The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that Governor Tim Kaine has eliminated state funding for federally mandated “abstinence-only” programs; Virginia now joins 13 other states that have rejected this kind of fake sexuality “education.” The premise here shouldn’t be hard to understand; if we’re going to spend public money on an educational program, that program needs to be evidence-based, not driven by ideology.
We had some exposure to this type of program in Loudoun earlier this year via the appearance of self-identified “educational comedian” Keith Deltano in a few of our high schools. “Abstinence-only” (also sometimes known as “abstinence-only-until-marriage”) is a misguided approach to sex-ed that is more indoctrination than education. Some parents like because it reflects their beliefs, but it leaves young people without the basic information they need to make responsible decisions and to protect themselves when they do become sexually active. Deltano’s program is typical of the genre in that it misrepresents medical research, relies on fear and shame to control behavior, and reinforces dehumanizing gender stereotypes.
For more information on the failure of these programs, see:
What the research says about abstinence-only-until-marriage programs
SEICUS review of the Keith Deltano program in Loudoun
Emerging Answers 2007 (comprehensive review of the research)
The Education of Shelby Knox
In addition to its ineffectiveness in reducing negative outcomes, the “abstinence until marriage” standard where marriage is not an option sends the harmful message to GLBT youth that they should not expect to have healthy adult intimacy. There is no acknowledgment in these programs of human sexuality other than for the purpose of procreation within marriage between a man and a woman.
Kaine’s plan to cut this wasteful funding from the budget was made public over six weeks ago, so it’s not clear why it’s just now making the news. Predictably, the Some Families Foundation types “reacted angrily,” and complained that the decision was “hidden” from them. Don’t they have people whose job it is to track this stuff? How interesting that they suddenly noticed this and decided to pitch a fit – after the election.
Not Larry Sabato points out that Fairfax Senator Ken Cuccinelli, whose district does not even participate in any “abstinence-only” programs and was not receiving any of this funding, is now the ringleader of those threatening to reverse this decision. Cuccinelli very narrowly won re-election (a recount is in progress) by downplaying his extremist ideas about sexuality; we surmise that he won’t be running for this seat again.
If anti-family, anti-science candidates like Cuccinelli considered this to be a winning issue, we would have seen it trotted out as campaign fodder. The fact is that most parents want their kids to have accurate information, and support comprehensive sexuality education. This is not a issue on which these folks can win elections – but it is good material for the beleaguered “pro-family movement” to paint themselves as victims (poor things) and use to try to reinvigorate their base after the smackdown they received at the polls. Expect much apocalyptic hand-wringing at this evening’s “Virginia Family Foundation Gala” in Richmond.