Yesterday, Factchecker brought our attention to Rep. Jimmy Duncan's remarks regarding "abstinence only" education and "elitist" health professionals interfering with parenting.
Also yesterday, the Crone Speaks about the Congressional hearings on whether "abstinence only" education works, and offers some disturbing facts suggesting it doesn't.
Today, Katie Allison Granju over at Knoxville Talks discusses Duncan's remarks and the distinction between parenting and public health strategy.
Coincidentally, just last night the Mrs. and I attended the FYI: Framing Choice graduation party and photo exhibit hosted by the local Planned Parenthood organization.
We met eight kids involved in FYI, a year long peer education program. The participants went through 40 hours of training by health professionals, social workers, and others to learn facts about human sexuality and a variety of related topics such as sexually transmitted infections, rape prevention, pregnancy prevention, talking with their parents, and more, with the goal of providing teens accurate and factual information they need to make informed decisions.
These eight kids were then tasked with making one hundred "education contacts" each among their peers. They exceeded this goal, meaning that more than 800 area teens are now better informed and educated about the choices they make in life. Much of the information they get from the FYI peer education program is not taught in the public education "abstinence only" curriculum.
The photography exhibit was a bonus. There were some amazing photographs, with well thought out concepts and artistic compositions showing great photographic skill. But the photos also communicate powerful and moving messages about the tough choices teens face regarding sexuality and their own developing sense of self as they mature into the adult world.
As Katie notes, kids should get their values from parents, not public education. But there are medical and social science aspects to human growth and development that parents aren't always equipped to discuss from an informed, factual standpoint, even if they are comfortable having the conversation.
That's where public health and sex education comes in -- to fill the gap between the values parents impart to their kids and the facts teens need to make informed decisions within their own framework of values, usually in the face of peer pressure, corporate self-image marketing, and pervasive myth and misinformation picked up "on the street."
The FYI program reached out to more than 800 kids in the Knoxville area. But there are tens of thousands more who are not served by the current public education curriculum. We can do better than this. Last night, the FYI program graduated eight young new lobbyists committed to promoting a policy of straight talk about tough issues in public schools. We should encourage lawmakers to listen to them and learn from their experiences.
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