September 9, 2003
By Rebecca Hagelin
We didn't mean to turn our son into The Outcast.
Last year, he was the only ninth-grader in his school whose
parents opted him out of the county sex-education classes. We opted
out our two other children also (one in middle school, the other in
grammar school) and we've done so again this year for all
Yes, we probably subjected our eldest to some ridicule. After
all, the high school required my son to check in each day - in
front of his peers - before he went to the library for his "other
My husband and I take the blame for the ridicule because we're
the ones who made him opt out. We didn't know until too late that
our son had to check in each day - you can sure bet we're fighting
that requirement this year. But win that battle or not, we have
very good reasons for opting out all our children again this year -
reasons you may want to ponder if you have students of your
First, we shouldn't have to opt out of sexual education.
We should have to opt in.
Second, the state should focus on teaching our children history,
literature, science, mathematics, etc. Providing kids with
information on sex - beyond a few rudimentary facts that could be
taught in biology class - is our job as parents.
Third, sex ed, as most school districts implement it today,
doesn't work. Programs that focus on "how-to" information do
nothing to reduce teen sexual activity, cut sexually transmitted
diseases or provide the moral underpinnings our kids need.
You hear otherwise - that we need to "get real" with young
people who are bombarded with sexual images, that our only hope is
to teach them how to curb disease and pregnancy through condom use,
that they need to embrace, rather than control, these new feelings
that come with puberty. Malarkey.
What schools should be telling our children in health or biology
classes is that sex outside of marriage is harmful, and just plain
wrong. They should also be equipped with ways on how to say "no."
This approach works. The growth of true abstinence-only curricula,
spurred by demands from parents, is credited with reducing the
overall rate of sex among teens from 56 percent to 46 percent in
the last 10 years. My
colleague Robert Rector notes the best abstinence-only programs
reduce teen sexual activity by up to 60 percent.
Why? Girls tell researchers the main thing they want to know
from sex-education is how to say "no" without hurting boys'
feelings. Not how condoms work. Not how to practice "outercourse."
Not a primer in the use of body oils. They want a way out,
and they want adults to affirm that getting out is
What they get are programs so disingenuous their very names are
lies. They're called abstinence-plus, or abstinence-based, but
they're not about abstinence. They're about the mechanics of
sexuality. They suggest teen couples shop for condoms together and
mark down the store's hours lest they be caught unprepared. In a
recent op-ed, Rector tells of a program that lists ways
teachers can show kids as young as 13 "how to make condoms fun and
These programs offer extensive instruction in how to "satisfy
each other" short of intercourse - showering together, full-body
massages, etc. Does any rational person think these activities make
it less likely they'll graduate to intercourse?
What doesn't work is what the "educational establishment" has
been pushing for 30 years - "frank discussion," "role playing" and
"starting young." Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, an academic who focuses
on family issues, proved as much in a
scathing review of "comprehensive sex-ed" that was published in the
Atlantic magazine. She focused on New Jersey, which pushed this
approach early and aggressively and has the dismal teen pregnancy
and sexually transmitted disease rates to show for it.
"Research does not support the idea that early sex education
will lead to more-responsible sexual behavior in adolescence,"
Whitehead writes. "Nor is there reason to believe that franker
communication will reduce the risks of early teen-age sex."
In fact, she says, the opposite is probably true. In 1980, 67.6
percent of teen-age births in New Jersey were to unmarried mothers
- 11 years of enlightening comprehensive sex ed later, the figure
had jumped to 84 percent. And that's the comprehensive-sex-ed
Like three-fourths of the parents in a recent Zogby poll, I want
my kids told "no" to teen sex, not instructed on how to do it and
escape the consequences. If your school isn't telling your children
"no," then I suggest you opt them out. Better your kids be an
outcast for a few weeks than the victim of an unexpected pregnancy
or STD for life. One day, your children will thank you for it.
is a vice president of The Heritage Foundation.
Reprinted with permission of WorldNetDaily
What schools should be telling our children in health or biology classes is that sex outside of marriage is harmful, and just plain wrong. They should also be equipped with ways on how to say "no."
Senior Communications Fellow
Read More >>
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 200,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2013, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973