Protecting Virginia's youths from abstinence

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Many people - parents of high-school-age kids being at the top of the list - would jump out of their seats to support a message promoting abstinence to teenagers. The reasons for this need not even be expounded. So pro-abstinence, "Christian" comedian Keith Deltano's appearance at Loudoun County High School Thursday would seem to be one of those rare instances where the government has managed to do something incredibly right.

An attendee wrote to me describing the event:

The kids were skeptical at first but they really got into it – shouting, clapping, and cheering as Keith told them that "virginity rocks." He presented waiting for sex as a positive life choice that makes it possible for them to pursue their dreams without worrying about STD's and pregnancy.

Who in the world could argue with that? (And who in the Loudoun County Public School system can we send thank you notes and gift baskets to for having the good sense to allow Mr. Deltano to speak?) I'm going to go out on a limb here and speculate that more influences like Keith Deltano would result in less screwed-up lives for young American adults.

But leave it to the ACLU to discern the dark cloud: the dark cloud of CHRISTIANITY!!!

There is nothing wrong with abstinence as the topic of the program, and there is nothing wrong with the fact that it is being performed by a self-described Christian comedian or paid for by a faith-based organization...But this is a public school, and we are naturally concerned that the religious views of the speaker and the sponsoring organization, both of whom make faith-based arguments for abstinence, will seep into the presentation.

God help us all if religious viewpoints should "seep" into a seminar promoting abstinence among teenagers - especially if the seminar was effective!

Lest you surmise simply from the foregoing that the ACLU doesn't deserve the respect of a rat's patoutie, please allow me to point out that our esteemed former paper of record saw fit to frame the event as an insidious intrusion:

"Having so-called secular performances or speeches in public schools by Christian evangelists" is a growing trend, said Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "Schools need to be extremely careful when they tread into these waters."

Americans United, which evolved from an organization formed in the 1940s to advocate for Protestant freedom in the face of a supposed Vatican power-play on American society, is now a strangely full-blown secularist advocacy group referenced whenever the mainstream media needs an anti-Christian source to supplement quotes from the ACLU.

We can be certain America's parents are extremely grateful that AU and ACLU are monitoring the devious machinations of anyone who might attempt to foist Christian values on today's teenagers. Shudder the thought.

Equality Loudoun representatives attended the Thursday assembly and report as follows:

If the behavioral objective is "abstinence until marriage," where does that leave those who are told they may not marry their partner? The message to GLBT kids is "You don't exist. You have no future to look forward to." Unfortunately, this is identical to the message of the entire Family Life Education curriculum, as written. The damage this does to our kids is inexpressible and inexcusable, and this assembly was yet another mandatory dose of it.

The foundational assumption upon which this program is based is that sex is only for procreation. This is unequivocally a religious view ("God's plan for sex"), unsupported by the facts, but it was presented here as if it were self-evident. The simplistic logical arc was explicitly spelled out at one point like this: Being a parent is hard. Are you ready to be a parent? (No.) So are you ready to have sex? (No.) It was as if contraception doesn't exist. It was as if two people never get married and decide to delay childbearing, or forego it altogether. Sex is for making babies, period. Clearly, this idea is central to the world view that Deltano is representing - only he has edited out the part where he articulates it because this is his "secular" show. The result is that this fallacy is even more insidious than would be the case if it were stated outright.

I recommend reading all of David's essay because he states his case well and if you want the "other side" of the argument, that's it.

At the same time, David makes a pretty clear case for why parents of teenagers - whose sexual identities are fluid - might not want the ACLU or David Weintraub guiding their kids' education on sexual matters.

What should stand out about this episode is the blatant protest from the left - the Post, AU, ACLU and Equality Loudoun - that the Keith Deltano presentation at Loudoun County High School was somehow problematic...because it might be Christian. Oh Lord help us if Christianity should be propogated among our children! Bear in mind that Christianity was not being taught - only "Christian" values.

Citizens of Virginia, and parents in particular, need to decide if they fear Christianity more than secularism for the next generation of Virginians.

