Abstinence Only Ed a No Go?

The abstinence-only educational model embraced by Bush and a great number of conservatives has come under criticism and has recently been deemed highly ineffective by a great deal of liberal-minded individuals.

Students who participated in programs to discourage sex before marriage didn’t hold off any longer than peers who didn’t participate in such programs, finds a longterm study authorized by Congress.

Those who participated in the four "abstinence-only" program studied had sex about the same age — 14 years and nine months —as those in their communities who didn’t have any specialized abstinence education, and had similar numbers of sex partners, says the $7.7 million study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J. for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.

This is clearly an issue, seeing as the U.S. government spends around $176 million on abstinence programs each year.

The study — the first long-term look at actual youth behavior rather than attitudes — began tracking 2,057 youths in their late elementary and middle school years and followed them four to six years. The control group had one to three years of abstinence education at one of four programs around the country. They were in Miami, Milwaukee, Powhatan, Va.,and Clarksdale, Miss. Follow-ups were conducted at one year, two years and four to six years later. About half from each group had remained abstinent.

What is most curious about the study is the time in which it was released (just before Congress decided to renew funding for abstinence programs). And before we turn this into a "Blame the Bush Administration Extravaganza," let’s consider that the U.S. government has funded abstinence education since 1982; it was in 1996 that the bulk of these programs were created (this came with the reformation of welfare laws occurring at the same time).

Even more curious is the fact that this study is based on only four programs. Why were none of the 696 programs included? The sample seems way too small to be an accurate depiction of the entire abstinence-online landscape. I understand the intricacies of planning and implementing a research study, but this question must be answered with deep consideration.

Also, when considering that the four programs studied come from the 1996 overhaul, eyebrows can (and should) yet again be raised. Research and abstinence education have changed a great deal since 1996, so basing an overarching effective or ineffective label on a study that examines results from premature programs is odd and may (or has) led to static results.

At the end of the day, we need to educate youth on a plethora of issues associated with sex. I do believe that, to some degree, it’s unrealistic to expect every child to refrain from sex. With that said, intentions show us that many youth make the pledge not do engage in premarital sex. While their actions aren’t necessarily jiving with words, it’s important that we further explore these inclinations. Clearly — at some point — they took a stand that they have not been able to live up to. But why?

There’s much to consider: media influence, parental guidance, drugs and substances and other situations that may harm one’s chances of avoiding premarital sex. Plus, let’s not forget the societal forces (many of which are in the aforementioned sentences) that tell them that sex is simply "okay" to engage in.

Today’s teens face difficult challenges; examining support structures is a necessity before deciding that abstinence programs are totally and utterly ineffective. I believe that they have a place, but that the "only" may need to be expounded upon. Youths need to be educated on the issue as a whole. With that said, I wholeheartedly support the goals and methods these programs utilize.

I’d also like to address STD’s. MisterE and others contend that it’s totally healthy to engage in sex with whomever – as long as one remains safe. Aside from ignoring the severe emotional issues that may result from this exploration, these bloggers never address STD’s that can be contracted even when individuals remain “safe.”

If I recall – HPV is rampant. Unfortunately, it can be contracted even with the use of a condom. Condoms are not 100% effective to begin with, but when we consider herpes, genital warts (a form of HPV) and other communicable diseases, being safe means remaining abstinent.

Consider this:

The male condom is not as effective at preventing HPV transmission as it is for the prevention of other STDs; the male condom does not prevent all skin-to-skin contact during sex.

While both sides of the debate (the "safe sexers" and the "refrainers") agree on some basic condom tenants (the reduction of HIV/AIDS, etc.), there are pieces of both arguments that should be heard:

Each side has some truth in its argument: Condoms are very effective against the AIDS virus, but data for their effectiveness against some other STDs is surprisingly spotty.

