The number of states refusing federal money for "abstinence-only" sex education programs jumped sharply in the past year as evidence mounted that the approach is ineffective.
At least 14 states have either notified the federal government that they will no longer be requesting the funds or are not expected to apply, forgoing more than $15 million of the $50 million available, officials said. Virginia was the most recent state to opt out.
Thank the Goddess. The only surprising thing is that anyone rational ever imagined that this twaddle could be effective.
Despite intense (and, ask my friend, R., it's really, really intense and nasty) lobbying by fundie whackjobs and xianists, the trend is likely to continue.
"This wave of states rejecting the money is a bellwether," said William Smith of the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a Washington-based advocacy and education group that opposes abstinence-only programs. "It's a canary in the coal mine of what's to come."
"We hope that it sends a message to the politicians in Washington that this program needs to change, and states need to be able to craft a program that is the best fit for their young people and that is not a dictated by Washington ideologues," Smith said.
Smith and other critics said they hoped that if enough states drop out, Congress will redirect the funding to comprehensive sex education programs that include teaching about the use of condoms and other contraceptives.
"I think this could be the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of continued funding of these programs," said John Wagoner of Advocates for Youth, another Washington advocacy group. "How can they ignore so many states slapping a return-to-sender label on this funding?"
I hate abstinence "education" programs for a number of reasons. First, of course, they're ineffective. Telling teenagers, with hormones coursing through their body designed specifically to make them want to have sex is about as effective as telling hungry dieters to just not eat or telling thirsty people not to drink. Sex is a natural biological function and our bodies are made to want it, just as they want air, and food, and water. Throw in a hyper-sexualized society, where 12-year-old girls dress like supermodels and sex is used to sell everything from beer to cars to, well, Viagara and you've got to be on dope to think that telling kids not to have sex = sex education. And the results show that abstinence "education" is lots less effective at preventing teen pregnancy than, oh, say, teaching kids how to use condoms and passing them out to kids every chance we get.
In addition, federal health officials reported last week that a 14-year drop in teenage pregnancy rates appeared to have reversed.
"This abstinence-only program is just not getting the job done," said Cecile Richards of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. "This is a ideologically based program that doesn't have any support in science."
Second, I just reject the notion that we should be giving teenagers the message that there's something wrong with sex. There isn't. Sex is great. Teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases are the problems. So let's teach kids how to prevent those. Consider another natural function that we're wired to want to do: eating. We don't tell kids not to eat until they get married. Eating isn't the problem; eating is great. Obesity and poor nutrition are the problems. So we have health classes and phys ed classes and science classes and home ec classes to teach kids how to eat and cook healthy food.
Third, and this is related to the second reason, the notion that sex is a problem and should be avoided (at least for now) is a religiously-based idea. My religion doesn't agree. Teaching abstinence almost always slips over into indoctrinating kids into, if not outright xianity, into ideas introduced into this culture by xianity that are directly antithecal to, say, my religion. Xians can tell their own kids, in their own homes, how terrible sex is and why they should avoid it. Public schools should provide information: if you have sex, here's what could happen and here's how to avoid that.
My own Democratic governor, Tim Kaine, in spite of being a devout Catholic, recently added Virginia to the states telling the fundie whackjobs installed by the Bush junta to go pound sand.
"The governor has often stated that abstinence-only education does not show any results," said Gordon Hickey, a spokesman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who announced plans to give up the funding last month. "It doesn't work. He's a firm believer in more comprehensive sex education."
Anyone who thinks that state elections don't matter can simply consider whether this would have happened if Jerry Kilgore had won in 2005.
Even more conservative politicians are getting off the abstinence merry-go-round:
"Why would we spend tax dollars on something that doesn't work?" asked Ned Calonge of the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. "That doesn't make sense to me. Philosophically, I am opposed to spending government dollars on something that's ineffective. That's just irresponsible."
The reasons given for passing up the federal money vary from state to state. Some governors publicly repudiated the programs. Others quietly let their applications lapse or blamed tight budgets that made it impossible to meet the requirement to provide matching state funds. Still others are asking for more flexibility.
"The governor supports abstinence education," Keith Daily, a spokesman for Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland (D). "What he does not support is abstinence- only education. We are asking to put the money toward abstinence in the context of a comprehensive age-appropriate curriculum."
Most of the battles on the state level are being fought by local affiliates supported by national groups. In Illinois, opponents are planning to launch a campaign next month involving more than 100 state groups to try to sway the governor and state legislature to forgo about $1.8 million in funding.
