Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

07/08/2009 (11:12 am)

Brit Government Condom Program Doubles Teen Pregnancy

In the “Urban Yuppie Myth Gets Mugged by Reality” category (a cousin to the “things an 8th grader could tell you that we have to waste research dollars proving” category,) the UK Daily Mail reported a British Department of Health survey showing that a program aimed at reducing teen pregnancy by handing out condoms and teaching safe sex resulted in doubling the rate of teen pregnancy among the girls in the program.

A multi-million pound initiative to reduce teenage pregnancies more than doubled the number of girls conceiving.

The Government-backed scheme tried to persuade teenage girls not to get pregnant by handing out condoms and teaching them about sex.

But research funded by the Department of Health shows that young women who attended the programme, at a cost of £2,500 each, were ‘significantly’ more likely to become pregnant than those on other youth programmes who were not given contraception and sex advice.

A total of 16 per cent of those on the Young People’s Development Programme conceived compared with just 6 per cent in other programmes.

This speaks directly to the incredible myth believed by a large number of Americans, that somehow teaching our already-media-sex-saturated kids about sex and giving them condoms is a means to reduce both teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted disease, but that encouraging them to refrain from sex will have no effect. A recent survey of research reporting on comprehensive sex ed and abstinence programs in America reported that abstinence programs actually work better than comprehensive sex ed.

The British launched their program in 2004 based on reports from a program in New York that, in retrospect, may have cooked the books in order to seem more effective:

The failed YPDP, launched in 2004, was based on a similar scheme in New York claimed to have significantly reduced teenage pregnancies.

However, attempts to replicate the work elsewhere in the U.S. did not lead to a fall in teenage pregnancies, casting doubt on the project as a whole.

So, the British program spent £6m on 2,371 teenage girls over a three-year period, and following the New York program’s lead, managed to double their pregnancy rate. The program also aimed at reducing the girls’ cannabis usage and drinking, but apparently had no effect on these.

The report, commissioned by the UK’s Department of Health and published in the British Medical Journal, claimed that the program failed because it gathered at-risk girls into a peer group, which produced pressure on the girls to conform to a self-destructive life pattern. If this assessment is correct, it appears possible than any program that pulled these girls together might have failed for a similar reason, unless that program also empowered the girls somehow to resist peer pressure. However, it is clear that gathering them for the purpose of saying “be safe, and use condoms,” does not solve the problem. This seems like a no-brainer: it’s hard to imagine a teenager in our media culture who does not already know too much about both sex and condoms, and the few who fit that description are probably those least in need of the knowledge.

What teenagers lack is a clear message from the culture saying “It’s virtuous to say ‘No.'” Lacking such a clear message, kids who feel peer pressure to engage in sex in order to fit in have no grounds from which to resist. Widespread abstinence programs give them those grounds by spelling out the consequences of too-early sexual involvement and providing an unambiguous message from adults. Contrary to the urban myth, children do listen to adults, and mark both their convictions and their behavior; they rebel, but they expect parents to resist their rebellion, and they despise those who don’t.

fourabortionsThe saddest item in the story was the sidebar photo, which I’ve clipped and included, reporting a young lady by name and announcing: “No regrets. L… L… had four abortions by the age of 16.” The loosening of sexual mores is normal and healthy for teenagers, don’t you know?

American Boomer parents are afraid to be “hypocrites” by instructing their kids to abstain from sex until they’re in a position to handle it responsibly (e.g., the sexually active couple will be able and willing to care for the kid if they get pregnant) because so many of them acted irresponsibly. This is craven madness. “I made a mistake, so it’s appropriate for you to make the same mistake.” This makes sense? Boomer parents need to grow balls and tell their kids the truth: that premature, casual sex puts them at significant risk of debilitating diseases and pregnancy, that having a kid out of wedlock will make their lives much harder and the kid will suffer as well, that abortion is a risky surgery that endangers future fertility and produces powerful, negative feelings from which it will take them years to recover (not to mention that it’s grossly immoral), and that they are not ready to have sex until they are able to take care of the children that sex is designed to produce.

Or better yet, they tell their kids what one woman I knew told her daughters: “Sex will kill you. No, I don’t mean AIDS; I mean if I find out you’ve been having sex outside of marriage, I will kill you.” Now, that’s parenting.

