Friday, March 30, 2007

Donna Martin Sets the PTA Straight

"If you build a pool, and you know your kids are going to swim, you can build all the fences you want. But if you know they’re going to jump in the pool, don’t you think you should teach your kids how to swim?"

This Beverly Hills 90210 classic popped into my mind yesterday as I lunched with my friend Grace and her new friend Angela. Angela works for a non-profit that teaches students in an "abstinence only" program. And as many of you know, I'm all about abstinence. And with that being my personal choice primarily because of my faith (although I must note that obedience to God aside, there are other upsides), I am still uncomfortable with "sex education" that only discusses abstinence. In high school, our sex education teachers were coaches (sigh....mine would only call sex "it"), and they refused to discuss any form of birth control or sexual disease protection because they weren't 100% effective. Of course, it didn't take a genius to know that abstinence was not a route taken by many of my classmates since my high school had a nursery for students' children. Furthermore, it seemed patently ridiculous to me that these classes were called sex education when they should have been called "abstinence only."

Now I'm trying to figure out exactly how I think these issues would be handled in light of what all I know now--but coupling that with the fact that as a teenager abstinence wasn't even really something I considered. After all, with lame arguments like "it's the only method that is 100% effective against pregnancy and STDs" I didn't have much reason given to me to refrain from having sex. I knew that careful use of the pill was up to 99% effective and that method coupled with condoms (and a partner who wasn't sexually experienced) was a safe bet, so the coaches' words (as well as the "Just say no" approach) rang hollow. For now, my view is that abstinence should be presented as a definite option with a thorough explanation of all of the reasons it is a good idea (not just disease and pregnancy prevention) but that details on all of the other forms of birth control and STD prevention should be shared with students as well. After all, we know most of them are already having sex and pretending otherwise is irresponsible. However, from what I understand, our federal government has financially enticed states to prevent such education--in favor of the abstinence only approach.

15 comments:

Accidentally Me said...

Donna Martin graduates! Donna Martin graduates! Donna Martin graduates! Donna Martin graduates!

Aaron said...

I agree on the boring sex ed classes. I waited until long into my college years to bump uglies, but still. Thinking that kids as early as their young teens aren't having sex is rediculous.

I always thought the facts were startling when used accordingly. Such as, line 5 kids up in the front of the class and say, "Statistically speaking, one of these five students at the front of the classroom has an STD." After all the jeers, the reality may just sit in. Of course, that approach will prolly get a lawsuit or two opened. ;)

e.b. said...

AM beat me to it! Thanks for the 90210 reference.

I agree that it needs to be an education - teach people all the facts so they can understand what they are entering into and how to deal with the ramifications of sexual activity.

Trixie said...

I'm with Aaron, I don't know how young kids (pre teen) can have sex and possibly enjoy it or know what to do, besides the fact they are not emotionally prepared for the repurcussions.

I believe in promoting abstinence in addition to safe sex.

Billy said...

Trixie....sex is one, if not the most, of the primal urges. Some 12 year olds I would guess are physically advanced and sex feels good....so they do it.

Abstinence only is "Fucking Stupid" as I like to say.

Teach preventive methods. Offer all the options, and know that statistically, 45% of boys and 30% of girls 15-17 are admitting to having sex. ADMITTING is the key word. That means the stats are probably low.

Jeff Price said...

Unfortunately, just as “abstinence only” is not the best answer neither is “tell them everything”. We live in an age where information is a precious commodity; and paradoxically enough, in an era where getting that information fix was never easier. Your assumption is that kids WILL jump in a pool, and your answer for that is state instruction on how to swim. Where are the parents in that scenario?

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 14:20, “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.” I don’t expect the government to legislate Scripture and impose the idea that children should be taught that pre-marital sex is not what God intended. Nor do I expect the government to teach children (at younger and younger ages) about the birds, the bees, and the STDs. That is the role of the parents and they have been slowly abdicating more and more of their responsibilities to government, which is a dangerous trend.

It’s just not as simple as, “abstinence only” versus “tell them everything” when it comes to parental roles being filled by the nanny state. Just something to think about as you ponder kids swimming in the gene pool.

brookem said...

So I've been thinking of blogging about this too. And here's something- my 14 year old "little sister" (through Big Brothers/Big Sisters), is preggers. That's right. She's 14. And she's pregnant.
Which just backs up EVEN MORE my believe and agreement with you that ALL methods of birth control should be taught in school. Clearly kids are having sex, and uh, kids, and it just goes to show that there needs to be even more education out there. In the end, I believe that they will do what they want, but at least the school can educate them about how to be safe about it then.

cdp said...

I howled over the title, especially after reading the first paragraph because I so, so, SO knew exactly what you referencing. It is indeed a classic, and I remember it well. Misty watercolor memories . . . ;-)

Anyhoo, this is an important topic and your thoughts on it are concise and well-informed. A product of Catholic school, my "sex ed" class was interesting if nothing else. Apparently I should've paid a little more attention to something at some point as I found myself a little pregnant my sophomore year of college.

Perhaps this is simply a testament to the gentle (yet sometimes surprising) hand of providence; as I can without hesitation tell you that William is, was, and always will be, without question, the best thing that ever happened to me.

cdp said...

PS - umm, what does one have to do to get put on your link list?

Ally said...

AM: I am glad I'm not the only one who remembers so well:)

Aaron: I think it's really really hard to help teenagers realize their immortality and the extremely high likelihood of contracting STDs. Your example might be a helpful start though.

e.b.: All of the facts certainly seems better to me than refusing to even acknowledge condoms, etc.

Trixie: It is so sad that 12 year olds are having sex or even really thinking about it.

Billy: Preventive measures including how to say no (instead of just telling them to say it) and how to draw lines and resist urges seems to be a component that is missing from the current teaching.

Ally said...

CDP: It's done! I'm just lazy...you have to be like Ivy and e-mail me your link to remind me:) As for William, I love how God uses everything for His (and our) good. I feel much of the same way about my oldest niece.

Brookem: Wow, that's really sad. Children now seem to have shorter and shorter childhoods.

Jeff: I agree that the abdication of parental responsiblity to our government and schools is a shame--and with the high rates of young girls having babies, I don't see an improvement in that arena in our future. But for now, if we're going to have "sex education" in our schools and use our tax money to do so, then we might as well do it responsibly.

Jordan said...

Where I work, I see a lot of teen mothers that have NO clue to what they're doing with these newborns... maybe they should spend a few days in the labor & delivery department of their hospital to see first hand where this baby enters the world from.. :)

ella w. said...

I've hear don NPR about the "abstinence" methodology of teaching. While I agree it is a good approach, I don't think it's going to stop kids from having sex - there is just a lot of peer pressure. There are "rainbow" parties where girls wearing different colored lipstick all have oral sex with one or more guys, leaving the guys with a "rainbow" colored penis. I can only imagine what that can lead to.

I remember having sex-ed class in the 4th grade. I think it was because some girl kept clogging up the toilets with pads.

Ally said...

Ella: Your last sentence made me laugh. Hilarious. And I've read about the rainbow deal; that has nothing to do with sexual pleasure for those girls, and it's heartbreaking.

Jordan: That's the scary part about babies having babies--they have no idea what they are even signing up for.

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