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Does Abstinence-Only Education Work?

By comparing California with Texas, it seems abstinence-only education doesn't work.

For many Mission Viejo students, today is the first day of school.

California public schools are not required to teach comprehensive sexual health education. But 96% of schools districts opt to do exactly that. The teen birth rate in California is at a record low, too.

But abstinence-only programs tend to be in place where the country's highest teen birth rates exist, such as Texas. In that state, the teen birth rate is the second-highest in the country.

Texas declined to take $4.4 million from the federal government for sexual education for teens. In Texas, 96% of school districts teach abstinence-only sex education and do not include prevention of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. According to the Huffington Post, "Teen pregnancy in Texas went up—higher than before 'abstinence only,' and more than 50 percent higher than the national average."

Despite evidence to the contrary, presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry seems confident that this policy continues to be the right choice.

The Moms Council lets readers know its opinions on the subject.

Wendy Bucknum says: I believe what message my teen needs to have on this subject should be left to Mom and Dad. It’s a shame that society today feels the need to do the education that should be left to a parent.

Paula Wallace says: Although I do not agree with sex before marriage ... I think the abstinence-only teaching is wrong! Kids are going to have sex regardless of beliefs of parents or anyone else. If you don't tell them/show them all the possibilities, they are left to figure them out on their own—and that is asking for trouble! They are teenagers. They are not capable of making good decisions yet (even if they think they are)!

Christine Atwood says: Morally, I believe that one should abstain from sex until one is in a long-term, monogamous relationship. However, to teach abstinence without also teaching teens some sort of birth control is irresponsible.  Those teens who are determined to have sex are going to, and I don't know one parent who would want their child pregnant in high school.

Look for Mom Talk every Wednesday at 1 p.m. for parenting topics, and get into the discussion.

Julie Flores September 08, 2011 at 05:11 PM
Before anyone misunderstands, when I was talking about marrying the wrong person I was not talking about my current husband.
KC September 08, 2011 at 05:17 PM
I forgot, since it varies from state to state, does funding still only get sent for abstinence only programs? I still remember getting in an argument with the health teacher in high school when we were arranging "stages of a relationship", I thought that talk (yes just talk) of having kids should be before marriage and she was adament that it must be after that ring is on the finger. There was no grade tied to it but I still contend that the choice to have kids is kind of an important thing to discuss before marraige since it could turn things sour later on.
Rebecca Goddard September 08, 2011 at 05:37 PM
I'm not attacked, but as a parent I have the obligation to teach my children these things. It is not the schools job to do it. And some teachers are whack jobs, and I wouldn't want a whack job teaching my kids about sex education. Yesterday my friends 8 year old son was told by his teacher that she sleeps with and has a relationship with a woman and she is a woman in the get to know you section of the 1st day of school. Is that really something the 8 year olds need? How about be kind, be a good teacher, and be good to the kids. Teaching them to read, write and do math, science and history. Let the parents take care of the rest.
Shripathi Kamath September 08, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Perry turned down $4.4 million in federal funds to assist in pregnancy prevention programs so that he could implement an abstinence-only program. It was one of those we-got-this-Obama-we-reject-your-funds-on-principle-alone thingies. (The stimulus funds? Now those I accept, so that I can balance a budget running huge deficits, and then declare the stimulus to be a failure and an intrusion on states's rights) Get used to Numero 45. Anti-science, pro-teen-pregnancy, and yet a popular politician who wants to take the country back.
Shripathi Kamath September 08, 2011 at 06:05 PM
"Yesterday my friends 8 year old son was told by his teacher that she sleeps with and has a relationship with a woman and she is a woman in the get to know you section of the 1st day of school. Is that really something the 8 year olds need?" Kinda curious how that conversation went. Let's see, a teacher (sorry, a whacko, union-thug, lesbian) out of the blue came out, confronted your friend's eight year old son and barked, "Hey kiddo, I am having some torrid sex and a meaningful relationship with a hot woman. Now go home and tell your mommy that I told you this, and that I'll be rubbing it in their faces at the meet 'n greet" I suppose teachers do this kind of a thing all the time these days. Especially in Republican country where they know that such talk is encouraged by the community. And for no reason. You do know that in order for your kids to be taught those naughty pr0n-filled (not really, but makes for a good discussion) sex-ed classes, they'll require a permission slip from you? We had to sign one. So if you do not want your kids in them, you have to do NOTHING. Californian parents overwhelmingly (over 90%) support their children getting sex ed and/or STD prevention education in schools. In 70% of the schools, at most 1% parents opt their kids out of these classes. In most classes at most one or two kids seek to not to opt-in. " How about be kind," Yes, whacko lesbian, union-thugs should be kind. They should get back in the closet.
Rebecca Goddard September 08, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Shri did you hit your word quota as you hurl ridiculous statements out there? That happened in the get to know you. Do you live with both your parents are they divorced just your mommy just your daddy kind of conversation. It didn't happen in CA it was in NY. But my question is that really appropriate for a teach to be telling 8 year olds? My case is different because these will probably be issues that I don't have with my kids disabilities, and the severity of autism. And my kids are in pre-school so I haven't had this issue come to our home yet, but thank you for the information on the permission slips as I wade my way through the maze of school. I love that people can give helpful information such as yourself. Thank you for the heads up and for the condescending tone in most of your post.
Shripathi Kamath September 08, 2011 at 06:34 PM
"Shri did you hit your word quota as you hurl ridiculous statements out there?" I do not see any refutation of facts I provided so I cannot answer that question. "That happened in the get to know you." It does not matter where it happened. Was it out of the blue as I surmised? " Do you live with both your parents" No, neither. My father died a while back of painful colon cancer. My mother does not live with me. "are they divorced" They were married at the time of his death. "just your mommy just your daddy kind of conversation." I am bilingual, but I'm afraid that does not make sense. Could you rephrase that in English, please? "It didn't happen in CA it was in NY. But my question is that really appropriate for a teach to be telling 8 year olds?" Out of the blue like I guessed? No. Explain *how* giving details, and I may answer differrently "I love that people can give helpful information such as yourself. Thank you for the heads up and for the condescending tone in most of your post." Ah, so people who provide you with information that you clearly did not possess, yet were making erroneous claims, are to be considered condescending. Well, thank you, I guess.
