Western Courier

Our schools need sex-ed

Jason Adams, Courier Staff

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The Department of Health and Human Services issued a statement last weekend laying out new policies for funding teenage pregnancy prevention programs.

The new rules would fund more programs that would promote abstinence and pay less attention to data or evidence on the issue, according to The New York Times. It won’t exclude programs that promote birth control and contraception, but encourage abstinence or “sexual risk reduction.” I mean who would have expected this as President Trump chose Valerie Huber as chief of staff for the department. Before Huber’s call up to the big dance, she was a leader of an abstinence education advocacy organization and her message to teens was pretty much, “don’t do it.”

Trump has not exactly been known to put people in positions where their bias wouldn’t come out, but this is the second time (at least) that we see a person in a position of power that does not know as much about their subject as they should. Such as Secretary of Education Betsy Devos, who has apparently never been in a public school the way she talks about them. For Huber, this was a clear and easy decision on how to lower the risk of teenage pregnancy. For the rest of us, we’re scratching our heads a little on this one. There is no evidence or data that suggests an abstinence only program has any effect on teenage pregnancy. The previous rules for funding promoted approaches that had been studied and showed evidence of decreased pregnancies or sexual activity. The new rules require less to no need for data and more on attitudes and beliefs.

As a psych major, I can confirm this a great way to condition behavior. If you say something enough times it will come true, no matter how strong the hormones are. Seriously, we’re basing prevention of something about as expected as death or taxes on “just don’t do it.” After Nike gets their royalties, maybe we can look at the data that has already been collected and work with programs that show results.

I realize for some states this wouldn’t be much of a change. Very few states have developed high school sex ed programs that go beyond abstinence and STDs. While it’s hard to believe there are actually schools where the health teacher from “Mean Girls” is a reality, there are. It’s a taboo topic that literally runs through the mind of everyone who ever went to high school and we’re making the programs that help the students worse? That doesn’t make any sense. As a strange as it may sound, these are some of the most important classes that high schoolers will take and will affect them more directly than some of their other classes will.

If we used beliefs instead of facts in other classes, there would be major backlash and I probably would have done better in physics. This class shouldn’t be treated differently.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Our schools need sex-ed