"These programs are dangerous," said Jonathan Stacks of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. "We're trying to get people across the state to raise their voice on this issue. I think once those voices are heard, the legislature and the governor won't have any choice but to back the will of the voters."
It's not even five o'clock and it's dark. The wind is blowing the holly bush near my window back and forth and there's a promise of sleet and icy rain for tomorrow morning. The lamps in my living room are like the sun's archipelagos, tiny islands of light in a sea of growing night. I'm tired from too much work and too many must-attend borg holiday events and not enough sleep. I want more than almost anything to batten down the hatches, lock the shutters, add on extra blankets, and go to sleep. I find myself reading Starhawk:
Set sail, set sail, Follow the twilight to the West, Where you may rest, where you may rest.
Set sail, set sail, Turn your face where the sun growns dim, Beyond the rim, beyond the rim.
Set sail, set sail, One thing becomes another In the Mother, in the Mother.
Set sail, set sail, Make of your heart a burning fire, Build it higher, build it higher.
Set sail, set sail, Pass in an instant through the open gate, It will not wait, it will not wait.
Set sail, set sail, Over the dark of the sunless sea, You are free, you are free.
Set sail, set sail, Guiding the ship of your rising sun, You are the One, you are the One.
Set sail, set sail, Into the raging wind and storm, To be reborn, to be reborn.
Set sail, set sail, Over the waves where the spray blows white,
All: We are awake in the night! We turn the Wheel, to bring the light! We sail the Sun from the womb of Night! To bring the light, to bring the light.
/From a Winter Solstice ritual in The Spiral Dance, 20th Anniversary Edition
Some days, I don't know how to be a witch and a grandmother and a lawyer and a gardener and a reader and a writer and an animal body that requires maintenance. Last night, at my wonderful circle's dark moon ritual, I promised the Goddess and my sisters to get even more exercise. And I don't know how. I don't know how to find the time.
I am sure that I am the only one in the world who remembers how Henry Kravitz's wife used to wake at dawn to practice the piano, but I am going to try to emulate (this aspect of) her this coming year. I only know that it's one step after another after another, and making the best steps all the time. I only know that everything matters and that everything exists in that highly joyous state of sheer joy where almost nothing matters because it's all ok.
My goal for the coming year is to live in that space in which G/Son turns on his most beloved object in the entire world: the vacuum cleaner, and claps his hands and yells, "Yea! Vacuum! Yea!" That's how I want to live all the obligations that I have. That's how I want to assume these duties. That's how I'd like to finish this race.
Goddess, I am yours and you are mine. Let's dance.
Today, in Norway, Al Gore accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on environmental issues. Here are some exceprts from his speech:
Seven years ago tomorrow, I read my own political obituary in a judgment that seemed to me harsh and mistaken -- if not premature. But that unwelcome verdict also brought a precious if painful gift: an opportunity to search for fresh new ways to serve my purpose.
Unexpectedly, that quest has brought me here. Even though I fear my words cannot match this moment, I pray what I am feeling in my heart will be communicated clearly enough that those who hear me will say, "We must act."
We, the human species, are confronting a planetary emergency -- a threat to the survival of our civilization that is gathering ominous and destructive potential even as we gather here. But there is hopeful news as well: we have the ability to solve this crisis and avoid the worst -- though not all -- of its consequences, if we act boldly, decisively, and quickly.
However, despite a growing number of honorable exceptions, too many of the world's leaders are still best described in the words Winston Churchill applied to those who ignored Adolf Hitler's threat: "They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all powerful to be impotent."
In the last few months, it has been harder and harder to misinterpret the signs that our world is spinning out of kilter. Major cities in North and South America, Asia, and Australia are nearly out of water due to massive droughts and melting glaciers. Desperate farmers are losing their livelihoods. Peoples in the frozen Arctic and on low-lying Pacific islands are planning evacuations of places they have long called home. Unprecedented wildfires have forced a half-million people from their homes in one country and caused a national emergency that almost brought down the government in another.
Indeed, without realizing it, we have begun to wage war on the earth itself. Now, we and the earth's climate are locked in a relationship familiar to war planners: "Mutually assured destruction."
As the American poet Robert Frost wrote, "Some say the world will end in fire; some say in ice." Either, he notes, "would suffice."
But neither need be our fate. It is time to make peace with the planet.
