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Texas State School Board Requires Abstinence-Only Education in Textbooks

The Texas State Board of Education recently voted to approve the use of health textbooks that do not discuss contraception, and only refer to marriage as a union between a woman and a man. The 15-member school board successfully ensured several changes in the textbooks, including removal of the word “partners” in exchange for “husbands and wives” and the removal of “attraction to others” in exchange for “attraction to the opposite sex, the Los Angeles Times reports. Because Texas is the second largest customer for textbook publishers, these standards often affect many other states that receive the same books, the Times reports. Columnist Ellen Goodman reported that in 2003, 90 percent of Texans surveyed were interested in having their children learn about both abstinence and contraception. Dan Quinn, communications director for a watchdog group called the Texas Freedom Network, told the Christian Science Monitor, “This is high school health class – for many of these kids it’s the last opportunity to get this kind of lifesaving information.” According to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, Texas has the fifth highest rate of teenage pregnancy among girls aged 15 to 19. A recent review by Advocates for Youth of ten state evaluations on the effectiveness of abstinence-only sex education has found that the programs, which forbid discussion of contraception except to highlight failure rates, have shown no long-term success in impacting the sexual behavior of teens. Specifically, the review demonstrated that abstinence-only programs do not have a long-term effect in delaying the initiation of sexual activity among teens or in reducing their risk-taking sexual behavior. Debra Hauser, author of the report, concluded that “some of the evaluations indicate that abstinence-only programs may have a negative impact on young people’s willingness to use contraception or condoms once they do become sexually active.” In September, the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit organization that focuses on elementary and secondary education, released a report on textbooks, criticizing the process wherein states preside over the purchasing of textbooks for every school. The report concluded that this process “entices extremist groups to hijack the curriculum, enriches the textbook cartel, and papers the land with mediocre instructional materials.” DONATE to the Feminist Majority Foundation and support its work for women’s rights and health

Sources:

Los Angeles Times 11/22/04; Christian Science Monitor 11/09/04; Ellen Goodman 11/13/04; Feminist Daily News Wire 10/18/04; AGI 2/19/04; Thomas B. Fordham Institute 9/29/04

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