At the end of the day, limiting partners and encouraging youth to wait is the only 100%, sure-fire method of prevention and mode of protection for the mind, body and soul.

linked to Is abstinence-only sex education effective? Ass-Sphincter says no

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Gem of the Day: Clinton Defended (Bill, That Is)

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

MisterE published a piece that I found – surprise, surprise – very distressing. Above all else, I’m not an adamant “I love George W. Bush. He’s never wrong” enthusiast. I see the faults; I’m not blinded or deafened by his sociopolitical stances that happen to jive with my own personal inclinations. In sum: I’m well versed and well aware of the criticisms that are posed against him.

In the end, I always find it intriguing when political pundits (yes MisterE, I’m going to consider you a pundit) ramble on and on about the members of the opposing party’s administration. We’re constantly (and sometimes with good reason) hearing about how the members of Bush’s administration are corrupt. In turn, those on the left use these same corruption claims to debunk Bush, himself. It’s not uncommon to hear, “This entire administration is criminal.” After all, aren’t we all defined by who we associate with?

It’s curious to note, however, that MisterE (and nearly every left-minded individual) faults Bush for every minor action made within his administration, but when it comes to Clinton and his missteps concerning the al Qaeda, they turn the other cheek. This isn’t limited to liberals. Conservatives do it too, although our current political climate enables us to utilize liberals as prime illustrations.

“Maybe Clinton didn’t want to create a police/military state, illegally invade people’s privacy, turn Christian against Muslim, and be responsible for 650,000 innocent deaths.”

Sigh. Yes, Bush is to blame for it all – the Crusades, the Iran-Contra affair – maybe even Jimmy Carter’s presidency (I mean, come on – how atrocious was that?! It’s got Bush written all over it)!

I’m sure Bush’s plan has brilliantly unfolded as he had hoped it would! Do you really think he wanted these horrible events to occur, MisterE? Of course, motivation does not excuse the mistakes, but this inclination that George W. Bush is the end-all-be-all of evil is a bit redundant and simple-minded (and you’re a smart guy, so I’m confused as to why you constantly resort to name-calling and the dumbing down of anything “Bush”).

At worst, you could simply say – in your opinion – that Bush wasn’t qualified for the job and that he has made some serious errors (and I might agree with you in this regard on some issues). Policy blockages and radical Islamic fascism run amok are at the root of our current situation. Unanticipated mismanagements and political happenings account for the rest.

And in a turn I find hysterical MisterE says,

“But maybe the CIA never briefed the president well enough for him to have been able to act.”

This is your defense for Clinton’s inaction concerning the al Qaeda? Are you kidding me? So, basically Clinton – a brilliant Rhodes Scholar – needed CIA-head George Tenet to tell him the al Qaeda were posing a major threat to U.S. interests?

I suppose the Kobar towers, the first World trade Center attack in 1993, the embassy bombings in Yemen, the attack on the U.S.S. Cole – the list goes on – were not enough evidence of an imminent threat?

I do agree, however, that we cannot blame anyone, per se. But I do believe that acting as though 9/11 were an isolated incident is ridiculous. It didn’t take putting a note in Bush’s memos or alerting Ms. Rice – and it certainly didn’t take Mr. Tenet’s knowledge – to surmise the potentials that the devilish al Qaeda possessed.

At the end of the day it’s all politics as usual. The left would quickly blame the “Bush Administration” and not the CIA for failing to act, but when defending Clinton, he is conveniently separated from those who worked under him; he is rarely held to the same standards we hold Bush to – so much so that it’s almost laughable.

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Abstinence Only Ed a No Go?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

The abstinence-only educational model embraced by Bush and a great number of conservatives has come under criticism and has recently been deemed highly ineffective by a great deal of liberal-minded individuals.

Students who participated in programs to discourage sex before marriage didn’t hold off any longer than peers who didn’t participate in such programs, finds a longterm study authorized by Congress.

Those who participated in the four "abstinence-only" program studied had sex about the same age — 14 years and nine months —as those in their communities who didn’t have any specialized abstinence education, and had similar numbers of sex partners, says the $7.7 million study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research Inc. of Princeton, N.J. for the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.

This is clearly an issue, seeing as the U.S. government spends around $176 million on abstinence programs each year.

