And now a word from the Bureau of Common Sense, where we leave the Right Wing Nuts in the hallway, sitting out there on the Group W bench.
We need straight talk here, and that's because we've got trouble. That's right. Trouble right here in River City — and that starts with S and that rhymes with Hex and that means a lot of pregnant teenagers.
And what are we doing about that trouble? I'll tell you what. We're telling our kids a pack of lies about sex, lies required — required! — by the White House.
I'm talking about sex education which, under Bush, means an abstinence-only curriculum — abstinence from sex and abstinence from reality.
That translates to Just Say No to common sense because studies have shown, over and over, that abstinence-only education does not make kids abstinent. It only makes kids stupid.
Kids aren't born knowing how to protect themselves. They need to be taught not to play in the street, not to go off with a stranger at the mall, and not to wear the condom on their testicles. (I recently heard about a teenager who thought that's where his condom belonged. True story. Condoms, after all, don't come with instructions.)
See what I mean? Trouble. And despite all the evidence to the contrary, Bush just keeps on insisting that virginity-only education works — kind of like he insists that things are going well in Iraq.
And he keeps on funding this failed approach. This year, the federal government spent $176 million on abstinence-only programs.
Most states have adopted this "keep kids in the dark" curriculum because they need the federal funds. Money talks, and our schools need those dollars to trickle on down into their own coffers.
And this isn't just Kansas. A lot of parents around here think their kids are getting practical information about sex, but New York ranks second nationally in the amount of federal money it gets to fund abstinence-only programs. At some of our schools, sex ed is nothing more than a little talk about menstruation.
Worse, kids are being misled because the federal curriculum requires the teaching of several whoppers. Among them:
sSexual activity outside of marriage is "likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects." (Sex among singles causes insanity and sickness?)
sCondoms have a high failure rate. (True, I suppose, if they're worn on the testicles.)
sA monogamous relationship in the context of marriage "is the expected standard of sexual activity." (It's the government's job to define our values?)
sOne of the best ways to avoid AIDS is to "avoid homosexual behavior." (And while we're at it, why not just go ahead and call the gay kids "faggots"?)
This isn't abstinence-only. This is ignorance-only.
Some states are getting the gumption, though, to Just Say No to the ignorance. Ohio, Maine, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and New Jersey have recently told the feds to keep the money, thank you very much. They want to give the kids in their schools the facts.
New York is trying. The Assembly has twice passed the Healthy Teens Act, which would fund a truthful and useful statewide sex-ed curriculum.
But the Senate allowed the bill to die in committee two years in a row. They're trying again and last week, for the first time, the bill made it out of committee. It will die again, though, unless it is brought to a vote before the end of the session on June 21.
The person who can make that happen is Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. If you believe in common sense, contact Bruno and tell him to bring the Healthy Teens Act to the floor for a vote.
There are 617 days 'til Jan. 20, 2009. Hang in there, America!
Beth's column appears on Monday. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2007 The Times Herald-Record