April 28, 2004 | Commentary on Family and Marriage
When was the last time you looked at a high-school "health" book? If it's been awhile, you'd probably be more than a little shocked by the content of what is known as "Family Life Education" in many states. Long gone are the days of biology class where kids were taught about their bodies and the basics of reproduction. Today's materials include detailed discussions - complete with graphic illustrations - of pure raw sex in many forms.
The approach is referred to as "safe sex." The defeatist mentality behind the approach is "kids are going to have sex anyway, so we should show them how to have 'safe sex.'"
That, my friends, is a vicious lie.
It is a lie that sells our children short. It is a view that robs our kids of the opportunity to develop into disciplined human beings. It is a vision of failure for them and their futures.
Exposing kids to graphic discussions of sexual activity - to what amounts to verbal pornography in the classroom - is also just plain stupid.
As the mother of two teenagers, I am amazed at the naivete of those who believe that teen boys actually have the ability to listen to detailed discussions of condom usage and sexual activities in one class, and then concentrate on equally exciting topics, as say, algebra or chemistry, the next.
Parents know better.
We know our teenagers' bodies are raging with hormones. We know middle- and high-school years find both genders suddenly obsessed with the ways of the other. We know every form of media - from music, to videos, to commercials to TV shows - are filled with sexual messages geared toward our kids. For crying out loud, the last thing parents want is for our children to become sexually aroused by teachers and textbooks between English and European History classes. Health curricula should teach our kids how to avoid peer pressure and how to practice abstinence - not titillate them with graphic details.
Lest you think I'm "out of touch" with the reality, a recent paper from The Heritage Foundation reports on a poll in which parents around the country were asked which approach they prefer health classes take. Guess what. Parents want schools to tell their children "no" when it comes to sex. Nearly half say tell them no sex at all before marriage. Another third say schools should teach students to say no until they are adults.
Nine in 10 parents say that when teachers do teach about "the facts of life" they want them to link sex to qualities most likely found in marriage - qualities like commitment, love and intimacy. Nearly 96 percent want their children taught that abstinence is best for preventing sexually transmitted diseases, a host of psychological and emotional problems, and for enabling them to form healthy relationships and marriages later on.
Parents want the no-sex message to come through loud and clear. Why? Because they know it works.
In the decade or so that true "abstinence-only" programs have grown in popularity, the percentage of teens who say they have had sex by the time they leave high school has fallen from 56 to 48. A popular component of the abstinence-only move - virginity pledges - has produced even better results.
According to Heritage research fellow Robert Rector, teens who took the pledge - about 16 percent of the girls in America and 10 percent of the boys - had one-fourth the level of sexual activity during their teen years as those who didn't. The teens reported overwhelmingly that the reason they didn't have sex was they had taken these pledges.
This should cause adults everywhere to pause and consider a powerful truth: Teenagers can act responsibly when it is expected of them.
When adults set standards of decency for children, empower them to accept the challenge, believe that they can live it up to it and give them tools to do so, teenagers respond.
I hear all the time about how America is going to heck in a hand basket - how morals are slipping and people no longer seem to care about what is right. Well, as it turns out, parents do know right from wrong, and it's high time we take back the night. It's time to reject the dark and hopeless view that teenagers are inherently evil and gutless.
As I've said before, the problem isn't "these kids today" - the problem is "these adults today." Adults write the doomsday "health" curricula. Adults produce the sexualized commercials and videos and movies and music geared toward kids. And it is adults who can turn the tide.
Thankfully, parents don't have to go it alone. There are plenty of resources to enable you to help your child succeed - find other parents who share your values, look for dynamic church youth groups, and check out great online resources like Focus On The Family.
Parents: You are the first and last line of defense for your children. It's time to step up to the plate and make your voice heard loud and clear - in your local schools, your community and among your peers.
Your children need you to lead the way.
Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think-tank whose 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. She is also the former vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily and her 60-second radio commentaries can be heard on the Salem Communications Network.
First appeared on WorldNetDaily.com