Ignorance

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For years Texas has had one of the highest rates of teen births in the country — and that rate is rising. At the same time, the state’s education officials have bowed to the demands of the religious right, with more than nine out of 10 school districts teaching abstinence-only-until-marriage instead of medically accurate sex education. In fact, a report released in February of this year by the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund revealed that just 2 percent of the state’s school districts teach comprehensive sex education that includes medically accurate information about contraception and preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

But who do social conservatives blame for the epidemic of teen pregnancy in Texas? Mexicans — or more precisely, what they see as the moral failings of Mexicans. Says Cathie Adams, head of the far-right Texas Eagle Forum:

“If mom had a baby at age 15, are her morals going to be setting different standards than someone who has grown up in the American culture where that is not typical? As a matter of fact, we would look at someone impregnating a 15-year-old as child abuse.”

Rather than acknowledge the failure of abstinence-only programs that have a lock on the vast majority of Texas high school classrooms (and that waste millions of taxpayer dollars), Adams doubles down: teach the abstinence-only message in a variety of languages, she insists.

According to the group Child Trends, it’s true that the rate of teen births is higher for Hispanics than for non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites nationally. But between 2006 and 2007, that rate declined for Hispanics while rising for the other two groups. Moreover, the state with the highest rate of teen births is Mississippi. The 2000 Census showed that just 1.4 percent of that state’s population was Hispanic or Latino.

Rather than criticizing the morals of immigrants, Adams would do well to address a primary cause for high rates of teen pregnancy: ignorance. Adams and others on the religious right think the solution to those high rates is to withhold critical information from teens. But that’s loco. Ignorance protects no one, especially not our young people. The statistics in Texas — the nation’s biggest abstinence-only experiment — seem to show that pretty clearly.

4 Responses to “Ignorance”

  1. yossarian Says:

    The mindset here is that to withhold accurate, science-based information is to draw very clear moral lines in the sand. If you cross those lines of “should nots,” then you have clearly acted immorally. Then, the shunning can begin.

    If you give information that realistically addresses the realities, then you are lending approval to behavior that is immoral. It is an insidious cycle perpetuated by those who wish to make a moral point over educating young adults based on facts. They also seem to really derive a lot of enjoyment from shunning.

    Exceptions are made, as in the case of Sarah Palin’s daughter. Because the Palin Family is clearly on the path, they can fall off of it and be forgiven. If you are clearly not on their path, you are not living within in the realm of viable forgiveness. You are merely entitled to shunning and ridicule. And, sadly, according to what has been posted here, is probably a result of being a minority as opposed to a young adult who carelessly engaged in unprotected sex.

  2. peggy Says:

    Hmmmm…I believe I am correct in stating that Sarah Palin’s daughter was taught abstinance only. She must have been raised in a home of questionable standards.

  3. Charles Says:

    The fatal flaw in abstinence only is its emphasis on sin prevention above all else. Except for a few cases here and there, this will not work, which is why Texas is in such a pickle with teen pregnancies. Gonads exert pressure that reaches far beyond the flimsy limits of many human brains to control.

    Turning now to my daily dose of theology, God gave people the ability to sin as part of the overall “free will” package. Moreover, in numerous places, the Bible says that human beings do not have the capacity to meet the terms of the Old Testament law. As the Apostle Paul says, the law was given first and foremost to show human beings that they had no personal power to keep it. Even Christians who have the Holy Spirit to help do really badly at it overall–from what I have seen. That is the purpose of grace—to cover what we frail humans cannot do ourselves. That does not mean that we have to like sin. That does not mean that we have to approve of sin. What it does mean is that it is IMPOSSIBLE for the Abstinence Only Lysol bottle to clean up the great mass of tenny bopper fornication in Texas. You cannot clean up what God himself has defined as “broadly uncleanable” in the Bible. Fornication happens, and my Bible says that it is going to keep on happening until Jesus intervenes some day.

    In the meantime, those teens who know that the power of their gonads exceeds the power of their brains would do well to learn how to protect themselves. Effective birth control is one of the best abortion preventatives on this planet, but I would guess that this never occurred to the Religious Right.

    On the question of Sarah Palin and her daughter, I will make an observation and use my own family as support. Sarah and her daughter are Pentecostals. As a general rule, Christian fundamentalists do not like Pentecostal Christians. They are very much against the dancing, hooting, and hollering in heavenly tongues. There is also the matter of sex. While I am sure that the Pentecostals do not approve of fornication and preach against it, it has been my experience that they end up pregnant out of wedlock quite a lot. One whole wing of my family is Pentecostal, and the parental units are assorted preachers, elders, etc. Best I have been able to tell, “…momma I’m pregnant…” is a pretty common occurrence in that wing of my family. Hillbilly teeth too. You almost never hear that on the United Methodist side of my family because Methodists have been uptight about sex since the 1600s (Nay!! Since the beginning of all time!!!). It’s like the dad said in the movie “A River Runs Through It.” He said, “Methodists are Baptists who can read.” In my opinion, and I have not a shred of evidence to support it, a United Methodist mom is smart enough to figure out that her kid’s gonads are stronger than her brain and do something about it that really works–like TFN would do.

    However, the Pentecostals have something going for them too. Call it good or bad. Call it what you will. The Christian faith is all about love and forgiveness. The Pentecostal wing of my family appears to be extraordinarily loving, understanding, forgiving, and supportive right after the “…momma I’m pregnant…” is announced. In other words, they act like Sarah Palin did with her pregnant daughter.

    Of course, this is the juncture where the Christian fundamentalists would chime in and say, “You see. That’s why the whole concept of Christian love is a bunch of hooey!!! It only encourages them to have more sex and babies because love is by its very nature permissive. That’s why we focus so hard on rules, will power, and shunning people out into the cold.”

    Moral of the story: When theocracy comes, pray that the Pentecostals and Methodists are in charge.

  4. Leigh Williams Says:

    What a hoot, Charles! My very large extended family is mostly Baptist, but one branch is Pentecostal because my paternal grandmother converted somewhat late in life. I remember going with her to a revival at the renowed Lufkin Pentecostal campground. I was about ten, I think. All that holy rolling and tongue-speaking scared the crap out of me. But my Pentecostal cousins were (and still are) very dear to me, and it bothered me that they couldn’t go to the movies with us, wear shorts in the summer, and play with our mothers’ makeup.

    My husband was brought up in the Church of Christ, so naturally we’re Methodists now, that being the great meeting-ground of the denominationally challenged couple.

    When the theocracy comes, though, I think we should put the Unitarian Universalists in charge. Or maybe the Baha’is.

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