The study — the first long-term look at actual youth behavior rather than attitudes — began tracking 2,057 youths in their late elementary and middle school years and followed them four to six years. The control group had one to three years of abstinence education at one of four programs around the country. They were in Miami, Milwaukee, Powhatan, Va.,and Clarksdale, Miss. Follow-ups were conducted at one year, two years and four to six years later. About half from each group had remained abstinent.

What is most curious about the study is the time in which it was released (just before Congress decided to renew funding for abstinence programs). And before we turn this into a "Blame the Bush Administration Extravaganza," let’s consider that the U.S. government has funded abstinence education since 1982; it was in 1996 that the bulk of these programs were created (this came with the reformation of welfare laws occurring at the same time).

Even more curious is the fact that this study is based on only four programs. Why were none of the 696 programs included? The sample seems way too small to be an accurate depiction of the entire abstinence-online landscape. I understand the intricacies of planning and implementing a research study, but this question must be answered with deep consideration.

Also, when considering that the four programs studied come from the 1996 overhaul, eyebrows can (and should) yet again be raised. Research and abstinence education have changed a great deal since 1996, so basing an overarching effective or ineffective label on a study that examines results from premature programs is odd and may (or has) led to static results.

At the end of the day, we need to educate youth on a plethora of issues associated with sex. I do believe that, to some degree, it’s unrealistic to expect every child to refrain from sex. With that said, intentions show us that many youth make the pledge not do engage in premarital sex. While their actions aren’t necessarily jiving with words, it’s important that we further explore these inclinations. Clearly — at some point — they took a stand that they have not been able to live up to.  But why?

There’s much to consider: media influence, parental guidance, drugs and substances and other situations that may harm one’s chances of avoiding premarital sex. Plus, let’s not forget the societal forces (many of which are in the aforementioned sentences) that tell them that sex is simply "okay" to engage in.

Today’s teens face difficult challenges; examining support structures is a necessity before deciding that abstinence programs are totally and utterly ineffective.  I believe that they have a place, but that the "only" may need to be expounded upon.  Youths need to be educated on the issue as a whole.  With that said, I wholeheartedly support the goals and methods these programs utilize.

I’d also like to address STD’s. MisterE and others contend that it’s totally healthy to engage in sex with whomever – as long as one remains safe. Aside from ignoring the severe emotional issues that may result from this exploration, these bloggers never address STD’s that can be contracted even when individuals remain “safe.”

If I recall – HPV is rampant. Unfortunately, it can be contracted even with the use of a condom. Condoms are not 100% effective to begin with, but when we consider herpes, genital warts (a form of HPV) and other communicable diseases, being safe means remaining abstinent.

Consider this:

The male condom is not as effective at preventing HPV transmission as it is for the prevention of other STDs; the male condom does not prevent all skin-to-skin contact during sex.

While both sides of the debate (the "safe sexers" and the "refrainers") agree on some basic condom tenants (the reduction of HIV/AIDS, etc.), there are pieces of both arguments that should be heard:

Each side has some truth in its argument: Condoms are very effective against the AIDS virus, but data for their effectiveness against some other STDs is surprisingly spotty.

At the end of the day, limiting partners and encouraging youth to wait is the only 100%, sure-fire method of prevention and mode of protection for the mind, body and soul.

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Faith and Religion Not Synonymous

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

After reading MisterE’s response to my faith and doubt post, there is a great deal to clarify. He raises some interesting questions and criticisms that one might ponder when discussing this complicated issue.

“You need to be able to independently answer your questions. If you really question whether or not God created the Earth, or if you have some doubt about it, you don’t crack open a [B]ible or spend more time at your church to alleviate the doubt, you go find independent means of answering your questions. You do it yourself, you run tests or experiments, even if they are thought experiments in your mind.”

Exactly. I wasn’t referring to merely reading the Bible and going to church. Sure, those are the places Christians go to gain education and perspective, but most Christians know that it’s also important to conduct what MisterE calls “thought experiments.” In the Christian sense, these “thought experiments” consist of deep considerations regarding serious life questions. Most Christians have “quiet time” or a very personal time during which they pray and connect with God – during which these “experiments” take place.