We must quickly mobilize our civilization with the urgency and resolve that has previously been seen only when nations mobilized for war. These prior struggles for survival were won when leaders found words at the 11th hour that released a mighty surge of courage, hope, and readiness to sacrifice for a protracted and mortal challenge.
Now comes the threat of climate crisis -- a threat that is real, rising, imminent, and universal. Once again, it is the 11th hour. The penalties for ignoring this challenge are immense and growing, and at some near point would be unsustainable and unrecoverable. For now we still have the power to choose our fate, and the remaining question is only this: Have we the will to act vigorously and in time, or will we remain imprisoned by a dangerous illusion?
Mahatma Gandhi awakened the largest democracy on earth and forged a shared resolve with what he called "Satyagraha" -- or "truth force."
In every land, the truth -- once known -- has the power to set us free.
When we unite for a moral purpose that is manifestly good and true, the spiritual energy unleashed can transform us. The generation that defeated fascism throughout the world in the 1940s found, in rising to meet their awesome challenge, that they had gained the moral authority and long-term vision to launch the Marshall Plan, the United Nations, and a new level of global cooperation and foresight that unified Europe and facilitated the emergence of democracy and prosperity in Germany, Japan, Italy, and much of the world. One of their visionary leaders said, "It is time we steered by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship."
Fifteen years ago, I made that case at the "Earth Summit" in Rio de Janeiro. Ten years ago, I presented it in Kyoto. This week, I will urge the delegates in Bali to adopt a bold mandate for a treaty that establishes a universal global cap on emissions and uses the market in emissions trading to efficiently allocate resources to the most effective opportunities for speedy reductions
- - - - -
We also need a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store carbon dioxide.
And most important of all, we need to put a price on carbon -- with a CO2 tax that is then rebated back to the people, progressively, according to the laws of each nation, in ways that shift the burden of taxation from employment to pollution. This is by far the most effective and simplest way to accelerate solutions to this crisis.
The world needs an alliance -- especially of those nations that weigh heaviest in the scales where Earth is in the balance. I salute Europe and Japan for the steps they've taken in recent years to meet the challenge, and the new government in Australia, which has made solving the climate crisis its first priority.
But the outcome will be decisively influenced by two nations that are now failing to do enough: the United States and China. While India is also growing fast in importance, it should be absolutely clear that it is the two largest CO2 emitters -- most of all, my own country -- that will need to make the boldest moves, or stand accountable before history for their failure to act.
Both countries should stop using the other's behavior as an excuse for stalemate and instead develop an agenda for mutual survival in a shared global environment.
The great Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, wrote, "One of these days, the younger generation will come knocking at my door."
The future is knocking at our door right now. Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: "What were you thinking; why didn't you act?"
Or they will ask instead: "How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?"
We have everything we need to get started, save perhaps political will, but political will is a renewable resource. So let us renew it, and say together: "We have a purpose. We are many. For this purpose we will rise, and we will act."
Please, just shoot me now. You can't convince me that Givhan, a crappy writer no matter what the topic, is going to write a column about how Chris Dodd looks or about how Mike Huckabee looks.
I mean, honestly: Women have come a long way from the time when wearing a pair of pants was considered "borrowing from the boys." So it would be highly regressive to suggest that the candidate is using trousers to heighten the perception that she can be as tough as a man. And yet . . .
In its way, its as disingenuously bad as the "some rumors say Obama is a Muslim" piece of shit the WaPo recently published.
For a quarter-century now, Democrats have had a habit of selecting brainy, establishment presidential nominees who are frequently pedantic but rarely passionate. Al Gore and John Kerry were bookish, and Michael Dukakis didn't even show emotion when asked about the hypothetical rape and murder of his wife.
The article is subtitled "Nobody Knows More than Hillary" and condemns her for actually knowing what she's talking about, rather than giving a speech long on buzzwords like "hope" and "freedom" and "Jebuz." It's extra cute that the speech Milbank chooses to "illlustrate" her point is a speech given by Clinton to teachers. And even though the teachers applaud throughout the speech, we're supposed to assume that they, like Milbank, hate Hillary for being smart and "methodical." After all, Milbank tells us that the teachers gave Clinton a seated ovation when she finished, rising only to put on their coats.
Goddess guard us from a president who is curious enough to learn the details, intelligent enough to grasp the subject matter, able to do more than show up and catapult the propaganda boulders s/he's been fed by a Karl Rove. Especially if that president is a smart girl.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."