Friday, April 04, 2008

Fundamentalist miseducation in Florida endangering kids' lives

Florida is turning — scratch that and let me start over — Florida has turned into a fundamentalist hellhole that is bound and determined not only to miseducate its kids, but actively put their lives at risk as well.

It's sad enough that Florida is the state that shamefacedly must claim such embarrassments as "hanging chads," Katherine Harris (happily forgotten), Kent Hovind and the largest concentration of Scientologists in the country. But the cancer of religidiocy runs even deeper than you might have thought.

We've all heard about how a bogus "Academic Freedom Act" specifically designed to target science education, and machinated by the Discovery Institute, has passed out of its first Senate committee. But you might not be aware that what is already in place in the Sunshine State are abstinence-only sex education programs. And, like all miseducation programs put together by the religious, whose real motivations are to maintain ignorance and suppress knowledge rather than encourage, nurture, and cultivate it, the results have been disastrous. I mean, majorly disastrous, as in, we're damn lucky we haven't already seen some dead kids as a result of this.

A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.

The survey showed that Florida teens also believe that smoking marijuana will prevent a person from getting pregnant.

State lawmakers said the myths are spreading because of Florida's abstinence-only sex education, Local 6 reported.

This is so staggering that you really need to read it a few times before it sinks in. A cap of bleach!? Seriously, kids down there are that stupid and ignorant about their own bodies? Gee, Christians, that "stick your head in the sand and hope all that scary reality goes away" approach to schooling just seems to be working out great, doesn't it?

See, this is what we've been saying all along.

A sex education program, geared towards a segment of the populace whose hormones are rampaging through their bodies like Count Dracula at a blood bank, that delivers no actual information on the subject other than "Don't do it, save yourself for marriage!" is going to be an epic fail. Every assessment that has been made of abstinence-only programs has determined this.

And lacking accurate information, well, what do you think the little adolescent horndogs are going to do? They'll get their information from the usual oh-so-reliable places: their peers, the locker room, MySpace chat, wherever. And they'll get idiotic ideas in their heads because you haven't put facts there first. And that irresponsibility on your part will lead to irresponsibility on theirs, leading to more teen pregnancies, STD's, and worse. O the irony. But hey, at least you didn't have to subject yourself to the discomfort and embarrassment of having to get up in front of a class of horny teenagers and talk about the nasty, did you?

Fundies always have to learn this the hard way. Just because you don't like a fact, because it offends you, or because it doesn't flatter your religious preferences, doesn't make it stop being a fact. And harsh truths don't go away when you close your eyes to them.

You know, when you get right down to it, the worst that could happen if some poor dumb SOB grows up deceived about evolution is that, well, he'll just be dumb where that subject of science is concerned, and sadly bereft of a sense of wonder for the pageantry of life, and all that. But on the whole, someone like that can more or less get by in life as a cog in the proverbial machine, selling insurance or managing an OfficeMax or whatever.

But here, we see an instance where the pernicious influence of conservative Christian fundamentalism on education is more than just a nuisance. It could actually get some boys and girls frickin' killed!

Wow. Just wow. At least they've come to their senses and are changing course. I wonder how many unwanted pregnancies and abortions had to happen first.


  1. Have to share this personal anecdote. Talking to a nonreligious theist friend. He often accuses me of being biased against religion; but I suspect it's the other way around. He noted something he had read about increasing STDs in some areas of the country. I said, "Abstinence Only Education."

    We had a long discussion where I was asked, "What's WRONG with telling kids not to have sex? It's the best way to avoid pregnancy and STD. Why can't you tell them that AND teach them about condoms?!"

    I had to laugh. Here was someone hammering me--who doesn't even recognize he's on my side. I pointed out the "only" in "abstinence ONLY," and tried again.

    What was funny was that I was _still_ treated like a person being unreasonable. I could see the "I don't trust you--you're making this up," reaction in response to my claims that there really ARE religious people getting government support to put and keep these programs in place in public schools.

