Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Letter to the Editor of the South Whidbey Record

Sent today, March 14, 2009, in response to a letter published this morning advocating abstinence-only sex ed for our teens after the local Youth Connection agency announced it would be giving out condoms and safe sex information at The Hub, an after-school center for youth here on Whidbey Island.

To the Editor:
While I sympathize with Judith Lamontagne's concern for our teens' sexual health, I do not agree that abstinence-only sex education programs are very helpful in teaching teens to respect their own bodies and their sexual nature. In fact, during the past 8 years when only abstinence-only sex ed has received federal funding, the rates of teen pregnancy and STD's have not fallen; rather, they have risen and sex educators nationwide have acknowledged that abstinence-only programs are generally unsuccessful in this regard. Teens do not respond well to scare tactics.

I applaud The Hub and Planned Parenthood for making condoms and safe sex information available to our teens, even though I would prefer that young men and women postpone sexual relationships until they are mature enough to accept the responsibility that accompanies sexual relationships. The statistics show that teens who receive only abstinence-only sex education are even more likely to have early, unprotected sexual relationships.

Our congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Whidbey Island, will offer, later this year, a comprehensive sex education program called "Our Whole Lives", geared to young adolescents and offering not only information about pregnancy prevention and sexually transmitted disease but also accurate, supportive information about homosexuality and other sexual identity issues. This course has been developed jointly by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ and has been successfully taught for several years across the U.S. and Canada. For more information, parents may call the church office at 321-8656.

Inappropriate sexual behavior among our teens is definitely a matter for concern and needs to be taken seriously. However, abstinence-only education is not a good answer.

Rev. Kit Ketcham


Ms. Theologian said...


ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Ms. T.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Can you come here to Arkansas and be an advocate - I have seen teen pregnancy rise at our local high school... abstinent they aren't. Thinking so just seems like putting blinders on to life.

spiritualastronomer said...

Way to go, Kit. It will be interesting to hear about feedback.

SUE FRAUSE said...

I will pass this along to my friend who runs the Planned Parenthood clinic in Oak Harbor, Kit ...

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, all. Just to clarify, we are expecting to offer the class once our volunteer teachers are trained. We hope it will be this fall.

Berrysmom said...

You go, girl! This is a really important issue (lives can be ruined, or at least seriously compromised) that deserves the most honest truth-telling we can muster. Abstinence-only "sex education" (quotation marks intentional)is a fraud. I hope that you get a strong positive response to this letter, and your congregation ends up offering high-quality sexuality education to a wide range of kids on Whidbey who long for it.

Volly said...

Know what I'd really, really like to see in every school district?

I'd like to see every parent write a one-paragraph "open-letter" style statement to their child, summarizing their views on the subject of teens and sex.

Chances are excellent that these statements would not, overall, reflect the "tell them nothing, just tell them to wait until marriage." Rather, they would say things like:

"I love you"
"I care about you"
"I want you to be safe"
"I want you to be able to tell me anything"
"There are worse things you could do than have sex"
"Sex is not a criminal activity"
"Sex can complicate your life"
"I don't want you to be hurt"
"I want you to respect yourself so that others will respect you"
"Please be careful if you're going to"

and similar statements. I'd also propose that these statements be read out loud to each class, not identifying who the writers are. I think kids would learn a great deal about the mindset of the parents in their community. They would learn that most parents won't "kill them" if they have sexual relationships. They would also learn that most parents are sensible enough to understand that "things happen." And, most importantly, they would understand that most parents are sensible enough to value knowledge and facts over emotions, wishful thinking and cookie-cutter theology.

...and that the average parent is a lot wiser than the average politician or talk-radio pundit!

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Berrysmom and Volly. I really like the idea you have, Volly. I think it would have more impact than the normal "just say no" tactic.