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April 18, 2007

No Abstinence From Abstinence Programs

"Family Research Council: We need more failed abstinence programs." That, at least, is how Think progress characterizes this.

The latest federal report on abstinence-only programs shows that they have had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.” Nevertheless, the conservative Family Research Council responds that “one logical conclusion is that to achieve the greatest effectiveness, programs must be intensive and long-term, so that the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to reject sex before marriage are constantly reinforced–particularly in the pivotal high school years.”

That our programs don't work merely demonstrates the need for our programs.

April 18, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

just like the war in iraq.
even though it is not working, the commitment to it must be intensive and long-term.
..."consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

Posted by: jacqueline | Apr 18, 2007 9:39:33 AM

Without a moral compass, you could also say that laws against prostitution and drugs and even sports gambling have not stemmed the problem, so let's just cave in, give instructions on how to cook heroin safely, how to be a safe prostitute and how not to take a sucker bet.
Without a moral compass you could also show teens how to fuck.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 18, 2007 9:40:45 AM

I don't think teaching only abstinence is using a moral compass at all. To send people out into the world without important knowledge like, "Hey, if you're going to have sex, here's how a condom works so you don't, you know, die" is horribly immoral. Teaching kids the facts about sex doesn't mean they can't *also* say that they shouldn't have it.

Posted by: Ben | Apr 18, 2007 9:46:55 AM

fred

we can do all that we can to provide a moral compass, but if that alone is not working...if the encouragement and support is not there for young people on a daily basis in family and community, we need to provide information on safe sexual practices. so that we can try to stem the tide on aids, sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome, impaired nervous systems and incompetent parenting.
....of course it would be better for them to abstain, but there is a difference between cncouraging sexual behaviors in young people, and trying to protect them in the event that it occurs.

Posted by: jacqueline | Apr 18, 2007 9:56:06 AM

Abstinence "education" is neither moral nor education. Telling anyone to simply not do something isn't teaching them anything, it's merely giving them instructions. Sure, there's all sorts of bogus material about how condoms break all the time and how girls that don't wait until marriage have stinky girl parts, but that also doesn't constitute "education."

It's also not moral. A "moral compass" means that people have the tools to make choices. Teenagers are not computers, they will not simply follow the instructions programmed into them. For all the talk about "values," the programs that are purportedly designed to instill them do nothing of the sort.

you could also say that laws against prostitution and drugs and even sports gambling have not stemmed the problem, so let's just cave in, give instructions on how to cook heroin safely, how to be a safe prostitute and how not to take a sucker bet.

The only people who advocate this are conservatives constructing a strawman. Though in other settings conservatives are the first to say that anyone who loses money gambling, for example, should just suck it up. They should have known "how not to take a sucker bet."

I'm tired of programs getting foisted upon public schools that accomplish nothing other than salving the conscience of our public scolds.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 18, 2007 10:05:23 AM

That our programs don't work merely demonstrates the need for our programs.

Precisely. The Administration of George W. Bush, in a nutshell.

Oh, and Fred: maybe the "moral compass" has more points on it than merely the anti-sexual obsessions of a lobby of religious fanatics. Teenagers, it may surprise you to learn, don't really need lessons in "how to fuck" - they are going to do it anyway: what "lessons" will be more useful are those dealing with the negative consequences - and how to deflect/deal with them.

Posted by: Jay C | Apr 18, 2007 10:11:09 AM

Perhaps the Family Research Council could devote its considerable resources and influence to urging, um, families to educate their children about sex rather than to figuring out ways for the government to (not) do so. Then maybe people would have fewer suspicions that the FRC has some sort of hidden agenda for our public schools.

Posted by: Ed Martin | Apr 18, 2007 10:15:08 AM

I, for one, reject the FRC and call for a new rigorous standard of getting rid of govt programs that aren't seen to be effective.

Out with COPS! Out with JobCorps/Job Training! If you're not a proven effective program at the 95% sig level, then the government shouldn't provide any money for it!

Posted by: Hederman | Apr 18, 2007 10:24:59 AM

Without a moral compass, you could also say that laws against prostitution and drugs and even sports gambling have not stemmed the problem, so let's just cave in, give instructions on how to cook heroin safely, how to be a safe prostitute and how not to take a sucker bet.

You've failed in every attempt for the last three years to lay out a straw man and baseless argument such as that one to turn anyone else into a right-wing troll like yourself. Maybe you should just give up and send a donation in today to the Hillary '08 campaign.

Posted by: August J. Pollak | Apr 18, 2007 10:40:35 AM

Fred, so you're saying that we should make extra-marital sex illegal? Maybe start arresting high school students for it? Because, you know, I actually do think that would put a dent in the rate at which minors have sex. I just want to know if that's what you're proposing, because gambling and prostitution are actually illegal (in most states).

