What Abstinence Education Gets Right
Interview With Chastity Speaker Jason Evert
SAN DIEGO, California, JULY 13, 2007 (Zenit) - A recent study published by a public policy research firm that claims abstinence education programs aren't effective, doesn't tell the whole story, says an expert.
Jason Evert, an international chastity speaker, author and full-time apologist for Catholic Answers, disagrees with the methods and findings of the study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc .
Evert shared with us what the study gets wrong, and what good abstinence education programs get right in helping teens save sex for marriage.
Q: A recent study found that abstinence-education programs "don't work." What, specifically, did the study find? What do you think of the study's findings?
Evert: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., tracked 1,209 students in four elementary and middle school abstinence programs to determine if the education they received impacted their sexual behavior. What the researchers found was that the "programs had no effect on the sexual abstinence of youth" two to five years after the program ended.
This study, however, had serious flaws.
First, the students in the study were between the ages of nine and 11, which is hardly the age at which young people understand the relevance of an abstinence message.
Second, the study had no high school component, and the students had no follow-up to the program -- especially when they would have needed it the most, during the teenage years.
In the words of the Mathematica researchers, "The findings provide no information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented for high school youth or began at earlier ages but served youth through high school."
Third, the researchers did not evaluate a comparable sexual education program in order to compare the findings.
Fourth, the majority of the students were poor African American children from broken families. Such youth are considered high risk for early sexual activity. Therefore, their behaviors are not representative of most young people.
Fifth, the sample of four schools studied represents less than 1% of the more than 900 abstinence programs that receive federal funding.
Sixth, the abstinence programs that were studied have already been revised and updated. Therefore, any conclusions drawn from them are outdated.
The Mathematica study was released for one reason: to influence congressional leaders to restrict the amount of funding given to abstinence education.
Since the early 1990s, abstinence education has received millions of dollars in federal grants. Although the government provides $12 worth of sexual education for every $1 given to promote abstinence, any financial support for abstinence means less money available for its opponents.
The good news about this study is that it shows how desperate the opponents of abstinence education have become. If this research -- which cost taxpayers $6 million -- is the best case against the effectiveness of abstinence education, we're in good shape.
The media's frenzy over this study is another effort to distract the public from the fact that sexual education has been a complete failure.
After decades of "safe sex" education in the United States, nearly half of the 19 million new sexually transmitted disease infections each year are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.
In the words of Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector, "The number-one determinant of whether a person will catch a sexually transmitted disease is the number of lifetime sexual partners. We seem to go out of our way as a government and a nation to avoid telling people that, but we hand out a lot of free condoms."
Q: Do all sexual education programs have the same goal? Are they simply various methods for approaching the public health issues of venereal disease and out-of-wedlock pregnancies?
Evert: There are hundreds of different sexual education programs, and their goals vary. Some focus on HIV or teen pregnancy prevention, while others peddle contraceptives or promote perverse ideologies.
For example, Allendale Pharmaceuticals -- makers of a contraceptive sponge -- gave grant money to Planned Parenthood to create a sexual education curriculum for teens. In this program, the curriculum discusses the sponge 28 times, and birth control is mentioned more than 10 times more than abstinence.
One lesson in the curriculum even tells the teens to create their own advertisement for birth control. Later in the program, the textbook argues that there would be fewer teen pregnancies in America if there wasn't so much social and political pressure for teens to be abstinent until marriage.
While some sexual ...
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