreational nature of their sexual activity, it would be more-or-less acceptable to me.

amy said...

Omaha, I agree that is a very important point. I really don't know if young girls feeling they need to "give it up" to keep their boyfriend is still a strong influence on teens (like in Grease). The problem I hear from some of my friends in the 25 y/o age range is that they're embarassed they're still virgins, b/c no guy wants to be responsible for deflowering. I tell them they're crazy and they'll be happy when they meet right guy without any emotional or physical baggage to interfere with the relationship, but they don't seem to get it.

Synova said...

I said "should" and I said "should" on purpose. If I'd meant "is" I would have said "is."

Synova said...

Romances these days include condoms in the love making. An historical romance might do without but one set in our time seems to require it.

Also, in romances these days, it's not at all unlikely for the man to utter something like, "I don't mind not being the first, so long as I get to be the last."

I don't believe it. Well, okay, if he can't be the first it's sort of foolish to fret over the fact.

My best guess, Amy, is that if guys are unwilling to deflower a girl it's because the accept the very old fashioned idea that "good girls" are for getting married to, and not so good girls are for having fun with. If they were interested in any sort of permanent they'd like the idea that she hadn't been with anyone else.

OhioAnne said...

I wouldn't assume that abstinence based school programs actually mention sex or abstinence.

I worked for a children's non-profit for 17 years. When our traditional volunteer organizational structure started to break down as more people worked outside of the home, we started working more and more with students during the school day.

Grants were the usual way to pay for such programs and abstinence based money was the most plentiful. We usually took the approach that children who saw choices in their future would be less likely to engage in risky sex but we didn't actually discuss sex and certainly didn't utilize any religous doctrine for saying that you shouldn't have sex. Instead, programs focused on teaching children about self-sufficiency and benefits of further education.

I personally concluded that neither does much good if the parents are either not involved enough to know or don't care. If a parent doesn't keep their 8th grade daughter from dating a guy over 21, its tough for the school or any other group to influence her to act differently.

BTW, I left that agency in early 2000 so this issue is not a new one.

Kirk Parker said...

"Damn it! That reminds me I still need to finish my taxes."

Ah, what a relief! When you mentioned you were doing them on Saturday, people were a bit worried--had your site been hijacked? Or maybe you were abducted by punctual aliens and one of them was posing as you.

But now we can rest assured that the real Althouse, the world-class procrastinator we have come to know and love, is still on the job! :-)

Roger said...

The paradise that is western europe (and Cuba, land of great health care!). The STD data, like that of infant mortality, have to be disaggregated before they can be reasonably compared. Surprisingly enough, systems that tend to be nationalized tend to use data that makes their systems' performance look the best. Its what bureaucracies do.

sonicfrog said...

This is a good demonstration of what has gone wrong with the education system. Oh, this study shows that your education methodology / system / paradigm doesn't have the desired effect? No problem. That just means we haven't SPENT ENOUGH time and money on the thing. When you read this latest study, where you see the term "abstinence" you could insert so many different education buzzwords and get the same result - multiculturalism, inclusion, new English / math, self-esteem reinforcement.....

PS. ...it is comparing the effect of abstinence only programs not against nothing, but against the programs already in place in schools...

Gerry, I wondered about that also. The problem is that there are few schools that don't teach one or the other, therefore the control group is omitted as it doesn't exist.

Sounds to me like the best thing to do would be to let some areas, particularly where the population is more culturally attuned to these approaches, implement them full scale, from elementary school through high school. Then we could compare the costs and the results.

NO! This is a simple opportunity cost cost argument. each hour we spend teaching these subjects is one less hour we have to teach our children vital language and logic skills. Stop waisting our time on these and other experiments and get back to teaching our kids how to read and write and perform math, things that will help them advance in the world.

Parker Smith said...

I think that abstinence until marriage is a good ideal, as is monogamy - although they have historically been honored more in the breach than in the observance.

I think the value of such ideals rests in whether a society holding them up as desirable behaviors gains a net benefit by doing so.

Given the fact that the loss of our ideals has had very real human costs, I have a hard time with those who mock them.

As a society we don't live up to any ideals - but we are poorer without them.

I'd rather live in a society that promulgates strict standards that I may fall short of, rather than one where the prevailing ethic is summarized by "if it feels good, do it" and "what's in it for me?"

TMink said...

It seems to me that the discussion begs the question, "What is the problem?"

Is the problem that too many teens are getting pregnant? Too many teen stds? Too many teens hurt by sexual involvement before they are emotionally ready to deal with it?

What are the problems people?

Trey

hdhouse said...

Abstinence education has about the same effect as the Catholic church's position on birth control. One guarantees more Catholics and the other seems to guarantee more puzzled but "it was fun while it lasted" republicans.

Seven Machos said...

Idealizing virginity for adults is a terrible, terrible idea.

Balfegor said...

And maybe, just maybe, it actually is to be abstinent until marriage.

Well, possibly. I'm sure someone has pointed this out already, but abstinence education is about as likely to succeed as any other kind of education nowadays, given the state of our public schools. If children haven't absorbed basic literacy in 13 years of formal schooling, it strains credulity to believe that a single health or sex-ed class -- almost certainly one of those joke classes anyhow -- is going to have the slightest effect on their behaviour.

The ethic of abstinence was maintained, in the past (however imperfectly), not by telling young adults that they ought not have sex, or trying to reason with them that, yes, it's awfully dumb to have sex and risk pregnancy and STDs and all that before monogamy and marriage. That's an approach doomed to failure. Young adults are characterised, in the main, by impetuosity and poor impulse control. Instead, abstinence was achieved through the widespread use of chaperones. Don't let a young man and a young woman alone in a room with the door closed! Always have someone's spinster aunt at their side! That will put the damper on their sexual adventures.

Gref Kim said...

Generally, sex education is a science. Science of human reproduction. la culona