This week the Huffington Post featured 14 posters from bygone days apparently aimed at deterring young folks from premarital sex. While the rather peculiar messaging on these old-time posters might provoke a brief smile, that approach to sex education is about as effective as the so-called abstinence-only programs used in most Texas public schools today — and that is no laughing matter.
In 2009 the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund’s groundbreaking study, Just Say Don’t Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools, provided conclusive, research-based evidence that Texas is failing families and students when it comes to providing the complete and reliable information young people need to make responsible life decisions. Currently, the Education Works! campaign with our coalition partners is providing a vehicle for concerned Texans to support comprehensive sex education in public schools. This approach, which encourages abstinence while also providing evidence-based information on contraception and disease prevention, is urgently needed in a state with one of the highest teen birthrates — and the highest rate of multiple births to teens — in the nation.
During the Bush Administration, federal funding for abstinence education increased dramatically. Texas received the most federal dollars, including more than $10 million in 2009. Our subsequent study demonstrated not only that the majority of Texas students were not getting basic information about contraception, but many were also receiving inaccurate and misleading information promoted by deeply flawed abstinence-only programs and their advocates.
Here are a few of the harsh truths that should lead to comprehensive sex education in Texas without further delay:
• Every ten minutes a teenager in Texas becomes pregnant
• 60% of teenage mothers do not graduate from high school
• Over a recent 13-year period, teen births in Texas are estimated to cost taxpayers $15.1 billion
Students, parents and, in some instances, whole communities are the unwitting victims of the “conspiracy of silence” and the ignorance promoted by abstinence-only-until-marriage advocates. The social, financial and emotional costs are simply too great. For our students to succeed and our state is to be healthy, our elected officials, educators and local opinion leaders must insist that students receive evidence-based, factual information and insight on all subjects, including sex education. The Texas Freedom Network will be working with our coalition partners to promote that responsible agenda during the 2011 legislative session in Austin. If you haven’t already, please show your support for those efforts by signing on to the Education Works! petition here.