• Tennessee Strives to Maintain America's Teen Birth Supremacy

    Tennessee state capitolEveryone who follows the news knows American teens are falling behind. Not only do our adolescents perform poorly on international comparisons in science and math, the CDC reports that we're in danger of losing our global leadership position in teenage baby making. The National Center for Health Statistics recently announced that fewer babies were born to U.S. teenagers in 2010 than in any year since 1946.

    While we're still number one in teen pregnancy among members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, our state legislatures are not taking this challenge to our teen pregnancy supremacy lying down. Next week, the Tennessee House is scheduled to take up amendments to the state's sex education curriculum, which have already been approved in the Senate

    The Tennessee Senate voted 28-1 to amend the state's sex ed curriculum by adding warnings against "gateway sexual activity." Senate Bill 3310 does not explicitly define what those activities are, but it comes in response to controversies in Nashville and Knox County schools over instruction given to high school students that mentioned alternatives to sexual intercourse.

    "'Abstinence' means from all of these activities, and we want to promote that," said state Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, the bill's sponsor. "What we do want to communicate to the kids is that the best choice is abstinence."

    The naysayers will point out that being number one in teen pregnancy is actually a bad thing, and abstinence education has a poor track record in discouraging teen sex. Opponents of the bill have also complained that "gateway sexual activity" is so ill-defined as to include hand holding, playing Barry White records, lighting candles and guitar ownership.

    But Tennessee legislators are nothing if not consistent. Whether it's introducing creationism into science classrooms or promoting a retrograde sexual health curriculum, Tennessee politicians have a single policy on rationally thinking through the consequences of their actions: abstinence only.

    Tags: Abstinence, Education, Sex, State Legislature, Tennessee


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