Saturday, March 26, 2005

Scary and depressing

Metroland Online (via BoingBoing, Texas's block-buying policy for school textbooks has led to all textbooks adopting the Texas "abstinence-only" stance on sex education, which prescribes abstinence until marriage without any mention of safe sex or contraception:

Consider the fate of two health-education textbooks submitted for adoption in 1994. Holt Rinehart Winston proposed a modestly worded abstinence-first textbook. Texas conservatives sharply disapproved. Even worse, the textbook used line drawings to show girls how to conduct a self-examination for breast cancer. The notion of taxpayer-funded pictures of breasts drove conservatives wild with rage. The Holt textbook went down to defeat.


Mindful of the 1994 experience, progressive activists prepared in 2004 for another harsh battle over sex education. But they had reckoned without the textbook executives’ keen instinct for self-preservation. "The books came precensored," says Steve Schafersman, president of Texans for Science. "Textbook manufacturers can tell which way the wind is blowing far ahead of time. They capitulated in advance."

Holt’s new textbook corrects the previous edition’s ideological missteps. For example, Holt Lifetime Health provides a list of eight tips for preventing STD infection. The list starts with "Practice abstinence" and moves on to such helpful tips as "Get plenty of rest," "Respect yourself," and "Go out as a group." But the list omits Holt’s recommendation from the 1994 edition: "Using a latex condom properly during sexual intercourse reduces the risk of getting an STD during sex."
"Get plenty of rest" is considered better advice than "be safe"? What is wrong with this country?

[Update: and of course, "respect yourself" is a new-millenium retread of that 50s staple, "nice girls don't".]