Felicia Fisher September 08, 2011 at 06:41 PM
RG, I have a question. In the "getting to know you" scenario would it be appropriate for a teacher to tell his/her students that they are married, have kids or are single? Is it your assertion that only heterosexual teachers have a "getting to know you" discussion? I am just asking because I am trying to understand your point. One kid once told me about another student who had two mommies. What should I have done about that? My kids sometimes tell me about their teacher's kids or spouses, pets and other personal information. There are some things that teachers shouldn't share, for their own protection but teachers are human beings. Like it or not, they have a relationships with our children. Some teachers say things to my kids that I don't agree with or wish they hadn't but I don't want my kids living in a bubble. There are plenty of other adults that my kids come across that say the most vile things to them. We talk about it and its an opportunity for them to learn something.
KC September 08, 2011 at 08:21 PM
Those have, sadly, been the tent poles for the GOP over the last 10-20 years. It's no longer about doing the best for everyone, just people who agree with your POV.
Rebecca Goddard September 08, 2011 at 08:29 PM
@Felicia I think that a teacher has the right to say if they are married or single that's fine. But to open a discussion for an eight year old of gay or straight before a parent wants their child to have that knowledge or discussion is my point. At 8 I don't think that needs to be information the child needs that the teacher is in a relationship with a person of the same sex. It's fine whatever the sexual orientation is of the teacher, but they don't have to share it with a kid in 2nd grade is my point. Those are things that should be taught to kids at the parents discretion
Rebecca Goddard September 08, 2011 at 08:37 PM
@Julie I love that response to your daughter.
Bretta September 08, 2011 at 09:49 PM
@KC, 7:18am - I agree with you, kids and money and values about education, social issues, where to live should be discussed before marriage; not necessarily for agreement, but so you know the other person. I think if both people are adamant before marriage about "no children," then one has a deep change of heart later, they should both have the right to leave the marriage, since something so fundamental to a relationship changed. If that teacher couldn't broach those issues to a potential partner, well, then, that is what a Yenta is for - to make sure those items are satisfactory to all before the pledge is made. Hey - the process worked for thousands of years! Of course, young women were usually old married ladies by the time they were 15 and the majority didn't live past 30.
Bretta September 09, 2011 at 12:45 AM
@Rebecca, 11:17AM: "My case is different because these will probably be issues that I don't have with my kids disabilities, and the severity of autism." Disabled people and kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder can grow up to have relationships, and believe me they will have hormones just like all the other teenagers. You will have to deal with it. Most people who've raised children with developmental disorders know you have to be even more straightforward. Euphemisms and conceptual abstinence (pun intended) just won't cut it. These children need pragmatic, practical answers, real guidance. To assume otherwise means the parent is less than candid with themselves, or is setting up for an unpleasant surprise.
Julie Flores September 09, 2011 at 01:00 AM
RG, you can't hide your children from gay people. But I guess my question would be why would you want to? Are you afraid that the information will turn them gay? There always comes a time when our kids ask questions about things we aren't ready to answer or we hoped we could put off til later. But kids don't wait for the right time and my philosophy is to always try and be honest, even though it can be very difficult at times. I remember the first time my kid asked me about gay people. We were standing in line at the grocery store and there was a massive headline on the Enquirer about a gay alien (LOL). My very young son wanted to know what gay was so I told him it when boys liked boys and girls liked girls. That was enough information for him and we moved on to another topic. It doesn't have to be the sordid conversation that you might be imagining, its just another fact of life on the list of thousands that we have to talk to our kids about. By the way, I am pretty sure he was younger than 8.
Rebecca Goddard September 09, 2011 at 01:44 AM
No Julie, I don't want to hide them from gay people, and I don't think the information will turn them gay. But me as a parent, I want to be the one to give them the information when they ask or when I deem it appropriate.
Julie Flores September 09, 2011 at 01:51 AM
Well that the point Rebecca, you cannot control the outside world. You cannot control what information that your children may stumble upon. There are many things my kids found out about while at school and thats just how life works. You are not always going to be in control unless you never turn on the computer, tv, radio and never leave your house.
Rebecca Goddard September 09, 2011 at 03:00 AM
Yeah, again I get that I don't have control of the universe. You are missing my point, I don't want someone else explaining these things to them even when they ask. Years ago my best friends daughter when she was 5 years old asked me how babies got in mommies tummies - and I told her to go ask her mom, I wasn't a mommy so I didn't know. That was respectful to do to the parents, and not my place to tell someone else's child that.
