Debbie Wilson was concerned about her grandson. The retired Kentucky schoolteacher was worried because the impressionable13-year-old needed to have the customary conversations about adolescence and sex but his father was frequently away with the Air National Guard and couldn’t always be there to talk with his son. Then Wilson realized her friends and colleagues were equally concerned about their children and grandchildren.
“Kentucky has a very high pregnancy rate,” she said. “At one time it was the highest in the nation.”
Having taught for 24 years, Wilson was all too familiar with the approach schools often took with sex education. A former colleague was absolutely appalled when a health department official visited her 6th grade class for an “explicit” discussion on sex, allowing “the kids to ask questions that got way out of hand.”
This teacher’s fears overwhelmingly represent those of mainstream America. In February, the Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health released a poll that found 61% of parents disapprove or strongly disapprove of “comprehensive” or “safe sex” education and 75% of parents disapprove or strongly disapprove of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sex education curriculum.
“You don’t want to embarrass anybody,” Wilson replied. “You’re just trying to inform.”
Eventually she found an interactive CD endorsed by top government officials and scores of physicians. The CD, titled “Prescriptions for Parents: A Physicians’ Guide to Adolescence and Sex” guided her grandson through the topics of puberty, reproduction, sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) while also taking a hard look at the consequences of having sex before marriage.
Wilson was so impressed with the resource that she decided to take $1000 of her own money to purchase as many copies of the CD as possible for students. Currently, two Kentucky school systems use the resource in their classrooms and Wilson has her eye on tossing the tool to a third school system. She’s even sent the CD to Oprah Winfrey’s staff, hoping they’ll take a look at it.
Since the National Physicians Center (NPC) released their CD least year, more than 8,000 copies have been distributed to teachers, doctor’s offices and crisis pregnancy centers around the country. NPC is a non-profit organization of more than 500 physicians from 45 states who volunteer their time and expertise for health and child welfare issues on both state and national levels.
Physicians at NPC were regularly giving sex talks to their adolescent patients when both parents and teens asked for more information. Finding the message of condom safety perplexing and inaccurate, more than 400 doctors collaborated on the CD, tailoring it to include a comprehensive look at all forms of birth control and abortion procedures.
“It allows the parents to have enough information so that they can really [promote] the concept of abstinence,” said Dr. John Whiffen, NPC Board Chairman. “It’s pretty clear the only safe thing for adolescents to do is be abstinent.”
But abstinence isn’t only the healthiest choice for adolescents, it’s also what the majority of Americans want their kids taught at school. The Coalition for Adolescent Sexual Health poll found 73% of parents approve or strongly approve of abstinence-centered sex education.
Whiffen estimates that 25% of all sexually active unmarried people are infected with an STD. But that staggering statistic still hasn’t registered with some adults.
“I sat with a group of parents,” recalls Wilson, and “they were absolutely dumbfounded over the STD [rate]. They had no idea. They were just unaware!”
But for Whiffen, it isn’t just about STD’s. The California physician traces an increase in teenage sexuality to an increase in teenage pregnancy and disease, to increased high school dropouts, to poverty, to children growing up without fathers, to a life of alcohol, drugs and more poverty.
He knows that some will bristle at the message of abstinence.
“Frankly, anything that touches on sex and sexuality in the US is very controversial,” said Whiffen. “Nobody wants to hear that something they want to do is potentially harmful.”
But Whiffen is convinced about the diagnosis.
“We’ve had a 30 to 40 year experiment now with sexual license. It’s given us an additional 20 STD’s, a much larger number of men unwilling to commit to marriage and it’s increased births out-of-wedlock, increased abortion and frankly caused social disaster.”
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