The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Brazen Word

I was never taught in high school how to properly inject heroin into my arm or safely snort cocaine through a $20 bill. Mrs. Pelzer, my tenth grade health teacher, never took the time to teach us how to safely jump off the roof of a building or how to play a game of Russian roulette with caution.

The idea of introducing any of the above to teenagers is dangerous, superfluous and only asking for trouble. Kind of like contraception education.

Unfortunately, contraception education has attained the “realistic” label, a word that contemporary usage has come to scoff at the “idealism” promoted by social conservatism. Teaching young adults abstinence only seems, to many, “unrealistic” and endangers them, makes them vulnerable to AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases-a plan without a backup plan, per se.

Intuitively, I get the sense that this is an argument rooted in deceiving statistics. Every 13-year-old in my elementary school could figure out how to use a condom, if you know what I mean. I find contraception education about as necessary as a course on banana peeling. But maybe that’s my ignorance speaking.

What is most problematic about this whole debate is what it says about our deteriorating consciousness as a nation. What is considered “realistic” is today simply a compromise of ethics. In today’s American logic, it is wholly “realistic” to teach potential murders how to kill while causing the victim minimum pain and to teach potential alcoholics to drink light beer. They’re potentially going to do it anyway, so why not teach them how to be safe about it?

Some call abstinence-only education a negligent public health policy, an uncompromising lesson that teenagers won’t listen to. To me it seems that teaching abstinence is, firstly, the safest public health policy and, secondly, the most constructive kind of education for young adults. American teenagers are often promiscuous without the advocating of a high school health teacher. It seems both safe and smart to teach abstinence to prevent the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancies and to elevate marriage as the sacred union that it so often is no longer considered. Contraception education promotes the deterioration of inter-gender relations and personal accountability in a country that instinctively loves to point the finger away from itself.

Contraception education has undoubtedly saved millions of lives, as seen in Cambodia where, since 1997, posters and billboards promoting the latex lifesavers have decreased the prevalence of H.I.V. in adults from three percent to 1.8 percent, according to the New York Times.

But that is in a region of the world where a myth that a man can be cured of AIDS by having sex with a virgin girl still lives. The United States is a nation where your average teenager cannot flip through the channels twice without seeing a Trojan commercial.

Studies suggest that contraception education does not necessarily lead to promiscuity, so why not teach kids how to protect themselves? First, how is sexual activity among likely condom users accurately measured? And second, contraception education does not teach safety as much as it promotes a pre-existing safety net. It sends a message to young adults that probably know exactly how to use a condom that safe premarital sex is virtuous, an ideal.

It sets the bar for America’s youth awfully low.

American culture celebrates sexually promiscuous figures that use condoms. One need to look no further than MTV’s Real World to understand as much. Programs like this one suggest that safe sexual promiscuity is a youthful ideal.

Now what happens when we can’t reach that mark anymore?

What happens when educators realize that it’s no longer “realistic” to teach condom usage because kids find sex more pleasurable without one? What happens when condoms get too “idealistic,” too removed from any “realistic” expectations we can maintain for young adults? Will we go on from there to promote abortions, to teach young girls how to get birth control without their parents’ knowledge?

Will Americans become so dreadfully “realistic” again?

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