A dozen years and more than a billion dollars later, the federal government is still sinking funds into abstinence-only education, despite multiple studies from across the nation that prove it simply doesn’t work.
For a recent Rewire video, reporter Charles Stewart took a trip down to Savannah, GA to talk with students, administrators, and researchers. Georgia has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and, in Savannah alone, nearly two teens give birth every day. Yet they recently accepted federal money for another 5 years of "Choosing the Best" education that preaches no sex before marriage, and even teaches that condoms don’t work.
“It shouldn’t be called sex education, it should be called religion class,” said Christal Walker, a student interviewed in Stewart’s video. The three teens interviewed—Walker, Erica Green, Brian Allen—are involved with the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP) which has been working to gain comprehensive sexuality education in high schools across the state. These teens see first-hand how childbirth changes teen lives and are committed to education for their peers that teaches safer sex, not religious doctrine.
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While Savannah may still be grappling with federal funding and sex-ed, G-CAPP has been making strides for the cause. Clarke County, home to Athens, GA, recently adopted comprehensive sexual education. According to an article in the Athens Banner-Herald, “The Board of Education voted 8-1 to end a long-standing practice of abstinence-only education, making it the first school district in the state to teach about contraception and the pill.” G-CAPP will start educating teachers over the summer, and the district will implement the new curriculum in August 2009.
Education should be about giving individuals knowledge so they can make good choices for the rest of their lives, not preaching a value set that is outdated and ineffective. Abstinence-only programs put teens at a disadvantage because they don’t provide the tools to make wise decisions.
Having sex may be intuitive, but unfortunately safer-sex practices aren’t—and it’s about time school districts across the country interpret high teen pregnancy rates as the failure of the schools, not of the students.