For the first time in over ten years, some government-funded sex education programs in our nation’s schools are moving away from the promotion of abstinence-only.
How is this happening? A five-year, $375 million grant is being divided among 28 programs that have been proven to lower the pregnancy rate, regardless of their strategies, according to a report by the Associated Press.
More Than Just Sex
One such program is the Carrera Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program. Birth control is distributed as part of the program, but students also get art and music classes, science field trips, homework tutoring, mental health counseling and free medical and dental care. They are also required to get summer jobs, open a bank account, save 10 percent of their wages and learn how to balance a checkbook.
“There’s a growing realization that we have to talk to young people about relationships. It’s not just about body parts,” says Bill Alpert, chief program officer for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
But Abstinence-Only Programs Still Flourish
As Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux wrote here several months ago, abstinence programs do still receive a $50 million annual federal grant, as part of the recently passed health care reform act. To receive this funding, states must match $3 for every $4, and about 30 states have applied for that money. However, the $375 million Health and Human Services grant does not require states to provide matching funds.
But Do They Work?
The abstinence-centred approach was funded by a Republican Congress in the late 1990s and then under President George W. Bush to the tune of around $1.5 billion. Critics point out there is little proof that these programs lowered the teen pregnancy rate. In fact, the teen birth rate rose from 2005 to 2007 after years of a steady decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Two Very Diverse Perspectives on Sex Ed.
Is it a good thing that two very diverse approaches to sex education are being funded by the government simultaneously?
However the teaching happens, it seems that while most teens have had some formal sex education, many fewer have been taught birth control methods, reports the CDC. And presumably even fewer have learned through sex education programs to value their sexuality as an important component of their identity, or to get a sense of who they are and what they want; knowledge that can lead to better decision-making overall.
Let’s hope these new programs succeed.
Creative Commons - Monica Arellano=Ongpin