Palin, pregnancy, and sex education

0_61_palin_sarah.jpgThis post started life on a family forum thread, so apologies to the fam for repeating myself.

I associate with a number of people who don’t think that the media attention paid to Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy is fair. I’m a bit more conflicted because it points to an issue I have with Palin’s policies.

The thing is, Sarah Palin holds fiercely to sex education policies that I find horrifying. These are policies that I think will leave many of our children pregnant before they’re ready because rather than acknowledging that a large percentage of teenagers are sexually active, they tell kids to just say no. I’ve got no problem with teaching abstinence in schools but I think it’s irresponsible to only teach abstinence. Recognize that kids will experiment and provide them the tools they need to weather the hormonal storms.

Maybe I can put a more complete face on it this way… when my kids get to puberty, if they choose to experiment with sex or even become promiscuous, I want them to know how to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and disease. I think this teaching is best addressed in the home, so that means I have to prepare to teach them about their options. I’d prefer they abstain, but if they don’t, I don’t want them to have to face the burdens of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease because they didn’t do what I taught them.

Palin’s abstinence-only take on sex education leaves all children whose parents aren’t willing to teach them about safer sex practices with no knowledge to protect themselves from disease or unwanted pregnancy should they decide not to abstain. Many parents won’t teach their children about sex, much less safe sex, so it falls to the schools. Given the early age of sexual initiation in the US, I think our kids deserve better than “just don’t do it” when studies show that a large percentage of our teenagers are sexually active.

In the end Sarah Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy isn’t especially important to me. The sticking point is that I strongly disagree with Palin’s stance on sex education and I think it’s dangerous for America. Kids will do what they will do despite what their parents teach them. I’m not going to say that Palin is a bad mom for choices her daughter has made. I just don’t want her pushing policies on other parents that will put their kids at risk of unwanted pregnancy.

While we’re on sex education… the McCain campaign has decided to make Obama out as a corrupter of youth because of his involvement in an Illinois bill that would teach kindergartners to beware of sexual predators. Obama was a member of the committee that deliberated it, didn’t sponsor it, voted for it, but it never moved beyond there.

How nice to know that the Republican candidates are opposed to helping our kids avoid child molesters… oh wait, now I’m distorting the truth.



Filed under politics

4 responses to “Palin, pregnancy, and sex education

  1. matthewgallagher

    But Palin’s daughter did have sex education. She’s been having sex education classes for years, and Alaska’s sex ed classes are about like everyone elses. And they didn’t prevent stupidity, did they? Sex ed exists, and yet teen pregnancy is higher than ever. People who advocate greater and more explicit sex ed, and at earlier and earlier ages may just be trying to dig themselves out of a hole.

  2. It turns out teen pregnancy is not higher than ever. The latest statistics available from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (for 2006) report teen pregnancy rates at less than half of what they were in 1991.

    This decrease comes out of science-based sex education programs through the 90s which reduced the teen pregnancy rates 16%. What I’m talking about here are science based education programs, not necessarily “more explicit” sex ed. Teaching about contraception doesn’t necessarily require sex education to be more explicit.

    You can get more information and look at the numbers at the CDC’s page on Adolescent Reproductive health, or Advocates for Youth’s graph “Decline in Teenage Pregnancy Rates Precedes Abstinence-Only-Until Marriage Funding,”

    That said, I don’t expect that education will ever stop teen pregnancy entirely. Even if students always learned everything they were taught, actual prevention requires applying what’s been learned. Not all students will do that, whether the method taught is abstinence, contraception, or both.

    As to your comment on earlier age for sex education, I was referring to a specific program aimed at teaching kindergartners how to avoid child molesters. This isn’t about teaching kindergartners how babies are made, it’s about teaching them how to tell the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching and what to do if someone tries to touch them inappropriately. More detail is available at the article I linked to in the post.

  3. Walter

    I feel like there must be something hypocritical about advocating the teaching of both evolution and creationism while disallowing the teaching of safe sex, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

  4. Joel

    Interesting. Are you suggesting that we should actually give our children reliable scientific information? That we should allow them to make decisions based on all the facts available? That’s crazy talk!

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