Sunday, February 19, 2017

What passes for sex ed in some Texas schools makes ignorance look pretty good

Ok, so women are the gatekeepers of males' sexuality?!  The Dallas Morning News piece written by Jacquielynn Floyd below portrays them as potential predators that I'd take umbrage to if I were a male.  

In any case, it's tragic that Texas has one of the highest out-of-wedlock rates in the country.  Here is a U.S. Government Department of Health and Human Services report that shows, among other things, a particularly high rate among Latina females of out-of-wedlock births as follows:

Texas was ranked 5 out of 51 (50 states + the District of Columbia) on 2011 final teen births rates among females aged 15-19 (with 1 representing the highest rate and 51 representing the lowest rate).RH1 On a similar scale – where 1 is the highest teen pregnancy rate and 51 is the lowest – Texas was ranked 3 out of 51 (50 states + the District of Columbia) in pregnancies to females aged 15- 19 in 2008.RH2

We simply need not just sex education, but research-based sex education together with the reproductive right of access to birth control taught by both schools and parents in order for our young women to avoid teen pregnancy.

Moreover, they should be provided this training and guidance at an early age regarding topics related to sex education, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion (STDs), and contraceptives.  

We need to build up children's self-esteem, socioemotional development, and reproductive knowledge in the context of caring and communicative relationships.  We adults must do all that we can to help them understand that a responsible sex life is only possible once they have an adequate level of physical, psychological and emotional maturity.

We also need to build up our young people's sense of efficacy in the public policy arena so that they, too can advocate for themselves.  In this vein, this is a crucial read of efforts currently under way in the Texas State Legislature: Reproductive Rights Advocates Prepare for the Fight

Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, called on the Lege to support a trio of women’s health bills she’s filed, including HB 222, which seeks to decrease high teen pregnancy rates by expanding birth control coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Plan and HB 941, which would introduce a long-acting reversible contraceptive pilot program to high schools, with parental consent. Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy birth rates and the highest rate of repeat teen births, noted Howard. And an estimated 80% of teen births are paid for by Medicaid, said Howard, a hefty weight on taxpayers.

Another Howard bill addressing a dreadful practice by health care providers is HB 262

which allows doctors to avoid giving patients medically inaccurate information mandated by the state, such as the error-riddledA Woman’s Right to Know” booklet, handed to women considering abortion. “The state is forcing health care providers to make, basically, Sophie’s Choice – either ignore their medical training and ethical obligations or be in violation of the law. That’s an outrageous demand,” said Howard. 

It's no wonder that sex education in Texas for youth is similarly compromised when it is delivered to our youth (see story below).

Happy to share this resource, as well, from Child Trends titled, Teen Pregnancy Prevention: Research-Based Policy Recommendations for Executive and Legislative Officials in 2017.

Continue reading here and think of how you might contribute, including reaching out to your representatives to weigh in on these and other related bill proposals. 
If you do not know who represents you, click here to find out.

Angela Valenzuela

Sadly, in Texas, ignorance is sometimes bliss.
In the case of plain medical information about human sexuality, absolute cluelessness may actually beat the alternative.
The headlines were bad enough: This week, findings were disclosed showing that most Texas schools stubbornly resist teaching students even the most basic, no-nonsense facts about sex.
The comprehensive survey was disclosed by Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning outfit that supports the groundbreaking notion that knowledge and information can help people make intelligent choices.
It showed that as of the last academic year, a quarter of the state's public schools now sidestep the icky business of sex ed entirely by teaching nothing at all. Since the state dropped a graduation requirement for health education a few years ago, plenty of districts decided to dispense with the always contentious topic entirely.
If there was any good news in this survey, it was that the minority of schools teaching what's referred to as information-based "abstinence-plus," which might be summed up as "here's how sex works and don't do it," is now a larger minority, about 16 percent.
But most Texas schools — almost 60 percent — still rely on "abstinence-only" education: The laughable and provably bogus conceit that if all you tell teenagers about sex is that it's bad and don't do it, it will never, ever cross their minds again.
Which is why, of course, our state has a persistently (and shamefully) higher-than-average rate of teen pregnancy. Despite widespread studies that show providing teens with medically accurate, science-based information helps them make smarter decisions, most Texas school districts are leaving kids with a frustrating dearth of plain facts.
This discouraging assessment was found in the study's executive summary, which was quickly translated into news blurbs. But reading further in, there's a whole subset of dismaying findings that didn't make the headlines.
And that's some of the outdated stereotypes and outright misinformation presented as so-called "fact" in some of the abstinence-only curriculum used by some districts.
"It is difficult to know who is better off," the Texas Freedom Network report says. "Students who get no sex education, or students who get fear- and shame-based, abstinence-only education."
Well, consider anecdotes like these, cited in the study:
— Abstinence-only programs that bombard students with "a persistent message: Contraception doesn't work," and characterize the use of contraceptives as "high risk behavior" similar to drug use or unprotected sex. 
— One program tells kids that hepatitis B can be spread "by kissing." This is simply not true. 
— Programs that show revolting images of diseased genitalia and malformed babies caused by untreated sexually transmitted diseases, with no information provided about screening or treatment that can prevent such worst-case outcomes. 
— Programs with a complete absence of discussion of LGBT issues, a pretense that gay people do not exist. The worst of these programs, though, go beyond mere misinformation: They stray into dangerous stereotypes about gender roles, sexual responsibility and the value of virginal "purity" — especially for women.
One West Texas school district uses abstinence curricula developed by a local "pregnancy crisis" (read: anti-abortion) center. Students there are informed — and I am not making this up, I swear — that "men are meant to pursue" women, while women are "meant to be impressed" by men. Girls, it continues, should just "shut up and be mysterious" in order to captivate boys.
"A woman's job is to let a boy/man impress you! Not the other way around," this helpful guide explains.
Other programs are even more explicit in their dogged promotion of gender roles fresh out of the 1950s. Nonvirgins are portrayed as "dirty" or "used"; in one Panhandle district, some parents complained after sexually active students were compared to used toothbrushes or chewing gum.
Others promote the frankly dangerous idea that boys cannot control their sexual urges, so it is up to girls to make sure they aren't tempted or aroused.
"Be aware of situations that might cause others to misinterpret your behavior," reads a handout distributed in one San Antonio-area district. "An example would be a girl dancing provocatively or a girl wearing expressive, body-exposing clothing." 
Examples of misinterpretable behavior on the part of boys are not listed.
Still another program offers the technical analogy that boys are "like microwaves" that heat up quickly, while girls are "slow cookers" who care more about emotional relationships.
"These comparisons suggest that women are the gatekeepers of male sexuality — that they are responsible for controlling the behavior of overheated men, who are naturally sexual beings," the report says. "Boys will be boys, after all, with virtually no self-control."
This would be a hilarious trip back to Leave It To Beaver land if it weren't so insulting and damaging. 
But it is. 
Telling girls that it's their fault if boys "misinterpret" their intentions sounds an awful lot like saying she asked for it, like saying she shouldn't have put herself in that situation, like saying she deserved what she got.
It sounds like lies. And Texas schools that tell them should know better.

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