For me, journaling is extremely important. In my journals I document my questions, concerns and doubts. Having an open relationship with God is extremely important to me – meaning that I have no problem voicing what’s on my mind.

During this time, I conduct a variety of “thought experiments.” I question what is rational and I search for truth. So, when addressing what MisterE said, it’s important to consider that religion and faith differ. One can be “religious” without showcasing any true faith.

I pray and journal in an effort to work these issues out in my mind, on paper and with God – the only viable source for truth. Sure, I use my own understanding to process life issues, but at the end of the day Christians believe that man is fallable; so for me, God is the source – which may seem difficult to comprehend for those who do not follow Christianity or similar belief systems.

“How can you doubt your faith? If you’re not too convinced that a magical creature created you and tells you what to do and who to thank, than you’re not really faithful to your religion”

Well, not exactly. First off, I’m a non-denominational Christian, so I don’t really even consider myself religious. Rather, I am a person of faith. As I said, there are differences between the two. How can I doubt my faith? Easily – I’m human. Doubt does not mean that an individual is untrue to his or her faith (or religion for that matter). Doubt simply means that a person is going through a period of questioning.

Speak to a Christian – most will tell you that they’ve “backslidden” (gone into a period in which God was a distant memory); in fact, I’ve never met a Christian who hasn’t gone through the process and come out stronger. So, while my doubt may be insignificant to you, the moments I’ve experienced it have been life-changing.

To find answers to life’s questions, an individual will typically seek out other Christians, read the Bible, attend church – but the most important component of the search will be those “thought experiments” – the ideas and scenarios that play out while conducting this ultra-personal expedition. It is with the heart that these answers should be sought. Doubt creeps into all of our hearts and minds; it’s only natural.

Consider 9/11. I’m sure that there were plenty of atheists who experienced doubt — individuals who had the gaul to utter “God Bless you” or to pray. Did these ardent atheists abandon their “faith?” No, they simply underwent a moment of doubt – a moment in which they were more connected to their Creator than they had ever wished to be. It was an innate reaction, in my opinion.  A similar one occurs when a doubt-stricken Christian realizes – through faith – the answer to the questions that have spawned his or her skepticism.

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From Iraq to ‘08

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

It’s always intriguing to take a look at media outlets and their coverage during wartime. But with a pivotal election approaching and an unpopular war raging, how are the media balancing their coverage?

From April through June, The Project for Excellence in Journalism monitored 48 news outlets – a mix of newspapers, cable news shows, Web sites, radio shows, the nightly news (broadcast) and morning shows. Not only does their study provide a glimpse into the overall frame of coverage offered by American media outlets, but it also provides information on differences in content among specified news sources.

“As in the first quarter, CNN and MSNBC each devoted about twice as much time to the war as their cable competitor Fox News Channel…MSNBC stood apart in giving twice as much time to the presidential campaign as the other two.”

Among the plethora of findings, The New York Times slates “the fall-off in war reports” to be one of the most important (as do I). According to The Times, the first few months of the year left the media drenched with stories about Iraq and the funding debate that was then raging between Bush and the Democratic Congress. After Congress agreed to provide funding, the war reports dwindled.

According to The Times:

“Coverage of events in Iraq and their consequences in the United States, like the return of wounded soldiers, held steady”

Cable networks actually devoted less time to events in Iraq than did other news outlets, and much more to the debate in Washington (during the first few months of 2007). One might wonder if budgets and accessibility play a role in decisions regarding what should be covered.

To mirror The Times, it’s an easier process to cover internal debate (i.e. heading to Capital Hill to interview and interact with key policy players); on the flip side, it’s more expensive and increasingly complicated to cover ground events in Iraq. So, when the media saw an opportunity to cover solid governmental debate, they quickly jumped at it. But when it ended – it seems they quickly turned to the election (another easy access internal “battle”).

