Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Comprehensive sex ed: Who cares?

As it turns out, most US adults do--and they support the inclusion of comprehensive sex ed in public school curriculum. Isn't it interesting, then, that Rep. Warren Chisum hasn't gotten the message? If he had, he certainly wouldn't have filed HB 311, Relating to parental approval of a student's participation in human sexuality instruction in public schools.

Chisum's bill reverses the current opt-out provision for sexuality education in Texas' public schools to make it opt-in. Whereas parents currently have the option of removing their children from sexuality education if that is their desire, now all parents must specifically sign their children up for this education.

Here are some tidbits from the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey, published in the November issue of the Journal of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (and included in a report on Medscape):
  • The survey was conducted by the Annenberg National Health Communication Survey, a nationally representative measurement of people older than the age of 18 years in the United States. Surveys were conducted by landline telephones between 2005 and 2006.
  • Researchers inquired about respondents feelings about 3 different school-based sex education programs: abstinence only, abstinence plus information regarding contraception and prevention of STIs (comprehensive sex education), and comprehensive sex education plus instruction on the use of condoms. Subjects' responses were placed in reference to their self-described political ideology and rates of attendance of religious services.
  • 1096 respondents provided study data. The mean age of participants was 46.8 years, and 78.7% of subjects were white. Rates of self-identification as conservative, moderate, or liberal were 35.5%, 39.5%, and 25%, respectively. There was a fairly even distribution across different frequencies of attendance at religious services, with 20.4% reporting no attendance and 21.4% reporting attendance once a week.
  • Overall rates of support for comprehensive sex education, comprehensive sex education plus teaching condom use, and abstinence-only education were 82%, 68%, and 36%, respectively. Half of respondents opposed abstinence-only education, making it the most opposed educational option.
  • Only 39% of respondents felt that abstinence was an effective means to prevent unplanned pregnancies. However, 80.4% of subjects felt that comprehensive sex education could reduce unintended pregnancies. Most participants disagreed that teaching teenagers to use condoms would encourage them to have sex. Women tended to have higher rates of opposition to abstinence-only programs compared with men.
  • More liberal political ideology was associated with greater preference for comprehensive sex education. Rates of support for such programs were 70.0%, 86.4%, and 91.6% among participants with conservative, moderate, and liberal political philosophies, respectively.
  • Comprehensive sex education and condom instruction received strong support from respondents who attended religious services a few times a year or less frequently. While abstinence-only programs received more support among subjects who attended church more often, there was equal support for abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education programs among the subgroup of participants who attended services more than once per week.
While I could quibble about how these research results are framed for reporting, the final conclusion is still that US adults support comprehensive sex ed in the schools even when presented with abstinence-only education as an alternative. Even in Texas, there is strong support for comprehensive sex ed in the schools (according to a 2004 Scripps Howard Texas Poll--no link available).

So what's the problem, Warren? Could this be a solution in search of a problem?

1 comment:

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