Teens in a federally-funded "abstinence-only" program are being taught that touching a person's genitals "can result in pregnancy," according to a congressional staff analysis.
Since I've got a seven-year-old who I hope will get through the teen years without making me a grandfather, I'm all for teaching abstinence. But scaring kids with lies or denying the fact that most kids do have sex before they graduate from high school only undermines the credibility of programs many teens are all too tempted to dismiss when their hormones rage. The fact is that 61 percent of graduating high school seniors have had sex, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control.
Years ago, I contributed a chapter to a book, Teen Pregnancy: Impact on the Schools, and wrote articles and op-ed on the subject for educational publications. The problem seems a little better now, but U.S. teens are still far more likely to give birth than their peers in other industrialized nations. Denying the problem, as too many parents still wish to do, is not the answer. Sex education and teen pregnancy prevention programs are still needed.
The two most important things I learned from my research were:
- there is not one single sex education program for all the teens in America; there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the problem of teen pregnancy.
- adults have until kids are in fifth grade to shape their sexual values. After that, they need to protect their kids the best they can. For kids' peers or their hormones may influence their behavior more than their parents.