Arkansas lags on decline in teen birth rate. Also, coincidentally, in sex education | Arkansas Blog

Arkansas lags on decline in teen birth rate. Also, coincidentally, in sex education

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Vox reports on the stunning drop
in the teen birth rate nationwide — a drop of more than 50 percent since 2007 to 20.3 births per thousand teenaged girls.

Alas, bad news in Arkansas. Though the rate has dropped in Arkansas, the drop has not been as precipitous and we remain No. 1 in the nation with a teen birth rate of 38 per 1,000 in 2015, the most recent available from the Centers for Disease Control. That's almost double the national average.

Why the drop? Says Vox:

What changed was how teenage girls used contraceptives. The percentage of sexually active teens who used at least one type of birth control the last time they had sex rose from 78 percent in 2007 to 86 percent in 2012. More teens gravitated toward better types of birth control — like pills, IUDs, or implants — rather than relying on lower-quality birth control like condoms.
Arkansas? Well, it's probably a good time to laud the recent Arkansas Democrat-Gazette examination of the well-known fact of Arkansas school aversion to talking about sex. Virginity pledges and the old hold-an-aspirin-between-your-knees advice to adolescent girls are preferred over comprehensive sex education. Abstinence IS a part of comprehensive sex education. But so is contraception for those who don't abstain. There is no required sex education component in state education guidelines. Many districts teach nothing at all. A particularly galling part of the D-G article was the news that schools got advice from the Walton-funded Arkansas Public School Resource Center, which functions largely as a charter school lobby, on how to avoid providing meaningful answers to the statewide survey the D-G attempted. I guess the Waltons don't want to rile the church folks in their billion-dollar effort to control state school policy.

Autumn Tolbert, who contributes a column to the Arkansas Times, wrote sharply this week on the deficiency in Arkansas school sex education. Tolbert recalls that most of what she learned about sex in school she learned on the school bus.

She concluded:

Religion needs to be kept out of school-based sex education. This is a health and science issue. Not a moral one. No more talk of virginity being precious and special by teachers. What does that say to the girl or boy in the class who was a victim of sexual assault? That they are worthless?

Can we also skip the abstinence and purity pledges at school? They are ineffective, creepy and didn't work for the Jonas Brothers and Bristol Palin. We don't need our kids making any promises or pledges to teachers and school counselors about what they plan to do with their vaginas and penises and other body parts. Just give the kids the facts, the tools for safe sex, and let them decide for themselves what they want to do.

It is way past time for comprehensive sex education at every public school in Arkansas. We have to teach our kids about the birds and bees just as we teach them about science and math, and I think we can all agree, the bus is no place for that type of learning.
PS: Don't hold your breath for this legislature to press for teaching of science over religion in Arkansas public schools.


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