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charles said:

You know, we could solve a lot of this bickering if we just taught actual SUBJECTS in school, and left all this sex stuff out of it.

IT's only because we've decided to make our public schools intrude into every aspect of our lives that they have turned into a battleground. There's no reason for it.

In once sense, David is right. Teaching abstinence IS teaching a particular morality, the morality that sex is better NOT practiced outside of marriage.

In the end I support the "abstinence" message because frankly it shouldn't take more than a 5-minute presentation to say "don't have sex", and then we could find time to teach our kids what they need to know to be competitive.

But if we simply taught nothing, that would be fine as well. (NOTE: I'm not saying don't teach about the sexes, that is a legitimate scientific field which we all need to know about -- I'm talking about the "sex education" stuff).

Charles, I'm with you to the extent schools SHOULD be focused solely on teaching what kids need to get ahead and move our country forward, but that's pretty idealistic. In reality the public schools are engaged in all sorts of ideological and lifestyle-oriented instruction. (Believe me, David is 100% in favor of some of this, as long as it cuts in his direction).

But you are right: We would be better off if they dropped all of it and added an extra period of science.

Kevin said:

Don't teach about sex, only teach about the sexes? I don't get it?

It would be great if every parent was cool enough to talk to their kids about sex and the perils and all but the parents don't do that. Which makes SOMEbody, schools or otherwise, have to do it.

David said:

Joe: Thanks for the compliment.

I'm puzzled though, because it seems to me that we're in substantial agreement. I mean, the title of my post was "How not to teach sexual responsibility," which sort of implies that I'm in favor of sexual responsibility. I never said that I oppose abstinence outside of a mature and committed relationship. That's also, by the way, why I oppose outdated laws that permit 13 or 14 year old children to "marry."

Where I think we diverge is at the absolute of abstinence *until marriage*, for reasons only partly explained on the EL blog. Not only does this send gay kids the completely wrong message that they can't have a future that includes family, it encourages people to marry extremely young. I would hope that we could agree that it's a mistake for 18 or 20 year old people to get married so they can have sex. That's really a bad reason to get married, and a recipe for marrying the wrong person.

What we should be teaching is sexual ethics, and doing it it in a way that's outcome-based. Did you read the report I cited by the Alan Guttmacher Institute? I can see why the program at LCHS made people feel like they were doing something good, but the data says that the fear-based abstinence only approach just doesn't work. The demonstrable result is ultimately higher rates of risky behavior, STDs and pregnancy, and nobody wants that.

Loudoun Conservative said:

David says, "The foundational assumption upon which this program is based is that sex is ONLY for procreation." (emphasis mine)

I would differ strongly from that statement. This is not Deltano's foundational assumption and it is not mine (nor is it the assumption of the Bible). Have some Christians taught that? Yes. But they did so wrongly and most Christians would take issue with that statement.

David, I do not wish to assume you are being intellectually dishonest in making that statement. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the biblical view of sex. Perhaps you have only seen distorted views of human sexuality as some people of faith have advanced them.

You call Deltano's point (not ready for babies = not ready for sex) "simplistic". As you know from attending the presentation, he is well aware of contraceptive methodology. He wants the kids to be aware of "failure rates."

Understanding the connection between sex and babies is no more simplistic than life itself. To make that connection is NOT the same as believing that procreation is the ONLY purpose of sex.

Sex has many purposes, including promoting intimacy on an emotional / psychology level and bringing physical pleasure. If the sex is fertile sex, pregnancy is a possibility. Contraception may decrease this possibility but it does not completely eliminate it.

Teens need to know this. Deltano told them. That's a good thing.

And, by the way, abstinence is not just fear based (I hope we can agree that some fears are healthy). It is hope based -- hope of better sex in a better future. Fear of pregnancy and STDs are good reasons to delay the onset of sexual activity and they do so. But fear is not a sufficient reason. Hope is necessary too. Is sex in marriage better sex for men and women - especially for women? Social science research says "yes."

