The XX Factor

The Sex-Ed Fine Print

Hanna, that all sounds like such a sensible approach to sex ed . Get 13-year-olds to role play about how to wait. Tell 15- and 16-year-olds about waiting and also about condoms. Pretty much what I’d want for my kids. Stripped of its anti-birth-control and wait-for-marriage preaching, abstinence education is absolutely nothing to quarrel with. In fact, I can’t imagine a decent sex ed curriculum for young teens or for older ones that doesn’t talk about the power of sex and the potential value of delaying it.

But the claims being made for this new study are, of course, broader. The abstinence educators don’t want to distinguish this curriculum from all the other ones the Bush administration funded. They want to cotton right up to it. That’s the point of this quote from Valerie Huber of the National Abstinence Education Association in the Washington Post : “For our critics to use marriage as the thing that sets the program in this study apart from federally funded programs is an exaggeration and smacks of an effort to dismiss abstinence education rather than understanding what it is.” OK, so if urging teens to save themselves for marriage isn’t part of the core abstinence-only message, what is? If everyone who has been skeptical of abstinence-only ed should open their minds to it now, shouldn’t the promoters recognize that they have some distance to travel as well?