Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Leaving Out the 'Only'

The word "only" occurs just a single time in Virginia Buckingham's latest column about Governor Deval Patrick's rejection of federal abstinence-only funds (previously mentioned here) and that single occurrence is in the context of describing how the program "only" has five sessions, not that it "only" teaches abstinence to the exclusion of all other methods of contraception. Why would Buckingham neglect to mention that fact in her column? Probably because she wants readers to think that the Governor doesn't believe kids should be abstinent period. This is a common trick of the right-wing, pretending that opposition to abstinence-only education is the same as opposition to abstinence in general.

I can't say this enough: nobody is against the teaching of abstinence. What people are against is keeping information about contraceptives from children so that if the time comes, they end up engaging in riskier behavior than they would otherwise. Keeping information from students only makes them stupider, and if the state has to supplement the abstinence-only curriculum with comprehensive sex-ed anyway (which includes abstinence), it doesn't seem worth the hassle.

Another quick note on that column -- Buckingham notes that the recent study that showed that abstinence-only education is ineffective did not actually examine the program that was being offered in Massachusetts. This is true, but what the study also said was that if any abstinence-only education is going to be effective, it would have to be continual, over the course of the student's school career. The Healthy Futures program, as Buckingham notes, is "only" five weeks long. It seems unlikely that it would make any difference, and as such it seems like it's just a way to funnel federal money to a favored program.