05/20/2009 (2:11 pm)

Abstinence Ed Outperforms Comprehensive Sex Ed

In a survey of more than 100 studies covering the past 20 years of research in the social sciences, the Institute for Research and Evaluation concluded that “…when measured by the same standards of effectiveness, comprehensive sex education programs in America’s classrooms do not show more evidence of success than abstinence education programs.” Quite the contrary, in fact: when the criteria applied to the programs include measurements of changed behavior lasting more than a year following teens’ program participation, practically none of the comprehensive sex education (CSE) programs produced any measurable change, whereas at least three of the abstinence programs sustained significant reduction in teen sexual activity more than a year after the teens finished the program.

Significant findings from the comprehensive survey of the literature included the following:

  • No school-based CSE programs had been shown to increase the number of teens who used condoms consistently for more than 3 months.
  • No school-based CSE programs demonstrated a decrease in teen pregnancy or STD rates for any subgroup for any period of time.
  • No school-based CSE programs demonstrated that they had increased both teen abstinence and condom use (by the sexually active) for the target population for any time period.

By contrast to these results, school-based abstinence education programs produced the following results:

  • Three recent peer-reviewed studies of school-based abstinence education found significant reductions in sexual activity for the target population of program participants. Two of the programs, Heritage Keepers and Reasons of the Heart, reduced the number of teens who became sexually active by about one-half, 12 months after the program. A third abstinence program, Making a Difference, produced significant reductions in teen sexual activity 24 months after the program.
  • In Emerging Answers 2007 one study of school-based abstinence education found a significant delay in the onset of teen sexual intercourse for the target population of middle school students, 18 months after the program.
  • Several studies have also found that abstinence education did not decrease condom use for teens who later became sexually active.

The last finding is crucial because the usual argument raised against abstinence education is that it leaves kids ignorant of responsible condom use. That’s always seemed ridiculous to me. I would guess that if you surveyed 1,000 middle school kids, you wouldn’t find a single one that didn’t know what a condom was, or how and when to use it; and if you did find such a kid, it would be one of those least likely to actually need the knowledge for the next decade. Hell, I knew how to use condoms at that age, and that was 1966!

The survey disputes commonly-reported findings suggesting that abstinence education produces no effect, while comprehensive sex education does produce positive effects.

From the IRE press release:

Since the purported advantage of CSE is that these programs can increase both abstinence and condom use (among the sexually active), IRE examined whether there were programs that succeeded at both. While 44% of the CSE studies showed improvement in abstinence, there weren’t any school-based CSE programs that demonstrated increases in both abstinence and condom use for the target population (two had subgroup effects), thus showing no real advantage over abstinence programs.

IRE then analyzed these school-based programs according to what it considered to be more meaningful standards of effectiveness: 1) Did the program increase teen abstinence or consistent condom use? 2) Did this behavior change occur for the target population and not just for a subgroup of students? 3) Did the effect last at least one year, that is, from one school year to the next? Applying these criteria, IRE found that a higher percent of school-based abstinence programs were effective than CSE programs: 36% vs. 25%.

This review contradicts recent claims made in Time, Newsweek, and a Congressional letter circulated by Rep. Paul Hodes (D-New Hampshire) that abstinence education has failed while comprehensive sex education has been successful. Dr. Weed expressed surprise that the lack of evidence of CSE success in schools had not been reported: “Research evidence does not support the widespread distribution of comprehensive sex education in the schools or the elimination of abstinence education as a viable prevention strategy.”

The survey suffers from the relatively small number of studies analyzing abstinence education programs; however, the studies that were available were peer-reviewed and published in scholarly journals. A survey by the Heritage Foundation of at least 10 studies showing positive results from abstinence education can be found here.

Personally, I found the emphasis on condom use disappointing. Condoms are notoriously weak at preventing pregnancy among the young (their effectiveness increases with the age of the participants), and they don’t do much at all to prevent the spread of disease. Perhaps I should not be surprised — researchers frequently sport agendas, just like anybody else — but I found it disturbing how many of the studies purporting to measure the effectiveness of sex education programs did not even bother to examine the rates of pregnancy or incidence of sexually-transmitted disease; they simply assumed that condom use would take care of all that. Studies of abstinence education made a similar assumption — those who abstain would not get pregnant or contract an STD — but they’ve got a somewhat better case for that assumption.

