Texas Schools Slowly, Begrudgingly Admit Abstinence-Only Education Isn't Working


After years of sexual education that willfully denies the possibility that kids are going to have sex no matter what, some schools in Texas are starting to teach curriculums that information on contraception. This is partly because it isn’t as cheap to yell, “Don’t do it!” to teens as one might think, and there’s less federal money available for abstinence-only programs. But the bigger reason behind the shift is that people are finally facing the fact that abstinence-only programs simply don’t work.

Most schools in Texas are still just telling kids they shouldn’t have sex until they get married, but a growing number are getting more realistic. According to the Texas Tribune, the state’s health department chose not to apply for federal money that supports comprehensive sex-ed, but it’s still the largest recipient of federal grants for abstinence-only programs. President Bush set aside funding for abstinence-only education, but much of that money is gone. Grants created under the Obama administration emphasize “evidence-based” programs that discuss both abstinence and contraception.

This is a consideration for educators in the state, but officials at several schools say they decided to start teaching kids about safe sex because their hallways are beginning to look like a neverending episode of 16 & Pregnant. Salon recently reported that Texas has the fifth highest teen pregnancy rate in the country (plus it ranks third in young people with AIDS and fourth for teens with syphilis). Last year in Midland, President Bush’s childhood home, there were 172 pregnant girls in the school district. This year in addition to abstinence, administrators have decided to start teaching seventh and eighth graders about condoms and other birth control methods.

Previously, many school officials in Texas had come to the irrational conclusion that not knowing how to use a condom would make kids less likely to have sex. Susan Tortolero, director of the University of Texas’ Prevention Research Center, says that recently there’s been more interest in their abstinence-plus program. Tortolero says, “It’s like we’re beyond this argument of abstinence, abstinence plus. Districts want something that works.”

Another indication that Texas is beginnning to move toward better sex-ed programs: Well-known abstience-only educator Ed Ainsworth is getting less work. This year he’ll only be visiting 50 to 60 schools in Texas. During the Bush administration, he was sharing sentiments like this at more than 100 schools per year:

“Will a condom protect your heart? As a female, will a condom protect your reputation? … It might protect you from getting pregnant, it might protect you from getting a disease, but there’s no way it will protect your heart, mind, emotions and reputation. There’s no way. So how can we call it safe?”

To be fair, Ainsworth does present a compelling argument. Contraception can make sex much, much safer, but it won’t prevent the puritanical idiots in your community from labeling you a slut.

More Schools Choose To Teach Abstinence-Plus [NYT]
The Sex Ed Hall Of Shame [Salon]

Image via marekuliasz/Shutterstock.

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