Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Polls, Abstinence, and Republicans

Let's talk poll numbers.

A recent federally funded study, as published by the Washington Post, has revealed that abstinence-only sex education programs result in fewer teens having sex. This, according to many conservative pundits, has confirmed what they've been saying all along: that absinence is the best form of sex-ed.

Well, not so fast. Sure, fewer teens ended up having sex (about one third, as opposed to one half who were involved in other forms of sex-ed programs). But whether or not teens are having sex really isn't the issue, is it? Yes, I'll risk offending people by saying it (and, in fact, that's sort of the point of this blog), but I just don't care if teenagers are having sex or not. That statistic doesn't worry me. The statistic that worries me is the rate of teen pregnancy.

Teen pregnancy is the stat we want to bring down, and that statistic really is independent of the rate of sexual activity among teens. There is some correlation, of course, since one needs sex to get pregnant, but if only one third of one group of teens are having premarital sex and not using much protection (which is often the case if those kids have been taught abstinence-only!), while half of another group of teens are having premarital sex and always using protection, the number of teen pregnancies will be lower in the latter group. Of course!

You see, the goal is to put as many barriers to teen pregnancy in place as possible. What liberals sometimes try to do is completely decry abstinence in sex education, perhaps out of some misguided hippie-style "free love" attitude toward sexuality. And what conservatives try to do is fight against 85 million years of evolution by persuading young people to not engage in sex at all until marriage -- a technique which didn't entirely work even in the prudish 1800's, and which encourages young people to start bad and/or doomed marriages out of lust. The sad result of this needless tug of war is that some barriers to teen pregnancy get ruled out in certain schools. This is unacceptable! We need teach contraception, show teens how to use it, AND remind them that the only 100% effective birth control method is abstinence. These two lessons must always go together.

Let's face it. It's a different world. Back when abstinence was the rule (like, before the roaring 1920's), teenage pregnancy was prevented by making sure teenagers got married! It wasn't at all unusual for 16 year old girls to marry 17 year old boys. If a boy got a girl pregnant, they were hastily married to avoid scandal. But teenagers can't get married today -- it's just economically stupid, even if the ages of 16 and 17 weren't so infantile in terms of being prepared for our hyper-technology era. And let's not forget that it is also a different world from the 1960's. Back before HIV, and when gonorrhea was not resistant to penecillin, it made perfect sense to sleep around indiscriminately. But today, there is a slight risk that unprotected sex could kill you!

What changed the game forever were two things: The rubber condom, and the pill. Ever since then, abstinence as a primary means of birth control was doomed. After all, abstinence was used as birth control prior to that point because -- well, there really was nothing else for it! There were rudimentary technologies using sponges attached to ribbons, or horribly smelly things made from sheep intestines, but these were only marginally effective. Abstinence-only was the primary means of birth control in the olden days only because society had no other choice! Now that we have a choice, going back is laughably stupid.

So for kids who can abstain, let them abstain. And for those who are hell bent on not abstaining, let's provide the means of protection they damned well need. We're not giving permission, but we're damned well not taking chances, either!

Oh, and by the way, as a biology teacher, I'm certain to be tapped to instruct on such matters. I intend to teach that if one engages in sex, that one should always use the "double protection" technique. If he says he's using protection, or if she says she's on the pill, that's not enough, especially for teens. BOTH need to use protection. Every time.

This ties in rather well to another poll released almost concurrently with the first one, showing the tendencies of Republican voters. These numbers have been generating a firestorm because they show some remarkable trends in conservative thinking. In relation to the above poll, 51% of Republicans think that sex education should not even be taught in public schools. Apparently because they think that if kids aren't taught about sex, they won't lust after each other or sneak off to experiment on their own?

And there are other shocking numbers. 63% of Republicans feel Obama is a Socialist. (!) 36% think Obama wasn't born in the United States, and 22% aren't sure. 39% think Obama should be impeached. (For what, I wonder? He hasn't been getting blow jobs from interns, you know!) 24% think Obama wants terrorists to win, and 33% aren't sure about that one! 21% thinks that ACORN stole the 2008 election. (55% aren't sure!)

To paraphrase something Bill Mahr said about the 2004 election, it wasn't stolen. But it did fall off a truck!

53% feel that Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Barack Obama.

Naturally, because intelligence is an undesirable quality in a politician! We don't want our representatives to be smarter than us!

31% believe that Barack Obama is a racist who hates white people. 33% aren't sure!

23% think their state should cecede from the United States. (Go ahead! I dare ya! Texas, you first!)

77% think that same sex couples should not be allowed to marry. There's the nanny-state for you!

Here's an interesting one: 73% think that openly gay men and women should not be allowed to teach in public schools. As if we don't have too few qualified teachers already! Apparently, Will & Grace can teach our kids at night, but not during the day?

The same percentage, 77%, think that public school students should be taught that the Bible explains how God created the world.

Because, presumably, the Christian view should be presented non-optionally to a captive, non-Christian audience? Because Christians get to force children who don't belong to them to learn their religion against the wishes of the actual parents?

When asked if contraceptive use should be outlawed, 31% of Republican respondents said yes.

Really?!

34% think that the birth control pill is abortion. Which explains the above number.

76% feel that abortion is murder. No shock, there. The survey did not ask at what stage of a woman's pregnancy abortion might be considered murder, however. Pity.

91% support the death penalty. Interesting.

67% feel that the only way for an individual to go to heaven is through Jesus Christ.

But there is one encouraging statistic within this study: 37% of respondents were over the age of 60. 70% were over the age of 45. That means that these hair-brained opinions are grey-haired. And someday soon, they'll die off. When they do, we'll perhaps at last be rid of some of this nonsense. Whether this will happen before Obama's presidency has ended is another matter.

If they succeed in derailing health care reform, they'll die off a lot quicker! How's that for poetic!

Eric

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