Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Newspaper headline: "Teen birthrates rose, therefore abstinence only education is a failure!"

Our local newspaper, The Courier Journal (Dad calls it The Curious Urinal, but that's a little too vulgar for my blog), published an editorial which cited the rise in teen births as evidence that abstinence only education isn't working. Let's play spot the fallacy, shall we? the following is the text of the editorial, with my comments in bold.

Some responded with shock to the news that U.S. teen births rose 3 percent in 2006, the biggest increase since 1991. Notice that he(?) is talking about births here, not pregnancies.

The majority of the 440,000 such births in 2006 were to girls between 15 and 19 years old. Black teens saw the largest increase, but these statistics were up among all ethnic groups except Asians.

We can hope that this is a statistical fluke, not the start of a trend.

However, we believe the case has been made anew for a balanced approach to sex education. Abstinence-only programs have been showered with federal dollars during the Bush years, but they're not realistic.Huh? Got any evidence for this claim?

And that's notwithstanding one conservative scholar's ridiculous claim that teens who became pregnant were "highly educated about contraceptives but wanted to have babies." His line of reasoning is easily discredited by scientific findings that teenage brains are works in progress. Development is slow in the region of the brain that allows one to fully consider the consequences of actions, for oneself or for others.Stating that teenagers brains are not fully developed and/or unable to understand consequences is an argument for parental supervision and perhaps a "no dating until your brain is fully developed and you are ready to put someone else's needs before your own" rule, of course this would prevent some people from dating until they are 40, but that's another topic . . .

What's needed for people in that age group is comprehensive sex education. Abstinence is an important option, of course, and should be included in any well-thought-out program. So this editor thinks that someone who has no concept of consequences should be given condoms and that will just solve everything? Is this supposed to be peruasive? Sorry, Charlie. Teenaged promiscuity is the problem. To solve the problem, you must address the problem.

However, really effective sex education also should involve frank discussions about sexuality, including the use of condoms to avoid unwanted pregnancies and prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Again, you've stated that teenagers can't use their brains. Taking the taboo off of promiscuity isn't the answer. Teens coming from non-actively religious households may enjoy the sex without consequences message, but no one has bothered to show that this type of behavior, i.e. sterilized, extramarital sexual activity has no negative effect. Putting aside the fact that such behavior is offensive to God, isn't there evidence that teenaged sexual avtivity leads to depression, eating disorders, and inability to form emotional attachments, among a host of other problems, not to mention BABIES?

Yes, it's crucial that we talk to teenagers about the moral and physical risks of having sex, especially before they're mature enough to understand the potential consequences. However, our great challenge is to arm young people with the best possible information, so that they are more likely to make the best possible decisions, if, which is likely, they sometimes find themselves feeling overwhelmed by an urge that's as normal as breathing. Isn't the best decision staying abstinent until marriage? Furthermore, didn't this editor already state that teens don't have well-developed brains? Is he now going to tell us that teens will, with cold, calculating logic, reach for the Trojan in the heat of the moment?

The truly insulting part of this editorial (yes, it is insulting to our intelligence) is the slight of hand as far as pregnancy vs. birth. There is simply insufficient evidence to conclude anything about the role of abstinence only education in this 3% rise in teen birthrates. what this editor has performed is the infamous, post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy, but then wasn't even honest about that, by conflating pregnancy with birth, and not addressing whether the abortion rate had risen, fallen, or remained the same. For example, pregancy rates could have been constant but this is a portion of young women who chose life for their babies, where in prior years they may have aborted. It is even possible that pregnancy rates went DOWN, with a higher birthrate. Furthermore, were the "conservative critics" right in that the majority of teens getting pregnant were well aware of the availability of condoms? It's a hard sell to say that they weren't, since you would basically have to live in The Shire to be unaware of condoms.

Just for the record, I am personally opposed to any kind of "sex ed." in public schools, outside of a biological explanation of how babies come to be, whatsoever. Partly because I don't trust public educrats to teach abstinence properly (whatever happened to chastity?), and partly becuase I think parents bear the responsibility of teaching their children morals. When this type of responsibility gets farmed out to the government, parents end up having little to no control over how their children are going to be introduced to sexuality, which will form the basis of their "worldview" on male-female (or considering today's educrats, any other imaginable combo) relationships. It's hard to counteract such a "feel good morality," and once a parent gets wind of it, it may already be too late.


ignorant redneck said...

It continually amazes me. I know of no one who has recieved abstinance only sex ed.

And, when you plot the number of unwed pregnancies and child births, you get a clear correlation--more sex ed, more preggo/baby mommas.

Anonymous said...

Even in Catholic school, my health teacher didn't teach a fully abstinate method of sex-ed. It was something along the lines of "I'm not supposed to tell you about condoms, but they are out there." Incidentally, that's just going to make any kid fifth grade or higher dangerously curious about them.
I guess that's what happens when Catholic schools don't hire Catholic teachers-you wind up not being a Catholic school in the ways that really matter.