    The very next night, I stumbled upon a research channel on satellite, where someone was giving a lecture on the topic of STD issues in the U.S. Inevitably, the issue of A-O education came up, and you can bet I got ahold of my pal in record time to say, "You NEED to see this program!"

    I didn't want them to see the program to convince them I was right about the link between rising STD rates and A-O "education"; I wanted him to see that the bias wasn't _mine_. That I wasn't making up "worst case scenarios" in order to lambast the religious right political push. It's about data and about correlations showing harm.

    Well, something I said must have stuck, because he apeared to have googled the issue. He claimed that Clinton's administration put the program into effect.

    Honestly--I have no idea. I only replied that no matter how it started, once it became obvious it wasn't working--why would any administration continue to pour money and support into a failing program that can cause real harm to our children?

    Answer? Votes.

    At that point, what else could he say?

    Just to add that ironically, this is only one of several similar conversations I've had with this friend. Inevitably, he comes at me with a full battery of defensiveness, then, after an epic struggle, he begins to realize he's in agreement with me, and the gov't is misbehaving to accommodate religious votes.

    Still, whenever I open my mouth about religion...I'm "biased."

  2. So they mention that kids think that a "shot" of Mountain Dew works. Now do they mean a shot out of a glass or an actual injection of it?

    The sad thing is that it probably means an injection.

  3. B-Rad:
    Dang, that was a scary question. If these people are dumb enough to think mountain Dew is an EXTREME morning after pill, then can you imagine them trying to give each other injections without getting air bubbles in the syringe?

    I did find an interesting web page from the Orange County Health Department.

    (I know, wrong state, but the version they are confronting is about drinking mountain dew.)

    Questions from the site:

    If you drink Mountain Dew after sex, can you still get pregnant?

    Can you get pregnant if you have sex standing up?

    Does douching after sex prevent a pregnancy?

  4. Well Thomas in response to the question of "Can you get pregnant if you have sex standing up?" I would like to quote a line from the movie "Knocked Up"

    Women can't get pregnant if they are on top, it's just gravity.

    This is the line of thinking these kids are using in place of their horrible A-O sex education.

    How they got the idea that Mountain Dew is anything but tasty soda I have no idea.

  5. B-rad:
    I wasn't asking those questions. Those were just entertaining questions from the site. I never claimed to be a genius, but I just want to make clear that I wasn't asking for advice :)

  6. Oh I know you weren't asking those questions. I just read the one about sex standing up and it reminded me of something funny. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

  7. The Mountain Dew thing might spin out of a couple of other urban legends. One particularly tenacious legend suggests that douching with Coca-Cola immediately after sex will prevent pregnancy (it won't, but it's a good way to get a host of infections), and one that was popular when I was in Junior High was that drinking Mountain Dew would make you sterile. Twist those two around with enough ignorance and a game of "telephone," and you get "Do the Dew after you do the deed."

  8. "What a terrible joke!"
    "But it's my only line!"

  9. According to the site No More Money the government has been supporting abstinence only since 1981, the Reagan years. Indeed in 1996 the Title V—Welfare Reform Act went thru that provided grants to states for abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. So yes this was something that was basically snuck through & you would have hoped that Clinton would have stopped it. His silence implies he was for it. However it certainly did not start with him and he certainly wasn't the main mover in this direction.

    Also they state "Between 1996 and federal Fiscal Year 2006, Congress funneled over $1.5 billion dollars (through both federal and state matching funds) to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs." Can you fathom that? Think about how that money could have been better used to improve health care for lower income people. It's repulsive that this amount of money was wasted. It seems that as well as the big business of the "War on Drugs" we also have a thriving industry in the "War on Sex".

  10. Not to be fair or anything, but I haven't been able to find the survey that mentions bleach or Mountain Dew.

    The closest I've found is this AP story that says that a) a representative of Orlando Planned Parenthood mentioned the bleach, Mountain Dew, and pot myths while trying to convince the legislation to pass better sex ed laws, and b) a legislator pointed to a U. of Florida survey as part of his argument to improve sex ed in Florida.