Posted by: Tyro | Apr 18, 2007 10:41:53 AM

Not to keep harping on the same irrelevant sub-topic as everyone else but Ezra, you just summed up every one of fred's comments on your blog.

Keep clapping republicans. You'll save Tinkerbell yet. And if not, it's only because some treasonous pinkos out there didn't clap as well.

There is no bottom to this well. There is depth to which they, the neo-cons, republicans. fundamentalists and however you wish to describe won't sink to continue on with their failed programs and agenda and the worst thing you can do is legitimize their dishonesty with engagement.

Posted by: ice weasel | Apr 18, 2007 11:06:34 AM

The quote has been deliberately decontextualised so that it implies something different than when read in the body of the FRC's response to the study. Follow the links.

Posted by: the invisible pimp hand | Apr 18, 2007 11:12:32 AM

The wingnut mantra: 'Failure is but a prelude to success.'

Once you understand this, everything about their behavior becomes crystal clear.

Posted by: gregor | Apr 18, 2007 11:31:22 AM

Fred, perhaps you should have read Ezra's post. Let me quote the relevant section:

"The latest federal report on abstinence-only programs shows that they have had “no impacts on rates of sexual abstinence.” "

That means that they aren't accomplishing anything postive. When a law accomplishes nothing positive, perhaps that's bad.

Now, just to help you, let me point out that 'accomplishing nothing positive' is *not*, repeat, *not* equivalent to 'not accomplishing 100%'.

Posted by: Barry | Apr 18, 2007 11:41:58 AM

Yes, let's put the quote in context. Here's a gem from the FRC's statement:

liberal leaders are salivating at the chance to replace abstinence funding with more dollars for Planned Parenthood's empire

There's some fine objective thoughts there, boys.

A recent HHS-sponsored conference in Baltimore unveiled evidence from more than two dozen other studies that abstinence programs are producing positive outcomes for youth. For every study that disparages the abstinence approach, there are many others that point to its success and suggest that effective, long-term programs should be given more funding--not less.

I'd be interested in these studies. Thanks for providing a link to all of your evidence, Tony!

Before anyone complains about not giving quotes context, they should make sure the context isn't even more ridiculous than the excerpt.

Posted by: Stephen | Apr 18, 2007 11:45:35 AM

That means that they aren't accomplishing anything postive. When a law accomplishes nothing positive, perhaps that's bad.

Interesting statement, Barry. Let's put it to the test, shall we?

Fred: Murder rates are up, Barry.
Barry: That means that they aren't accomplishing anything postive. When a law accomplishes nothing positive, perhaps that's bad.

Fred: Voter Fraud is on the rise, Barry.
Barry: That means that they aren't accomplishing anything postive. When a law accomplishes nothing positive, perhaps that's bad.

Fred: Drugs are on the rise, Barry.
Barry: That means that they aren't accomplishing anything postive. When a law accomplishes nothing positive, perhaps that's bad.

Barry doesn't pass the test.


Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 18, 2007 12:29:42 PM

Since Fred hardly ever, or never, agrees with any posts or comments here, and makes his own comments that seem deliberately intended to disrupt, I wonder why Fred doesn't exhibit some abstinence from visiting here, and find a place where his comments are welcome by the community and consistent with his positions.

Its worth noting that the FRC position on abstinence is just another example of faith-based policy-making that has characterized the political right. They want it to work, have faith that it will work, and therefore advocate dumping funds and effort into further use of this approach regardless if makes a positive change in some set of behaviors.

I'd argue that the clear negative outcomes from abstinence from sex before marriage are far more important to the individuals and society than the the measured non-effectiveness of this approach. It isn't that they do no good, they achieve bad results consistently by failing to arm youth with knowledge necessary to protect themselves and others from some negative but avoidable (with knowledge) by products in doing something that nature intended for all living things from grass and flowers to mankind. This sexual behavior is wired-in for all living things, and it just makes moral sense for society to ensure that its young can responsibly respond to the biological signals that their body is sending them.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Apr 18, 2007 12:34:41 PM

Actually, Jim, I suspect that Fred does agree (or at least not disagree) with many posts or comments on this blog. He simply never comments on those posts, because he has no insight to add. he doesn't want to say anything unless it is a means of provoking.

In any case, Fred, I await your input as to whether, since you compared abstinence to anti-gambling and anti-prostitution laws, you think that extramarital sex should be illegal. Obviously, abstinence-only educationisn't efficacious. Since you believe that anti-gambling laws are good ways to address gambling, aren't you saying that you support anti-sex-laws?