It appears to me that the American press and social progressives generally cannot be trusted on any topic that involves the choice to engage in sexual contact whenever and however the individual chooses. On all topics touching this arena, the press, staffed as it is almost entirely by social progressives, routinely reports fiction to mask the astoundingly dire consequences of sexual licentiousness. Folks who rely on the press believe that gays are just straights with a binary switch turned the other way, homosexuality is caused by genes, abortion is a harmless procedure with no serious side-effects, there’s no way to stop kids from engaging in rampant sexuality, there are no serious health consequences from early sexual activity, condoms actually help prevent the spread of STDs, and sex ed classes train kids to engage in sex responsibly. All of the above are urban myths, the new fantasy world of the American libertine culture. Not one of those statements stands after reviewing the relevant research, of which there is plenty. And yet, incredibly, the folks who have bought all these myths, actually believe they’re supported by sound research.

There may be no way to stop all teen sex, but we certainly prevented a lot of it by constructing a culture in which it was taken for granted that well-behaved kids waited until they were ready to marry. The fact that the 1960s culture did not engage in anything within several orders of magnitude of the current level of teen sexuality is proved by the incredibly low numbers of teen pregnancies and of venereal diseases in the 1960s culture, when compared to modern statistics.

Make no mistake; it makes a difference if you tell your kids consistently that they’re not ready for sex, and that they should refrain until they are. It’s not an instant cure-all, and it’s not the only thing you have to do, but doing it makes a difference.

06/26/2008 (9:45 am)

Waxman Gets Pwnd

…and it couldn’ta happened to a nicer guy.

Starting in April, Rep Henry Waxman (D, CA 30th district) initiated hearings in the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which he chairs, to evaluate the usefulness of federal funds spent on sex education programs that feature an attempt to tell kids to abstain from sex until they’re married. Fierce advocate of scientific inquiry and a concern for unvarnished truth that he is, Waxman stacked the panel with professionals who all have some stake in preserving traditional sex education that advocates condom use for safety.

Citizenlink.org produced a nifty little video (two and a half minutes long) that absolutely pwnd Waxman’s committee. Check it out.

Simply put, the majority of “experts” on the panel admitted that their advocacy would not be influenced by facts. Your tax dollars at work.

This is not the first time Waxman has gotten caught attempting to skew the public debate dishonestly. His last attempt was a minority report prepared entirely by Waxman’s staff, but touted inaccurately by the press as a Congressional Report, claiming that there was no support for the claim that abstinence education works. Fortunately, a true Congressional report exposed the fraud; unfortunately, the press didn’t really cover the rebuttal, so folks who rely entirely on news reports have been completely misinformed yet again.

The comment I made a couple of days ago, about how the hatred of Evangelicals may be mostly due to a broad-based desire among Americans to practice sexual incontinence, gets support from the sheer insanity I hear on any subject dealing with sex publicly. It does not take a scientific survey for us to know that more sex will lead to more pregnancy. This is knowledge that’s been available among humans for the entire length of recorded history. The primary variable determining whether you’ll get pregnant is “Did you have sex?” This is not controversial — or, it wouldn’t be if people weren’t trying to rationalize away sexual misconduct.

In sheer contradiction to the Facts of Life, however, we find advocates of “sane” sex education attempting to make the completely laughable claim that it’s not more sex, it’s abstinence education, that’s to blame for the rise in teen pregnancy — a rise that’s, just coincidentally, occurred in perfect synchronization with the rise in teen sexual activity. (I found a typical example at a blog called Cafe’ Philos. Too funny.) Also coincident with the abandonment of the abstinence ethic in America is the meteoric rise in venereal diseases, the rise in teen depression, and the rise in poverty — single women with children are the largest group of welfare recipients in America.

Waxman’s biased panel of “experts” is just one instance of a culture-wide pattern of frantic, fevered rationalization for the grotesquely irresponsible position we’ve taken about sex. More of us need to spend more time propounding the truth on the matter — despite how irritating it will make us seem to our neighbors. And, if we do it the way Stuart Sheppard does, above, we might even get a few laughs from it.