- CRITTER TALK
- SCI/TECH/OTHER STUFF
Texas lawmakers passed legislation in 1995 urging local school districts to eschew sex education classes in favor of Jesus based abstinence-only sex education. This bizarre measure gave districts the power to decide how, or even if, they would teach sex education. Such a counter-intuitive policy flew in the face of the accepted educational notion that knowledge is power. Unfortunately for the children of Texas, the Bible thumping legislators believed a morality-based strategy was worth trying, so abstinence-only moved forward.
In 2009, fourteen long years after this wrong-headed legislation was passed, David Wiley and Kelly Wilson, professors at Texas State University, conducted a comprehensive review of sex education at 960 of the state’s 1,028 school districts and found that an amazing 94 percent were not giving students any human sexuality instruction beyond abstinence-only. Two percent ignored sex education altogether. Which meant only 4 percent of Texas districts were teaching youngsters about responsible pregnancy, contraception and disease prevention.
The results of this feckless policy have been devastating.
In 1992, Texas had the ninth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. By 2008, it had jumped to third-highest. In other categories, the statistics are just as staggering today: Texas is ahead of the national average in teen births, repeat teen births and high schoolers who have had sex. The state lags behind the national average in high schoolers who have used a condom or birth control pills for their last sexual encounter.
Because of Texas’ dedication to Jesus, the Bible, and other such nonsense, state taxpayers are left with a $1 billion annual bill for teen births and that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Babies born to mothers ages 15 to 17 have poorer health, lower cognitive development, do worse in school and have higher incarceration rates.
Not surprisingly a February poll of bipartisan voters showed 84 percent of Texans said they “favored a comprehensive program that includes teaching abstinence but that also provides scientific-based information.” That approach, abstinence-plus as it’s been called, has been previously endorsed by the the Dallas News, among other Texas newspapers.
Led by Sen. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, lawmakers, however, rather than embracing the will of the public, are using sex education to push an anti-abortion agenda that would lead to state intervention in local decision-making. Say what?
SB 521, co-authored by Paxton, would ban materials or speakers from Planned Parenthood, seen as a tool of the devil by Jesus loving Texans. What makes this even worse is it would require parents to fill out forms to opt-in their children for sex education and the forms would have to be turned in two weeks before sex education is discussed in class. Let’s face it, any parent who has dealt with field-trip permission slips knows how unlikely that is to happen.
Professor Wiley called this a bureaucratic nightmare. “It will shut down sex education in most districts,” he said. He fears that, if it gets to a vote, SB 521 is likely to pass because of its anti-Planned Parenthood tag.
Such ludicrous legislation would be a huge disservice to the state’s children. A much better approach, one more in tune with modern thinking, would be for the Legislature to pass SB 310, a measure by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, which endorses an abstinence-plus approach and leaves control in the hands of local districts.
Don’t Texas lawmakers have anything better to do than engage in culture war games?
Thanks to Dallas News for story contributions.