A 1991 Gallup poll reported that 87 percent of Americans said they want sex education for all schoolchildren. Most states recommend or require it in some form.
Among those who disagree is Phyllis Schlafly. She is the founder of Eagle Forum, a group based in St. Louis that promotes 100 percent abstinence. She estimates membership is 80,000. Mrs. Schlafly contends that, as taught in schools, sex education has failed because it has not reduced teen pregnancy.
“To reduce teen pregnancy,” she says, “we should teach kids it is shameful to have sex outside marriage.”
Marianne Whatley, professor of curriculum and instruction at the University of Wisconsin, demurs. “There is no proof that abstinence-only programs work,” she says.
With the help of federal funding, four 100 percent abstinence programs – Sex Respect, Teen Aid, Living Smart, and FACTS – hired experts to evaluate their groups’ effectiveness. When a team from the Public Policy Office of the American Psychological Association later evaluated this research, they found it didn’t meet scientific standards and so was inconclusive.
School behavioral programs do remind students that total abstinence is the only foolproof way to avoid early pregnancy and disease. For sexually active students, teachers stress protection. Younger students are taught that delaying first intercourse is a wise thing to do. And research shows they do.