Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choosing the Best

Amplify Your Voice recently posted a videos about the content of an abstinence-only sex education curriculum called "Choosing The Best." (Click here if you're having trouble viewing the video.)

"Choosing the Best", while not a faith-based abstinence program according to its website, is among many abstinence-only curricula praised by conservative Christians. As the above video demonstrates, the curriculum's dragon story promotes female submissiveness and passivity:
"Moral of the story: Occasional suggestions and assistance may be alright, but too much of it will lessen a man’s confidence or even turn him away from his princess." (Choosing the Best, Inc., Choosing the Best Soulmate, 2003, p. 51)
It gets worse. According to a 2004 report by the U.S. House of Representatives, "Choosing the Best" promotes other sexist stereotypes, such as the idea that men are detached and women are emotional:
“Generally, guys are able to focus better on one activity at a time and may not connect feelings with actions. Girls access both sides of the brain at once, so they often experience feelings and emotions as part of every situation.” (Choosing The Best Life, Leader Guide, p. 7.)
Sex, Lies & Stereotypes, a policy brief by Legal Momentum on the content of abstinence-only programs, lists numerous examples of sexist messages about gender in "Choosing the Best". These sexist statements, presented as fact without any supporting evidence, shoehorns young people into unrealistic and restrictive roles. What messages does this curriculum send to boys whose emotions are all too real, girls who are independent and smart, or gender-nonconforming kids?

The flaws of this abstinence-only curriculum are not limited to its messages about gender. The U.S. House of Representatives report also states that "Choosing the Best" also makes dubious statements about condom failure rates and HIV transmission. An Advocates for Youth policy brief on sex education in Illinois argues that "Choosing the Best" provides inaccurate information on cervical cancer and HPV. A 2008 SIECUS review of the curriculum observes that it associates sex with shame and guilt, and sends mixed messages about the victim's role in sexual abuse. To boot, SIECUS notes that "Choosing the Best" mandates heterosexual marriage, thereby completely ignoring LGBT youth (which the curriculum openly admits).

As I've noted in prior posts here and here, the Religious Right's admiration for abstinence-only sex education is misguided. A curriculum that provides misinformation about sexual health and toxic messages about gender is not appropriate for youth. "Choosing the Best" is not alone in this, as other abstinence-only curricula do the same. With this in mind, do we really want our tax dollars supporting these programs in our schools?

The SIECUS website features in-depth reviews of several abstinence-only curricula, including "Choosing the Best." To read reviews of the program, click here.

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