What is very surprising is the fact that the 2008 election was the most-covered story in the second quarter – and we’re still over a year away! It’s intriguing that the pre-campaign extravaganza would take Iraq’s place, but it’s quite possible that our nation (and her media outlets) is simply ready for something new, as most will contend that “war exhaustion” set in long ago.

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WWMD: What Would Muhammad Do?

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The British have done it again. First, they successfully banned smoking in public places (a wonderful idea, I might add) and now – they are leading the pack in innovative methodologies to help curb radical Islamic fascism. In what most ultra-liberals (in America) would call a violation of church and state, the British government is pouring financial support into a pilot program aimed at educating young Muslims to steer clear of radicalism.

In sum, the program, which is being piloted in Bradford, is based on curriculum written by a local teacher. It comes during a time in which many Muslims are angered by Iraq and other associated issues. The New York Times provides a concise overview of the program:

“…a government-financed effort to teach basic citizenship issues in a special curriculum intended to reach students who might be vulnerable to Islamic extremism.”

Britain’s Labor government has high hopes for the plan.

“In the long haul, the British government hopes that such civics classes, which use the Koran to answer questions about daily life, will replace the often tedious and sometimes hard-core religious lessons taught in many mosques across the land. Often, these lessons emphasize rote learning of the Koran and are taught by imams who were born in Pakistan and speak little English and have little contact with British society.”

Britain’s new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, spoke at his first press conference and alluded to the fact that the English government would be continuing its counter-terrorism work in an effort to demonstrate its inherent dislike for violence, while showcasing the value the nation holds for each individual life – a tenant far from the minds and hearts of radical Islamic extremists.

Clearly, this new program is an effort to work toward both of these values, while enamoring young Muslims before they are brainwashed and mis-educated into a world of hate and disharmony.

And, since 100,000 schoolchildren are currently estimated to be enrolled in after-school religious programs at local Mosques, this is the perfect stomping ground to tackle the issue at hand.

Not everyone is jumping for joy; many Muslims dislike the plan, citing alienation and disenchantment.

“One of our primary concerns is: why the Muslim community again?” Mrs. Ali said. “Extremism is a problem in all communities, especially among the British National Party,” she said, referring to a right-wing party that has articulated white supremacist views. “The issue of terror and extremism needs to be addressed across the board rather than saying: ‘Here, Muslims, go into your corner and have your curriculum.’ ”

What Mrs. Ali clearly ignores is the intricate and massive movement of Islamic fundamentalism that has developed across the globe. Britain has endured its own internal terrorism-related issues; this program is a method by which to educate and engage youth before such evils take hold.

And yes, extremism is a problem across the board, but the masses of Islamic fundamentalists are more plentiful than any other fundamentalist organization. By some estimates there are hundreds of millions of jihadists (those who support the anti-American/anti-Judeo-Christian/anti-Individualistic goals these terrorists tout).

In the end, despite resistance, this is an innovative method of reaching out and one worth studying further.

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Clean Inhalations (Unleashed)

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

I’ve been breathing a whole lot easier since New York City banned smoking in indoor public spaces. Not only do I find cigarette smoke repulsive, but I worry about the negative effects others’ habits may have on my loved ones.

America is far behind her European sisters in adopting smoke-free zones. On July 1, 2007, England took the plunge and made smoking illegal in indoor arenas.

According to BBC News,

The ban includes all pubs, clubs, membership clubs, cafés and restaurants.

With good intentions in mind, Britain is looking to improve public health. After all, second-hand smoke damages the lungs and bodies of those innocent bystanders who find themselves immersed in unwanted fumes. I’m all for allowing people the ability to damage their own bodies, but when it comes to public health concerns, it’s time we crack down.

The [British] government hopes the ban, which began in England on 1st July, will help smokers to quit as well as protect people from the dangers of passive smoking and discourage children from taking up the habit.

Ireland is another nation to have enlisted a smoking ban. So, with all this awareness, why is it that America finds itself so far behind? A ban cannot come soon enough. How much longer can we let this public health concern loom?

