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  • Guest Blog: Following the Science? Not in Sex Ed

    How would it look if the federal government took the same approach to reducing teenage drinking that it takes to reducing teenage pregnancies?

    Instead of telling them to wait, the focus would shift to making teen alcohol consumption “less risky.” Then, strategies would be employed to make teen alcohol consumption “less risky.” School programs would teach teens how to drink, but also encourage them to use good judgment through messages like: “Wait until you know you are ready before you have your first drink.” They would be encouraged to drink alone before deciding to drink with each other. They would be told: “The only one who can decide when you are ready to drink is you.”

    Knowing what we know about teenagers and their ability to assess risk and act accordingly, this sort of approach sounds ludicrous. Nevertheless, that’s precisely the approach we’ve been taking to sex ed for decades. It’s been a miserable failure, of course.

    Nevertheless, the Department of Health and Human Services directs millions of dollars every year to programs like these that are based not on science but on the dated assumptions of the sexual revolution.

    We do it right in other areas. Teens are simply told “no” when it comes to other risky activities like smoking, drinking, and driving below a certain age.

    For those more interested in science than ideology, there is another approach to sex education, one with proven results. It’s called Sexual Risk Avoidance.

    Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a report that examined the problem of teen pregnancies and STDs, and dug into the science behind adolescent behavior. The report, entitled “A Better Approach to Teenage Pregnancy Prevention: Sexual Risk Avoidance,” analyzed the methods used by the government to combat underage drinking, smoking, and reckless driving. These prevention programs each promote “risk avoidance” as the best strategy. The report notes that in each category, avoiding risky behavior and involving parents and peers in decision-making produces the best results.

    The report also looks at brain development among teenagers. According to scientific research, the social and emotional network of the brain becomes highly activated at puberty, yet the cognitive network matures more slowly. This means that if a teenager is thrown into an emotional situation where he or she is expected to show good judgment, the emotional network of the brain will dominate the teen’s ability to weigh the consequences of his or her action. When teenagers are in open communication with parents and peers regarding risky behavior, however, their capacity for acting responsibly is greatly enhanced.

    At his NAACP speech yesterday, Mitt Romney made the important point that (according to the Brookings Institution): “for those who graduate from high school, get a full-time job, and wait until 21 before they marry and then have their first child, the probability of being poor is two percent. And if those factors are absent, the probability of being poor is 76 percent.”

    No sex ed program can replace good parental instruction. Nevertheless, we clearly owe it to our kids to give them the same effective guidance we give them about other risky, adult behaviors. We need to tell them to wait.

    Congressman Joe Pitts (R) represents the 16th Congressional District of Pennsylvania and chairs the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

    The views expressed by guest bloggers on the Foundry do not necessarily reflect the views of The Heritage Foundation.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    15 Responses to Guest Blog: Following the Science? Not in Sex Ed

    1. Bobbie says:

      How about getting the government out? They clearly invade where they can easily spread their ignorance for their gain, less personal responsibility. If the government wasn't teaching sex at such a young age kids wouldn't be so apt to jump in by government approval but would have the self respect to wait and the personal dignity to take responsibilities for any personal chosen act!

    2. Do Right says:

      Why do we need sexualization of kids in the public sphere? Born This Way Foundation is trying to influence teens to embrace immoral sexuality. Office Depot partners with BTW Foundation. Everywhere a teen goes there are meesages about sex. We used to have a society where the television was innocent. There are no more innocent places for kids to grow up in. Christian parenthood has become a minefield.

    3. KSP says:

      This is a money maker for Planned Parenthood. If teens quit risky sexual behaviour there would be less abortions, hence less money of PP. If PP has less money they would give less to the election funds for their politician. Get government out of the spheres they are not compantent in. Which leaves mainly breaking things or blowing them up. (Military)

    4. Andrew says:

      Here's a thought: Take all the federal money for sex education and give it back to the states, which can tailor the programs to fit their own needs and populations. There's no reason why the sex ed program in, say, San Francisco should be the same as in Lubbock, Texas, or Salt Lake City.

    5. Jill says:

      The one thing the schools don't teach the kids is it is okay to say no. They also are so invested in teaching children that they originally crawled out of a swamp that there is no such thing as self control. But the fact is, even animals have self control. Schools are focused on separating child from their souls and they are doing a masterful job.

    6. Pragmatic says:

      This is ridiculous. I'll agree that strong parental involvement and guidance is the best, but to say that we should simply tell kids "no" like we do with alcohol and tobacco is ridiculous – it doesn't work for those substances and it certainly won't work for sex.

      Also, notice which states traditionally are associated with promoting the abstinence-only sex education versus those that don't in this map of teenage pregnancy prevalence.

      • guest says:

        At least then kids won't feel like half the world approves sexual behavior in teens.

        • CforUS says:

          Teach kids what shame is. Now it's cool and "the government will take care of me" is the rule of the day. Modern day slavery.

      • Bobbie says:

        The outside influence by government only promotes more government! Promoting abstinence is much more prevalent a safety measure from stds as any mind of reason would tell you. Regardless of the outcome, personal responsibility is learned. As you point out with tobacco and alcohol government programs and all the money they help themselves to, doesn't work in personal livelihoods and therefore should not take part at our expense. Sex education is not the role of government. Government can educate the facts in biology without emotion or opinion, then personal resources develop. Unconstitutional Government has agenda's for everyone in today's "change" for America. Why are you so supportive of everything controlled by government, Prago?

        • Pragmatic says:

          I'm not supporting government control. I'm saying that it is ridiculous to claim that this notion is an anyway correct:

          "We do it right in other areas. Teens are simply told “no” when it comes to other risky activities like smoking, drinking, and driving below a certain age."

          Again, look at the states who advocate simply telling people "no" when it comes to sex. (see link above)

          Also, you logic is incoherent, please take some time to reread your posts and create a coherent argument or point. Sentences like "Government can educate the facts in biology without emotion or opinion, then person resources develop" do not make any sense.

          • Bobbie says:

            I wrote "personal resources," Prag! Maybe you should reread it? and don't hold me to perfection! If you can't understand what I write or confused to know what I mean when mistakes are made with my words, please tell me! ask questions! From your comment it seems you've been confused often! It's important for mistakes to be corrected so message is clearly understood! Thank you!

            Your term "states" implies government. What if you changed that sentence to say "look at the parents who advocate "no" to their children." Like it should be in America!!

      • wisdom says:

        as you look at that map it talks of birth rates. The flaw in using this to support your argument is that there is no accounting for abortions in these figures. We know that the majority of the states listed in the green sections have significantly higher rates of abortion than others, which in turn skews the data, thus rendering it quite useless for your observation. I do agree with your point that simply telling kids to say no will be a losing fight. The discussion must be done at HOME not in a classroom. Studies repeatedly show that parents who are involved in their kid's lives have a significant impact on lowering risk of drug and alcohol abuse as well as delaying first sexual encounters and lowering the risk of out of wedlock pregnancies.

    7. guest says:

      As a parent and former teenager, I believe the largest disservice our society has done to children is to let boys and girls be alone at any point past the age of 12. The old, old way –chaperoning a teen's every moment is an idea that needs to be renewed.

    8. CforUS says:

      I would rather see some money for teaching parents how to be better parents. A good slogan would be "Your kids are your fault". Taking a VERY active interest in my children's activities without alienating them was, I'm certain, the secret to our success of getting them through college without a youngin.

    9. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Abstanance makes the heart grow fonder. :)

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