    The article doesn't say that the two are connected, or that the survey mentions these myths at all. In fact, I haven't been able to find the survey at all. UFL has a page about it, but it doesn't link to the research itself, and I haven't been able to find the web pages of any of the people mentioned in the article.

    So I suspect what happened was that the Planned Parenthood representative passed along some myths that she'd heard from working with teens. But that's not the same as a study that measures how many Florida teens actually believe such stories.

  11. Well, the published study itself may not be online. Not being able to find it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. I Googled "drinking bleach will prevent HIV" and got 155,000 results, most of which are probably news sites and blogs linking to the same news item I did. It's possible the study itself is buried in there, so if someone has the time and will to go through all 155,000 results, more power to you.

    I suspect that what probably happened to get the "drinking bleach" belief going is that kids heard a garbled version of the story about how the use of bleach to clean needles has been explored as a way to curb HIV spread amongst IV drug abusers. As usual, lacking proper information from teachers and schools, you end up with the classic game of "Telephone," where, by the time the info is making the rounds in high school lunchrooms and locker rooms, it's turned into "You can drink bleach to stop HIV."

  12. I can totally relate to this article, having been an atheist trapped in the Bible-Thumping Florida “educational” system from 4th grade all the way through my senior year.
    When I think back, the only time there was anything along the lines of sex ed. was a video in 5th grade. It only explained what to expect when you hit puberty. I don't think that sex was even mentioned. Nonetheless the survey's findings were shocking. Ignorance was the norm in my school and I tried to avoid all but a few kids, but I didn't think that they were THAT stupid.

    However, the lack of sex education is just one of the many things wrong in Florida schools. Many teachers don't teach and often dumber that the students, I've had only 1 teacher that had brain. Keep in mind that this is referring to a PUBLIC school and that these are only a handful of examples:
    --My world history teacher told the class that dinosaurs never existed and that fossils were planted by the devil.
    --My 10th grade science class was interrupted twice a week so that a man wearing a giant gold cross could lead the "I Am Me" program. He talked about how his wife's prayers had saved his life when he had heart attack a few years prior. In the pamphlets he handed out, the Bible was on the recommended reading list. I did confront this one. I asked him, sweetly, if it was actually legal to put it on the list. He told me that it's ok because it's only RECOMMENDED and anyway "Bible" could mean ANY religious text, Torah, Koran, or what have you.
    -In my freshmen English class the teacher pressured us to participate in 'Prayers Across America' She spent a class period explaining how people on the west coast prayed for people with cancer on the east coast. Of COURSE all of these cancer patients were miraculously cured! By awarding extra credit for standing in a circle in the middle of the classroom holding hands and praying, she roped most of the class into it. I sat that one out. She also was obsessed with Native American spirituality and said an Indian prayer over her students at the beginning of class.
    --There was the substitute who called a student the n-word and wasn't fired because "the students were lying." Yeah, the entire class when asked about the incident was OBVIOUSLY just making it up.
    --In 9th grade my Spanish teacher couldn't speak or understand anything more than rudimentary English.
    --In 10th, my Spanish teacher couldn't speak Spanish and was never without a translation dictionary.
    SHOCKINGLY enough,I did not learn any Spanish during my high school years.

    These examples may sound faked, sadly, they're not. I REALLY wish that they were.

    I should have taken a stand, but I
    was awkward and shy and didn't want to attract attention.
    If I could go back I would be vocal and call them out for what they were, Religious Brain-Washers.

    The school was factory designed produce sparklingly new extremists.

    They've got the perfect system, students learn:
    A)that being "educated" doesn’t that mean that you actually to KNOW anything!
    B)that if you’re not abstinent, it’s better not to worry about the whole birth control thing. Anyway, more pregnant teens=more Christian babies!
    C)how to effectively use Doublespeak and helpful reality avoidance training
    D)that it’s easy to break the 1st amendment without getting caught!
    E)racism is perfectly acceptable!
    F)that you can still hold government job even if you’re senile!

    THANK “god” I’M NOW IN COLLEGE!!!!


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