"Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant and die!"
— Coach Carr, from the 2004 film Mean Girls
As ridiculous as this movie quote seems, it echoes the sentiments of abstinence-only sex education programs being taught in high schools all over America. Even though most health professionals consider abstinence-only to be inferior to a more comprehensive curriculum, funding for abstinence-only courses increased significantly under the Bush administration.
This issue is a hotbed of controversy among parents, students, school boards, and communities. It's a polarizing issue, much like abortion and gay marriage, because it deals with morals which are deeply rooted in religion. Unfortunately for proponents of abstinence, religion has almost no place in education; information and knowledge do. Despite extensive debate, and even acknowledging that abstinence is the only way to completely prevent pregnancy and STDs, abstinence-only curricula are out-of-date and dysfunctional, while comprehensive sex education is the correct option for public schools in America.
Abstinence-only sex education, according to its Wikipedia entry, is "a form of sex education that emphasizes abstinence from sex" and excludes "all other types of sexual and reproductive health education, particularly regarding birth control and safe sex." According to the article “Changes in Formal Sex Education: 1995-2002” in the journal Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, the percentage of teachers who utilize this method has grown from only 2% in 1988 to about 35% currently. This seems to be going backward; as our country becomes increasingly modernized and sexualized, why are our youth in old-fashioned, unrealistic programs?
The surge in abstinence-only education was brought about by the "family values" movement which started in the 1980s and found new life through the administration of President George W. Bush, whose strong religious faith greatly influenced the enormous increase in federal funding for abstinence-only education. Federal and matching state funding rose from about $10 million in fiscal year 1997 to $167 million in fiscal year 2005. These programs are required by law to teach that "sexual activity outside of the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects" and that "a mutually faithful, monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity."
In an even more obvious attack on information, this money is also allocated to fund anti-sexuality programs, "chastity" programs sponsored by public schools, and even censorship of textbooks, as is the case in Franklin County, North Carolina, where the school board ordered three chapters "literally sliced" from a freshman health textbook because they did not adhere to the state law mandating abstinence-only curricula. Such increases in government funding would seem to suggest that these programs are widely supported by citizens and health professionals, and that they have been proven effective.