Most of my friends know outside of triathlon I visit various schools and church youth groups promoting the message of abstinence. I am currently the only approved abstinence presenter for the Boulder Valley School District. This afternoon I was in the gym and my friend Joanna asked my thoughts about a front-page article in Boulder's Sunday paper revealing the State of Colorado has declined federal funding for any abstinence-only education. She was curious as to my take on this. The article in our Daily Camera referenced a study indicating the ineffectiveness of abstinence-only education. While I find research and statistics to be of value, they can easily be manipulated for a specific agenda. While some stand firm abstinence-only education does not work based upon a particular study, there are others who will argue it does waving the results of a different study in their hands. As a former director of a crisis pregnancy center, a middle school & high school coach and teacher and someone who has interacted with teens across the country from my speaking this much I know: Today's young people deserve a better kind of love than Jerry Springer has to offer.
Our teens and young adults are the ones most impacted by those making public policy and if you were to ask a middle or high school student what message they prefer you might just be surprised. I believe abstinence is the healthiest option as it offers protection for the complete person: physically, emotionally and socially. If comprehensive health education is going to be taught, as it is within the Boulder Valley School District, all components should be addressed equally. Abstinence eduation should be presented along with contracepion. Unfortunately, many "comprehensive" health education models are left to the discretion of the individual teacher and it is quite likely abstinence is not given due discussion.
Interestingly, over the past several years the Center for Disease Control has changed its language on their website and what was once called "safe sex" is now referred to as "safer sex". This comes on the heels of an abundance of research on the effectiveness of condoms. I am not going to throw out a bunch of stats or reference any studies. I simply know there is no condom, jam, jelly, pill, plug or drug to protect a young person's heart. We live in a sex-saturated society that is constantly hitting our teens over their heads with a sexual sledge hammer. While some argue kids are simply going to "do it" (as evidenced by the Portland Maine school board's recent decision to provide contraception to middle school kids as young as 11 without parental consent/notification) I believe our young people have the ability and skills to practice abstinence. They do have more self-control than the family pet, don't they? I do not tell kids to repress their sexuality and bury it into the ground. It is a gift which should be guarded, treasured and protected. Ultimately, parents are the primary educators and I often encourage them to keep up on current trends, especially with STIs (also known as STDs; seems as it is more politically correct to reference STIs) as we are in the midst of an epidemic. It's a different game being played today than perhaps when you were in school with over 25 different sexually transmitted diseases. Many of these, like HPV, have multiple strains. If I had a young daughter or son I'd be damn open with my discussion on sex. Too much damange can be done if simply left to MTV or an over-burdened teacher to be the main source of information.
Abstinence education is not about squashing a person's sexuality, but rather preserving it for the future.