Generally, if I post on a matter where I indicate that I share even the slightest bit of common ground with social conservatives, critics will come in as if out of the woodwork, making allegations about my views both at odds with my actual opinions and even (on occasion) at odds with things I actually said in the very post to which they attach their comments. And so it was, when, in the past ninety-six hours, I posted on Adam Lambert and the latest Kevin Jennings “scandal.”
As to the former, first let me say that I’ve never heard him sing or seen him perform (save for a brief clip of his sexual simulation at the American Music Awards); I offer no commentary about his vocal talents. Simply put, I don’t have a problem with ABC canceling his appearance on their network because they fear a repeat of his performance at those awards nor do I think it appropriate for a gay organization to take ABC to task for its actions.
And while I share the concerns expressed by some conservative bloggers about the content of the books on the list GLSEN, Jennings’ organization, provided for adolescents on its website, don’t let that concern mean I share those bloggers’ views on every issue involving gays (and sex). I know that some of them, for example, support “abstinence only” sex education, a idea I believe to be counterproductive and outdated, particularly given a culture saturated by sex.
Now, I do have problem with sex education curricula which discourage teen abstinence and encourage them to be sexually active.
That said, whether we like it or not, teens are going to be having sex. They need to know about contraception and STDs. They also need to know that sex can be infinitely more rewarding when part of an intimate and loving relationship. There are benefits to abstinence–and not just form from the point of view of preventing pregnancy and STDs. Those should also be taught.
If, however, kids are only taught about abstinence, they likely won’t learn about the risks which inhere in sex. In this culture saturated by sex, with pressure from their peers, with their own human desires, they’re going to act out their urges. So, let them know the risks, but also let them know that they don’t need to have sex to prove themselves.
Abstinence only education may have been appropriate in a long bygone era*, but it’s certainly not appropriate now.
So, surely you ask, what does all this have to have to do with Kevin Jennings? And that’s a good question.
I had thought I had already blogged on this topic, but a quick search of our archives indicates that I did not. Now that I’ve expressed my views on “abstinence only” education, I feel I can better tackle the more complex issues relating to the kind of books Jennings recommended and the ideas he seems to have been promoting.
A topic for a future post.
*And maybe not even then, according to Gordon S. Wood’s recent history of the United States from the inauguration of George Washington until the War of 1812, in that period, premarital pregnancy soared to “rates not reached again until the 1960s.”