By Greg Pfundstein
This week, the NYC sex ed mandate became national news. We were helped by an op-ed in the New York Times last week, an article in the NY Post on Sunday, the extensive coverage of our press conference on Monday in Bay Ridge, and the NY Post’s editorial on the issue on Tuesday. There were links to stories about the mandate on the Drudge Report, and national radio personalities covered the news for multiple days. Members of the coalition have made and will continue to make appearances on local and national television. The message that parents deserve a choice is getting out!
With all this attention, the City has been on defensive all week. Their primary strategy has been twofold: first, to argue with a position we are not promoting, namely that there should be no sex ed of any kind in the schools, and second, that the outrageous materials which we have publicized will not be used in the school. The third argument that is being made, now as always, by the city’s apologists is that abstinence education doesn’t work. So let’s briefly answer each of those arguments and dispel the misinformation.
First, we are not opposed to sex ed in schools. While we think it is extremely important that parents be allowed to opt out completely if they think that is what is best for their kids, we think parents deserve to have the school teaching sex ed that is medically accurate, evidence based, and based on a healthy and normal understanding of human sexuality. That is why we are demanding an alternative abstinence curriculum be allowed under the mandate. Since abstinence education has been proven to work (more below), we don’t think the programs allowed in schools should be subjected to an ideological test instead of an evidence test. If the program has been proven to be effective, it shouldn’t be excluded because it doesn’t meet the ideological requirements of Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
Second, this is pretty straightforward. You can visit the DOE’s website here, and you will find the recommended curricula. If you follow the links from the DOE page and purchase the curricula, you will get Health Smart and Reducing the Risk. The Health Smart middle school abstinence teacher’s manual refers teachers to goaskalice.com on page 9 for help with answering students questions. It also refers teachers to the Health Facts books which are part of the curriculum and which refer students and teachers to goaskalice.com. As for the outrageous homework assignments, right there in the Reducing the Risk student workbook is the condom shopping assignment, the visit a clinic assignment, etc. These things are in the recommended curricula, plain and simple.
As for the City’s clarification that it doesn’t require these curricula be used but just any condom based program, they are opening a teeming can of worms. For instance, there is the Be Proud! Be Responsible! curriculum which tells 13 year old children that showering together is a “green light” activity. Reducing the Risk is the best condom-based program on the market, and the City should stick with defending that.
Finally, there is the claim that abstinence education doesn’t work. It just isn’t true. There are over twenty programs that have been shown in rigorous independent evaluations to have a statistically significant effect on delaying sexual debut, and in the cases where they have measured for it, there is no difference in condom use between kids in abstinence programs and comprehensive programs. Besides, you can’t claim that it is impossible to teach kids to be abstinent and that the Reducing the Risk program does it. In fact, Reducing the Risk has not been shown to increase condom use, only to delay sexual debut. Since that is the case, why can’t we have an alternative program that will do the same thing, minus all the offensive material. Parents who want their kids shopping for condoms and visiting clinics can have that; the rest of us can have an equally effective program.
Those are the major points to keep in mind as the coverage of this battle continues. Don’t forget to call the Mayor and the Chancellor to demand an alternative!