One Stop Shopping

This week, experts around the nation are convening in Washington, D.C. to review grant proposals submitted for federal abstinence education funding.  There are still many misconceptions about what students learn in abstinence programs.  This week’s column is dedicated to a consideration of what we teach our students and how we teach it.


Jane Jimenez

Jane Jimenez

August 8, 2005

Comprehensive sex education…it’s being sold all over America.  The best thing about comprehensive sex education, we parents are told, is that it teaches our children everything.   That’s right…everything.

It teaches children how to say no…and then it teaches them that they can pleasure each other with mutual masturbation.

It teaches children how to say no…and then it teaches them how to put on a condom.

It teaches children to ask their parents…and then it hands them the address to the nearest clinic where they can get birth control and abortions without telling their parents.

It teaches children that some people save sex until marriage…and then it teaches children that marriage isn’t for everyone.

What is the true message comprehensive sex education gives our teens?  This is only clear when put into context with a real child.

In my first interview with an expert who had been teaching comprehensive sex education for over thirteen years, I came to the end of the hour totally perplexed.  “Safe sex”, perfect use, neutral values, healthy attitudes?  In a moment of frustration, I asked this expert about “my Daughter Debbie.”  What if “Daughter Debbie” sat in on your sex education class?

It’s a simple question, and I have tagged it the Ultimate Test Question for all sex education programs.  If you want to know what all the fancy talk and clever rationales mean, just ask someone about “your own Daughter Debbie.”

13-year-old Daughter Debbie

OK, so, what do you really teach?

What if my 13-year-old Daughter Debbie sat through all of your lessons on sex education and came to you as you were packing to leave with this question:

My boyfriend is at the high school.  He’s 16, and we’ve been talking about having sex.  It seems like if we use a condom we’ll be safe.  I’ve talked it over with some of my friends, and they’re already having sex.  We’re mature.  We know what we’re doing.  Everyone says if we use a condom that we’ll be safe.  I’m thinking I’m going to go ahead…What do you think?

In every interview with every adult who teaches comprehensive sex education, I have concluded with this question.  Not one of these adults would express any opinion to Debbie in answering her question.

At best, several said they would do a quick re-run of all the lessons and options presented.  They might encourage her to talk with “someone she trusts.”  I suggested that Debbie had chosen them as a trustworthy person.  They said she needed someone else.  I mentioned her boyfriend and her girlfriends.  Well…they paused.  And silence set in.

Thinking perhaps I had caught them off-guard, I suggested a possible response:  “As gently and quietly as possible, what if you told Debbie that ultimately she would have to make up her own mind, but that since she had asked you, you would have to say you would not recommend having sex at this point in her life.  Could you tell her that?”

“No,” came the quick reply each time.  “We don’t teach values.”

Most of these educators had been in “the business” for more than ten years.

Consider this additional fact concerning Daughter Debbie.  At 13, she and her sixteen year-old-boyfriend are considering the kind of sex called statutory rape in many states.

Can we really call it conscionable sex education to deny her the wisdom of our counsel—especially when she asks us?  “No, Debbie, I do not believe it is wise for you to begin having sex with your boyfriend.  Can I offer you some help in dealing with this problem?”

One stop shopping that sells children anything they want at any time in their lives is the core of the problem with sex education in America.  If we fail to place a value on sex, if we fail to discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate, if we fail to make value judgments, then we have no reason to be surprised when our children become pregnant and infected with STDs.

One stop shopping…educators who give our children a free pass to do whatever they want when they feel they are ready to do whatever they want…and educators who give them the tools to do it…are they part of the solution…or part of the problem?

One stop shopping…if we tell Daughter Debbie that she can buy anything in the store whenever she wants and that we will write the check for her…then we shouldn’t be surprised if she buys sex with her boyfriend.


One Stop Shopping was first printed April 16, 2004

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