Mississippi: Baby Steps to Reduce Teen Pregnancy

Mississippi: Baby Steps to Reduce Teen Pregnancy

Mississippi is finally considering joining the 20th century regarding sex education. The 21st century may be a bit too advanced, but they’ve legislated a sort-of program, according to TIME.

Mississippi has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country—more than triple the rate in New Hampshire, for example. Mississippi is now requiring schools to offer sex education, but with several key requirements that radically undermine it:
* Schools get to decide which grades should teach it;
* School districts can choose from a range of curricula, which do NOT have to be scientifically accurate;
* Programs do NOT have to discuss the effectiveness of contraception (indeed, they don’t have to discuss contraception at all);
* Families can excuse their kids for any reason;
* Boys and girls must be taught separately.

As in all 50 states, a majority of Mississippi parents say they want comprehensive sex education for their kids. But parents feel mixed about this; although 90% of parents say schools should discuss the benefits of abstaining from sex, 3/4 they want birth control methods taught, 2/3 want teens told where to get birth control, and more than half prefer condom demonstrations in class.

School districts and state legislatures repudiating sex ed is nothing new. What’s intriguing is that a state has legislated a program in 2012—and it’s still less progressive than standard comprehensive sex education proposed almost half a century ago. Why bother to mandate anything today when years of scientific evidence and public policy failure are ignored? Mississippi might as well continue with no mandate. At least whatever ignorance and superstition kids acquire would be from their families and churches, without the imprimatur of school.

But the TIME article itself is part of the larger problem.

There are some serious errors in this allegedly objective article. The author says that “several peer-reviewed studies have found comprehensive sex education more effective at reducing teen pregnancy rates than abstinence-only approaches.” “Several studies?” This is like saying that “several studies confirm that exercise is good for you.” Several? How about “practically every single one?”

And unfortunately, the author waits to tell us this until page three—some 1,200 words into the story. You’d think an article about sex education would, um, mention the effectiveness of sex education in the first couple of paragraphs.

But this follows an even worse gaffe: “The research on sex education is hotly disputed.” Hotly disputed? This is true only in the sense that “The alleged fact of the Holocaust is hotly disputed” or “The authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate is hotly disputed.”

If all this is some bizarre attempt to write a story that appears even-handed, it fails miserably. In fact, it mirrors the problem with the sex education programs that Mississippi is instituting—it elevates opinion to the level of competing with fact. You want to hate sex education? Go ahead, it’s a free country. You want to say it doesn’t work, it can’t work? You’re wrong. I don’t say so, science says so.

As a subtle kick in the groin, the TIME story is filed under “Women’s Issues.” You know, along with dog sweaters and recipes for baked apples.

And that’s one reason that sex education languishes in our supposedly modern nation. It’s considered by relatively moderate people as a “Women’s Issue”—not a science issue, not a health issue, not a men’s issue, not an adult’s issue—a women’s issue. After all, who else cares about kids, families, education, or science?

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