Posted by: Tyro | Apr 18, 2007 12:39:01 PM

In any case, Fred, I await your input as to whether, since you compared abstinence to anti-gambling and anti-prostitution laws, you think that extramarital sex should be illegal.

Amongst most highschoolers, it already is.

It's not that I disagree so much as I think the reasoning and inconsitency of Barry and those like him is just stupid.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Apr 18, 2007 1:03:25 PM

Ridicule is an easy substitute for rational argument, and ridicule that misrepresents is even easier. Here's the full FRC statement:

After years of fighting funding for abstinence education, liberal groups are heralding a new research study on several abstinence programs. The Department of Health and Human Services has released a report by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. on a handful of Title V, Section 510 programs. Its findings, which have been radically exaggerated in the media, suggest that changes must be made to select abstinence programs to make them more effective. Tracking four elementary and middle school programs--less than one percent of the 700 abstinence programs that receive federal funding--Mathematica found little improvement in the percent of students who delayed sexual activity as a result of the curriculum. While liberal leaders are salivating at the chance to replace abstinence funding with more dollars for Planned Parenthood's empire, the research has obvious limitations. The four programs that Mathematica evaluated (beginning in 1999) have already been revised and improved, and they are by no means representative of abstinence education as a whole. They also included no high school component--so one logical conclusion is that to achieve the greatest effectiveness, programs must be intensive and long-term, so that the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to reject sex before marriage are constantly reinforced--particularly in the pivotal high school years. Abstinence programs have faced the challenge of improving the services they deliver, and fortunately most have done so. A recent HHS-sponsored conference in Baltimore unveiled evidence from more than two dozen other studies that abstinence programs are producing positive outcomes for youth. For every study that disparages the abstinence approach, there are many others that point to its success and suggest that effective, long-term programs should be given more funding--not less.

Whatever objections can be made to the statement (I don't think it's ridiculous on the whole), it can't be accurately characterized as saying, "That our programs don't work merely demonstrates the need for our programs," and there's no excuse for acting as though it says that. Not only was part of it taken out of context but even that part was misrepresented.

Stephen, here is a link for you (pdf). You at least have dealt with some facts and issues.

There was a study out a few years ago showing that Head Start has no long-term impact on outcomes for disadvantaged youth. The response from liberals was not so different from that of the FRC to this study.

Posted by: Sanpete | Apr 18, 2007 1:04:27 PM

Ridicule is an easy substitute for rational argument

In the case of the FRC, ridicule is the appropriate, even rational, response. No one has a constitutional right to be taken seriously.

Fred, Age of Consent laws, AFAIK, generally do not allow the prosecution of two participants who are below the age of consent.

Abstinence only education doesn't work, neither as a pro-abstinence method or a public health initiatve. Only the fanatical would insist on maintaining them.

Posted by: Tyro | Apr 18, 2007 1:40:41 PM

In the case of the FRC, ridicule is the appropriate, even rational, response. No one has a constitutional right to be taken seriously.

That's a pretty silly argument, on both points. In fact, the first part isn't even argument; it's just a weak, unsupported excuse for misrepresentation and irrationality. The second part is completely irrelevant.

Posted by: Sanpete | Apr 18, 2007 1:49:31 PM

Shorter Sanepete: "People in suits who issue press releases deserve to be engaged and have their concerns addressed, no matter how silly their arguments." Personally, I liked the "Planned Parenthood empire" line, though I probably would have gone for "Planned Parenthood abortion-infertility-industrial-complex," myself. More panache.

On a related note, to judge the effectiveness of federal funding for abstinence education, the mtrics you should use should be to look at the increase in Republican turnout in those districts since the implementation of those programs. This is what federal funding for abstinence education is for-- to support Republican interest groups. We already have clear evidence that it does not result in tangible benefits.

Posted by: Tyro | Apr 18, 2007 2:35:40 PM

> we can do all that we can to provide a moral
> compass, but if that alone is not working...if
> the encouragement and support is not there for
> young people on a daily basis in family and
> community, we need to provide information on
> safe sexual practices.

It appears that your definition of "moral compass" includes the underlying assumption that sex after the age of consent but prior to marriage (if any) is 'wrong' and/or something to be avoided or prevented. If so, please state that explicitly: it is not a belief that is universally shared. Or much at all in fact.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Apr 18, 2007 2:57:00 PM

Good point Cranky. It's a sign of the impact that the Theocratic movement has had on the discourse that people are afraid to state the obvious. Our laws recognize that there is a point at which the state and society really have no authority over an individual's choices regarding sex anymore than they have authority over such choices vis a vis smoking or consuming alcohol. Abstinence only programs for people above the age of consent fly in the face of this.

Posted by: W.B. Reeves | Apr 18, 2007 3:05:50 PM

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