Comprehensive sex education is what "just doesn't work." We've had several decades to see that. Perhaps we should try expecting more of our kids. After all, what's wrong with saying. You are in high school. Don't have sex. Control yourself. Be proud of yourself. Your future spouse will thank you later.

If you are concerned that Deltano didn't refer to non-heterosexual behavior, I doubt you will be comforted by the thought that he would tell high school kids who experience same-sex attraction or are sexually confused that abstinence is their best bet too, but I'm sure that is the case.

charles said:

I'm an old-timer. When I went to school we had a section of biology in 9th grade where we learned the function of all the body parts, including the sex organs.

Somehow, without a single word about sex from my parents, and only a 2-day training about sex organs, I managed to figure out how it worked, without ever having a possibility of getting anybody pregnant before marriage.

And oddly, there's little difference in teen sex or pregnancy now than then.

There's pregnant kids in middle school even with all the sex training.

I did have to read the directions on the packet the first time I used a condom. But oddly, it was easy enough that I didn't need a 10-minute tape in school complete with a cucumber to figure it out.

No Relation said:

Idealistically, I'm with Charles. There's a place in Biology class for the mechanics of sex...the morality of it should be between a child and his family.

However, since the schools are already teaching so much more than what is taught in Biology class...from contraceptive use to masturbation...I have no problem with the school allowing a different point of view. That's called educational freedom.

As for David's view that this was the teaching of religious values with religion what?

Consider the following examples:

Murder is wrong.
Lying is wrong.
Treat others as you would treat yourself.

By David's logic, these values shouldn't be taught in schools at all, since they are religious values, regardless of how much sense they make otherwise. As for calling the guy a liar, that's a little low, David. Unless you can really back that up.

Lo Scrivano said:

Joe Budzinski,
GREAT POST!! I wish I had the time to say how much i agree!!


Yes on one important level we do agree - and this is a reason I tend to think of gay people I know positively. Except for a few jerks (which come in all flavors) my run-ins with homosexuals have been in the form of interesting debate rather than screeching denunciations.

Most of the gays I know are good citizens, you and Jonathan certainly among them. I don't see you as attempting to dismantle everything good about society.

Sexual responsibility...well, responsibility in general... is something we should all promote.

But the way you come down on Deltano is over the top. He's communicating a positive message. Fear of the maladies brought on by sexual excesses is a GOOD fear. Jeez, man, I don't see how you can make any other case.

Delving any further into the discrepancies between us about sexual identity and how this should be approached vis a vis teenagers is going to be a minefield, however. I understand your argument, and heartily disagree with it.

From every evidence I've seen sexual identity is fluid, and kids can be swayed either way. My conversations with gay people I've known have confirmed this - for me. I don't think kids should be given gay or lesbian role models because it will encourage kids on the fence to lean towards homsexuality. I think it's better for kids to lean the other way.

Again: if sexual identity is fluid, why not encourage kids to lean in the direction that will work out better for them?

But leaving that whole question aside, Deltano had a good message and you really seemed to try to tear it down. That's why I held up your piece as representative of the "other side."

I'm from the same era as Charles. In 9th grade we learned all about these things in "Health" class.

The lessons were pretty graphic and left no misunderstanding about how things happened and what to avoid. But they were not a turn-on because they were done with line drawing diagrams -- very clinical.

We also very thoroughly covered all the diseases that could befall every single part of the body, and how to develop a lifestyle to avoid them. Personal responsibility was the keynote.

And we were also taught to eat healthy foods, practice good personal hygiene, and conduct our lives safely.

One semester of very useful life lessons.

Deb said:

I attended the parents' program last evening at Dominion High School, after my son reported he really liked Deltano's presentation for the students. Deltano spoke facts, realities these kids hadn't considered, he wasn't 'preachy,' and he offered alternatives to the pervasive behaviors many parents now report---that early age sex is here, but the kids don't view much of it as sexual. They do need to know the reality of their many activities, the risks, both personal and healthwise. The presentation was upbeat and gave a great message.

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