State-mandated ignorance

STATE-MANDATED IGNORANCE…. McClatchy ran a disturbing piece the other day, noting the results of a new study examining Texas’ public schools and lessons on sexual health. It wasn’t at all encouraging: “The overwhelming majority of Texas schools use scare tactics and spread myths in place of teaching basic sex and health information that students can use to protect themselves and others.”

The report, Just Say Don’t Know: Sexuality Education in Public Schools, published by the Texas Freedom Network, studied materials from 990 Texas school districts and found that 94% of the districts use “abstinence-only programs that usually pass moral judgments while either downplaying or ignoring contraception and health screenings.” An additional 2% ignore sexual health altogether. “What is left is a miniscule 4 percent of Texas school districts that teach any information about responsible pregnancy and STD prevention, including various contraceptive methods,” the TFN noted.

How bad is it? Frederick Clarkson reported on some of the specifics:

Unsurprisingly, the study found that “more than 3.7 million Texas students attend school in a district where they will not encounter even the most basic information about how to protect themselves from unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).” Just Say Don’t Know reveals that the way that Texas schools address sexuality ranges from incompetent to bizarre, but that there is little oversight from the state or from school districts.

For example, one school district utilizes a skit that compares using a condom to committing suicide. The skit titled “Jumping Off the Bridge” concludes: “Giving a condom to a teen is just like saying, “Well if you insist on killing yourself by jumping off the bridge, at least wear these elbow pads — they may protect you some?” Knowing that STDs can kill and that there is at least a 30% failure rate is like helping the teen kill them self [sic]. It is a lie to call condoms “safe sex.” If there is a 30% failure rate of condoms against life threatening diseases, then calling them a way to have “safe sex” is like “helping” someone commit suicide by giving them elbow pads to “protect” them or finding them the safest spot from the bridge to jump.'”

Crackpot claims about condoms are perhaps the leading misinformation promoted in many school districts, including long discredited assertions that latex condoms have tiny holes large enough for sperm to travel through, even if the condom is otherwise properly used.

Here are some of what the report says about the state of the programs they evaluated: alarming,” “shockingly poor,” “blatant errors of fact mixed with misleading Information,” scare tactics and shaming,” “outdated gender stereotypes” “unconstitutional religious content.” And they say that the “examples are numerous and widespread.”

Let’s not forget that state-mandated ignorance on this scale comes with considerable costs. Texas, thanks to its taxpayer-financed confusion, has one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the nation, costing the state “approximately $1 billion annually for the costs of teen childbearing.”

Data from the CDC further showed that “young Texans overall rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors,” making this “one of the most pressing public health issues facing” Texas.