What If

Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

May 28, 2004

A basket of condoms sits on the counter in many of our nation’s high schools.  Down the hall, educators are busy teaching students how to put condoms on the finger of their partner and assigning them homework to shop with their friends for condoms.  “If your parents would object,” they are told, “don’t tell them.”

Abstinence is mentioned.  It’s a choice.  Then students are told by their teacher, “When you are mature enough to have sex, this is how you do it.”  And she hands them a condom.

COMPREHENSIVE sex education is a modern effort to “help” our children learn about sex.   Yet, as we pour more condoms into the basket, and give students an “A” in condom shopping, there is no clinical evidence to prove the effectiveness of condoms in preventing syphilis, Chlamydia, HPV, or genital herpes.  For teens, condoms have a nearly 20% failure rate in preventing pregnancy.

While parents are worried, the “professionals” pull out roomfuls of research that insists our kids need to have COMPREHENSIVE sex education.  And how could research ever be wrong?

Sometimes it helps to take ten steps backwards and look at things through new glasses in order to see the obvious.  What if we were talking about cigarettes instead of sex?

COMPREHENSIVE Tobacco Education – What If?

Imagine…somewhere in the hallowed halls of governmental programs…

Sarah stared at the reports on her desk.  A major government study had just concluded that kids are still smoking.

Sarah knew the truth of it on a personal level.  Her son Tony complained to her about the bathrooms at his junior high.  He hated to use them because they were a hideout for the kids who smoked.

Maybe this was her chance.  She had been given the special assignment to draft a Comprehensive Tobacco Safety program.  She could make a difference for the teens in America.

Logistics suggested the perfect place to reach all teens would be in the schools, a school-based comprehensive program.  Thinking of the kids at Tony’s school, Sarah knew no matter what she did, no matter what she said, some kids were going to smoke.  Struck by this insight, she turned to the computer and began writing.

“While we know the healthiest choice for teens is to abstain from smoking, we are taking a reality-based approach.  Some kids will insist on smoking, no matter what we say.  In order to gain their attention and reinforce their self-esteem, we will suggest that some people choose abstinence.  Then we will provide lessons for this target group of teen smokers.

“A one-week series of lessons for every student will focus on safe smoking, showing that cigarettes with filters will reduce the risk of lung cancer.  Because many students and their parents smoke, we won’t offend anyone by declaring smoking ‘wrong’ or ‘bad.’  We will simply label it a choice.  We won’t tell teens what to do.  As a values-neutral program, we will suggest that mature people, if they choose to smoke, will make sure to smoke safely.  To this end, we will invite teens to participate in focus groups advising us on the best brands of filtered cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to put in the school’s guidance office.”

Sarah sat back and closed her eyes.  In the quiet, as the clock softly chimed, her eyes popped open in a moment of divine inspiration.  She turned back to the computer. “Government funding will pay tobacco companies to develop and teach this Safe Smoking program!”

With the finished proposal in hand, she walked into her Director’s office.  “Here,” she said, plopping the folder down.  “It’s a comprehensive plan to teach our children about tobacco.  What do you think?”


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 April 16, 2004:   One Stop Shopping