Simple changes more effective than abstinence education

Prof C Explains
4 min readJul 10, 2007

by J Scott Christianson, Columbia Daily Tribune Columnist

Last week, Gov. Matt Blunt proudly signed into law HB 1055, a bill designed primarily to restrict access to abortion services and family planning information for women and to allow schools to substitute abstinence-only sex education for biological and medical education about human reproduction. Although I can understand why social conservatives are happy to see more restrictions on a woman’s access to abortion, I am still having a hard time understanding what good they can see in promoting abstinence-only sex education.

Let’s just assume for a minute that a goal of abstinence-only sex education is to prevent teenagers from engaging in sexual activity. If that’s the goal, abstinence-only sex education seems like one of the last things you’d try to reduce teen sex. Several higher-priority items come to mind.

First, why not reduce the number of television programs and movies that teens and kids watch where casual, consequence-free sex is depicted as the norm? Yes, I know Rachel on “Friends” got pregnant, but she could still afford her upscale Manhattan apartment and didn’t have to change her lifestyle. Granted, it wouldn’t have been very funny if one of the “Friends” characters had gotten HIV or a venereal disease, but it would have been more true to life.

Adult-themed material should be moved back to late night where it belongs, where it can’t be so easily accessed by teens and children. Of course, this might cut into the ability of the giant media corporations to maximize their profits. But doesn’t the public already provide media corporations with the use of public airwaves for their transmissions and the use of public rights of way for their cables? It doesn’t seem unreasonable to demand that these corporations stop bombarding our youths with the message that having sex on the first date is a normal and healthy way to conduct your life.

Second, why not do something to discourage our teenagers from dressing like sex-crazed celebrities? Darin Preis has already brought up the idea of school uniforms for those enrolled in Columbia Public Schools to reduce gang association and increase discipline among students. It seems like uniforms would also reduce the number of teens wearing salacious outfits to school and relieve parents and school staff from having to determine what is and is not acceptable dress.

Prof C Explains

J Scott Christianson: UM Teaching Prof, Technologist & Entrepreneur. Connect with me here: