Monday, February 28, 2005

Sex Education 101

From the Sun-Sentinel:

OK, teens, which is true?

A. Condoms will protect you. Or B. Condoms will fail you.

Palm Beach County middle- and high-school students are taught that both statements are correct, and the school district has decided it’s time to stop confusing them.

Administrators are revising next year’s middle-school health curriculum so students get the most up-to-date facts about safe sex. Revisions to the high-school curriculum are planned for 2006.

“There are problems with the statistics that are being given out,” said Fred Barch, a science planner for the school district. “Everyone needs to get together and come to a conclusion.”

To supplement the district’s sex-education curriculum, teachers can choose one of two outside presenters: Be The One — a sister organization to the anti-abortion First Care Centers, which discourages sex until marriage — and Act SMART, sponsored by the American Red Cross, which encourages abstinence but also teaches that condoms can prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

Both provide their classes to the school district for free.

Most teachers invite only one into their classrooms, but some invite both. The contrasting approaches of the two groups have puzzled students, said Dayna Brook-Grober, a science teacher at Eagle’s Landing Middle School west of Boca Raton.

Last year, Be The One came to her classroom first. The speaker emphasized the failure rate of condoms. A few days later, an Act SMART speaker talked of how condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases.

“They were a little confused,” Brook-Grober said of her students. “They were saying, `I thought condoms don’t protect you,’ because that’s what Be The One had just told them.”

Palm Beach County health planners are wading cautiously into this debate, known across the country as pitting “abstinence-only” vs. “abstinence-based” sex education programs.

President Bush has made his philosophy clear: He wants to increase funding for abstinence-only programs, which counsel that just saying no is the only way to avoid getting pregnant before marriage or contacting a sexually transmitted disease.

Anyone who thinks that abstinence-only works has either never been or has forgotten what it’s like to be fifteen. If the adults can’t figure out how to teach sex education to kids, rest assured the kids will find a way to learn on their own.