The Wisconsin State Legislature is to be applauded for moving forward with a much-needed sex education bill. On Thursday the State Senate voted along party lines to ensure that if a public school taught sex education students must be instructed about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases. If the bill is signed into law by Governor Doyle it would take effect in the 2010 school year.
The fact that we just do not mandate sex education in all public schools is still a mystery to me. Puritanical thinking controls more areas of public life than we care to admit, and the fight over this current proposal is proof of that fact. When it comes to a lack of proper sex education we are not only talking about unwanted pregnancies, but also diseases that can lead to death. It would then seem to be clear to all that sex education matters. But that does not stop many from arguing against the needed common-sense legislation.
One of the reasons the bill winding through the state legislature is credible concerns the fact that ‘abstinence only’ is a bankrupt idea. Abstinence programs are outdated, and do not work. They have been proven to make a bad situation worse in that teenagers who pledge never to have sex until marriage fail to use condoms or other protective means when they realize the pledge is just not very practical. Unprotected sex can lead to pregnancy and STD’s and therefore ‘abstinence only’ programs are not what the government should be promoting. Thankfully, most elected Wisconsin Democrats are not drinking the ‘abstinence only’ kool-aid and are putting sound judgement and the health of young people ahead of political posturing.
The fact is that teenagers have sex. Whether we want them to or not, it is going to happen. So with that as a starting point, it is vital that they be supplied with the right information, such as how to use a condom. By pretending that they will not be acting like average teenagers we only delude ourselves. By our failing to provide the necessary facts in order to help them to make sound decisions only undermines the ones we profess to care about.
For Republicans to pretend that ‘abstinence only’ is a practical idea, and use the ‘local control’ argument as a means to fight for it, does not serve our youth. Such arguments may play well to conservative voters at election time, but fail to remedy a real need among our nation’s youth. Thankfully the majority in the state legislature understood the leadership role they needed to play, and acted on behalf of the health and well-being of our state’s youth when passing the sex education bill.
I have long-argued that ‘abstinence only’ programs were not positive ways to instill healthy thoughts about sex to our youth. Playing to those parents who nurture the idea that sex is not a positive or healthy value, and then instilling that in children, (which is the cornerstone of ‘abstinence only’ programs) should not be encouraged in our public schools. There are better ways to deal with teenage sexuality than pretending it does not exist, or foster negative views that will ill-serve the child long into adulthood.