Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Problems with Palin & Abstinence Training

The McCain camp is coming out swinging hard. I understand (if I don't totally agree) that the personal lives of candidates should be off limits. But what I've seen is journalists asking questions about her lack of experience are getting snapped back at. If she is the reformer, outsider - journalists should have the right ascertain if the label "neophyte" is also applicable.

The next issue is her daughter. Look, early pregnancies happen all the time - I'm not going to judge that actions of teenagers. What I will be critical of is Palin's staunch pro-abstinence education stance. It didn't work here, and it doesn't work in most places. In 3rd world countries, its even less relevant. Children can be a blessing for the right people, but if they aren't, there's no putting the genie back in the bottle. And I haven't heard of people who are applauded for deciding to keep their STDs.

Abstinence is lifestyle decision. You can't enforce it - I was listening to NPR this morning and a female delegate interviewed was quoted as defending Palin's stance, saying essentially: Look you can teach it, but kids go off and make their own decisions. Exactly; but then what is the point? So that you have the moral self satisfaction of leading the horse to water, and then be blase about the fact that it died of thirst in front of the trough? Bravo.

As a parent, if you want to impart those values, fine (although that didn't seem to stick here), but in terms of education, protection is what is going to work. It accommodates not just choices - like abstinence - but people who are born homosexual. A christian, right-wing diatribe on abstinence is going to fall on deaf ears if gay and lesbian students feel ostracized already. of course, there is the latent insinuation that whatever happens to homosexuals not practicing abstinence is their own fault. Or what if your parents don't share the same values as a school with a right-wing agenda. Certainly the parents can fill that void with proper education - but then the school is doing a disservice to its students.

I'm getting a little tangential here, but the main point is this: the right to teach value-based abstinence is questionable, but its failure is not: In the past 8 years, money to fund abstinence has gone from 60 million to over 176 million (source - Advocates for Youth). Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a non-partisan group found that abstinence does not lower the rate of teen sexual activity. If supporters are going to fight for the right to teach it, shouldn't they be held accountable for both its failure as a program, and the money that's been tossed down the drain. Of course, that money is probably spent every 3 days fighting the war in Iraq, but one rant at a time.

If teens are going to ignore or fundamentally disagree with abstinence training, to engage in sexual activity without understanding the importance and logistics of protection - then we're just punishing them. It's the equivalent of telling your teens not to drink and drive, but when they call you drunk from a party at 1AM, you decide not to pick up the phone. Roll over and go back to sleep good parent: they can get home some way - and you've done your part; any trouble they into is their own fault for not listening. Maybe some kindly date rapist with abstinence education under his belt will give your daughter a lift home.

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Bringing this back to my original beef with Palin - I respect that she may have been picked in part for her conservative views, to appeal to moral conservatives and the Christian Right. What I don't respect is this shell game that the McCain camp is playing, expecting Hillary supporters who were enthused to elect a female to the white house to suddenly drop their values and IQs, by voting for somebody who's policies couldn't be more different. The gender card is definitely being played here, to the detriment of everybody, including the McCain campaign.

The liberals get slammed as being intellectual elitists - I'll wear that badge with pride as a smart, smug asshat. But being a moral elitist? A holier than though hypocrite who believes the only help needed to be given by the government is in the form of morality brainwashing, and that services shouldn't be funded that can benefit those who haven't fully adopted those values? A sink or swim mentality to your own constituents?

Yeah, I'll take the intellectual elitism, thanks. Not that the past 8 years haven't been fun.

1 comment:

Ned Rasputin said...

"So that you have the moral self satisfaction of leading the horse to water, and then be blase about the fact that it died of thirst in front of the trough? Bravo."

Has to be one of the best lines ever!