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Smoke This

Monday, August 20th, 2007

I’ve been breathing a whole lot easier since New York City banned smoking in indoor public spaces.  Not only do I find cigarette smoke repulsive, but I worry about the negative effects others’ habits may have on my loved ones.

America is far behind her European sisters in adopting smoke-free zones.  On July 1, 2007, England took the plunge and made smoking illegal in indoor arenas.

According to BBC News,

The ban includes all pubs, clubs, membership clubs, cafés and restaurants.

With good intentions in mind, Britain is looking to improve public health.  After all, second-hand smoke damages the lungs and bodies of those innocent bystanders who find themselves immersed in unwanted fumes.  I’m all for allowing people the ability to damage their own bodies, but when it comes to public health concerns, it’s time we crack down.

The [British] government hopes the ban, which began in England on 1st July, will help smokers to quit as well as protect people from the dangers of passive smoking and discourage children from taking up the habit.

Ireland is another nation to have enlisted a smoking ban.  So, with all this awareness, why is it that America finds itself so far behind?  A ban cannot come soon enough.  How much longer can we let this public health concern loom?

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A Doubtable Offense?

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

To expound upon RyanW’s, "Doubt can be Part of Faith," I believe that there is much to be said.  Particularly in this short, yet concise statement:

"If you have no doubt about anything then you probably don’t have a thorough understanding of what it is that you have faith in." - RyanW

Too true.  When I read MisterE’s writings about the faithful, I can sense his overwhelming inclination that people of faith (or conservatives for the matter) blindly follow their belief structures motivated by mere stupidity.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Sure, some people may follow blindly, but the majority of those individuals of faith I have met are constantly reaffirming their beliefs with research in pursuit of better understanding.

Doubt is and must be an integral part of faith.  I have never been one to blindly accept ideas, no matter who presents them.  After going through journalism school I learned the ins and outs (and the importance) of finding the true meaning behind issues, or at the least searching for viable evidence to back up my beliefs and thoughts on religious, social and political issues.

When it comes to my own faith, I have encountered many questions — many doubts.  In these instances, this doubt has motivated me to seek answers so that I could better understand the textual (Biblical) or philosophical issues at hand.  Doubt is healthy and when acted upon leads one to a more solidified place in his or her faith.

And as RyanW said, doubt leads directly to the self-education of both the heart and the mind.

I truly believe that God sometimes gives us doubt so that we can learn more about our world — and our Creator.

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Freedom Fries?

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

Finally, a French official with a penchant for easing strained relations.

France’s foreign minister paid an unannounced and highly symbolic visit to Baghdad on Sunday — the first by a senior French official since the war started and a gesture to the American effort in Iraq after years of icy relations over the U.S.-led invasion. Bernard Kouchner said Paris wanted to "turn the page" and look to the future.

And it gets better:

Kouchner said he was not in Iraq to offer initiatives or proposals but to listen to ideas on how his country might help stop the devastating violence.

I was never one for endorsing the whole "freedom fries" phenomenon, although I did find it amusing, but there have definitely been some serious issues to bat concerning France and other European nations and their lack of support regarding Middle Eastern issues.

It’s uplifting to see a French leader who is looking for ways in which the estranged nation can help America stabilize the Middle East.

All past feelings aside, it’s in France’s best interest to examine the issue, seeing as the bloodbath in Iraq could easily spill over into other areas of the Middle East — and beyond.

"We are ready to be useful, but the solution is in the Iraqis hands, not in the French hands," he said, adding "I’m not frightened of the perspective of talking to the Americans."

Phew, I’m glad they’re finally ready.  I’ve been increasingly offset by European nations (like France) who have stood by and watched Iraq unfold.  Sure, they were against it from the start, but what’s happened has happened — events have played out and it’s time that the world unites to fix this immense problem.  It’s in everyone’s best interest.

I’m glad to see a world leader stand up and say, "Hey, we may just have to help here," instead of sitting back and sporting a na-na-na-boo-boo we told you so persona.

It’s time to unite.  Seriously.