Julie Flores September 09, 2011 at 03:18 AM
Well that's not really the same as sex education for high schoolers or the same as a female teacher saying that she has a wife.
Bretta September 09, 2011 at 03:48 AM
“Listening to GOP Presidential candidates talk about science is like listening to children talk about sex: They know it exists, they have strong opinions about what it might mean, but they don’t have a clue what it’s actually about.” - Anonymous comment to Andrew Sullivan’s “The Dish”
Bretta September 09, 2011 at 03:54 AM
I'm laughing to myself right now because I just remembered when my daughters were young tweens or teenagers - they confronted me together for one to tell me the other was gay. I looked at them, unsure, but knowing what I do about lesbians, pregnancy and the lower rate of venereal disease, I said, "Good! that's much safer because you have no risk of getting pregnant but you can still get a disease! so be careful!" It didn't take me long to figure out that the purpose was shock value - that it didn't work as expected - so it was a non-issue after that. .
Panglonymous September 09, 2011 at 05:23 AM
This, specifically, is what I'm wondering: Do you think it's likely that your children will be 'educated' by: - pr0n dvds passed between friends and/or - pr0n material accessed via the web long before they are educated otherwise? pr0n conveys far more than advanced information about mechanics; it circumscribes possibilities, provides role modeling. As parents, what do you think about that? - There is probably a stigma involved in publicly acknowledging that pr0n exists. Perhaps especially so for women? "If I express knowledge about it, it might be inferred that I am a regular consumer of it." That something so widespread, powerful and profitable cannot be discussed publicly by 'respectable' people is troubling. Its power as a cultural force is thus increased exponentially.
Dan Avery September 10, 2011 at 06:09 AM
If you are worried about morality, you would teach your kids the truth and you'd encourage the schools to do the same...kids smoke, drink, do drugs, and have sex, they always have. To deny that is beyond stupid because there is now AIDS. It's been around since the 1980's. Not allowing schools to openly discuss sex, STD's and AIDS...well you should just put a gun to your kid's head and pull the trigger because that's, in effect, what you are doing anyway by your piousness. Pretending this hasn't been the reality for almost 30 years now is criminal.
Dan Avery September 10, 2011 at 06:14 AM
Bretta, Every single child in the United States deserves "pragmatic, practical answers, real guidance." Otherwise the parents will "assume otherwise" and be "less than candid with themselves" and their actions will amount to death for there kids or a life of misery and the parents will be "setting" themselves "up for an unpleasant surprise."
Dan Avery September 10, 2011 at 06:17 AM
You, Julie, are very human and an excellent mom.
Dan Avery September 10, 2011 at 06:19 AM
Pan, most people over 38 need a definition of Pron. Maybe it's 42 or something. Clearly it's one if Cat V's "age things" :)
Dan Avery September 10, 2011 at 06:24 AM
Rebecca I completely understand you position and it sounds enlightened. I get wanting to be the one to talk to your kids about issues like sex. Unfortunately a large portion of our society doesn't want to do that for their kids. Not in an open and honest way. And, let's face it, since the mid-1980's and AIDS sex is deadly. That is no joke. And children, after they hit 14 years-old or so want to be adults. They are in the rush to grow up. They want to try everything. And some parents do want to pretend that sex and drugs and whatnot aren't out there. I guess they think they can shield their kids, but they are really sticking a gun barrel in their kid's mouth. That is why the school should educate. You, your kids, are not the problem. But you're more enlightened than most evidently.
Julie Flores September 10, 2011 at 05:04 PM
Thanks Dan! The truth is that I am just stumbling through motherhood just like everyone else. But we decided that we would always tell our kids the truth. No matter how difficult or uncomfortable it can be in the moment, and there have been some doozies! When my daughter went to private school they asked parents to sign a release for the sex education classes. My daughter handed me the slip, slammed the car door and said, "I don't want to go to this, just tell me right now. What is sex, just tell me right now!" Gulp! I wasn't prepared to discuss it on that particular day but this is the most obstinate child that you will ever come across. She looked at me and smiled. "Wow, you are embarrassed aren't you?" How the hell can a 4th grader be so intuitive? "Well, yes I am but I will tell you anyway." Then I went home and had a glass of wine.
Dan Avery September 10, 2011 at 05:55 PM
Wow, 4th grade? I was still trying to figure out how to properly tighten my roller skates with a skate key in the 4th grade. Sex wasn't any where near the radar screen until the 8th grade. By then I figured I'd always be hopeless with the skate key and I started looking into other, more pleasant ways to skin my knees.
Panglonymous September 11, 2011 at 06:48 AM
You can get extra pr0ns at the Sizzler if you know which waitress to ask.
Dan Avery September 11, 2011 at 06:40 PM
I had some prons in Phuket that were the size of what we call lobsters on the West Coast of the U.S.

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