Thursday, February 11, 2010

Narrative Disruptions

Governing social narratives tend to crowd out contrary ideas. The narrative that trying to get teenagers to abstain from sex as a strategy to reduce pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease, is a waste of time, just got its wake-up-call.

A recent study reveals that abstinence education actually works, as commented on by The Catholic Thing.

An excerpt.

“Dramatic” understates the conclusions reached by this new exercise in social science. Led by Dr. John B. Jemmott III of the University of Pennsylvania, researchers tracked 662 African-American students at urban middle schools to reach a result utterly subversive of the secular wisdom about kids and sex: only about a third of the students who attended an abstinence-only class started having sex within the next twenty-four months, compared to half who did after being assigned to other health classes (including, suggestively enough, a “safer-sex” class).

“Just how significant is this research, the first peer-reviewed study suggesting that abstinence education might work after all? “Landmark,” as the Washington Post put it. Or consider the word applied by the head of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy—a source, incidentally, that no one would accuse of being in the pope’s pocket: “game-changing.” Say what you want about the literary merit of its title: “Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention over 24 Months” has not only galvanized the expected religious and other groups shouted down for years with the feverish incantation that “abstinence doesn’t work.” It has also garnered preliminary respect from some unexpected and significant places.

“Which is exactly why the contrary cries of “not really” and “no way” and “yes-but” rippling immediately through the rest of the secular chatter in the study’s wake are so very interesting. Sara Kliff, a blogger for Newsweek, summarized this weirdly obstreperous reaction in a single title: “The New Abstinence-Education Study is Good News. So Why are Liberals Freaking Out about It?”

“Good question. And as long as we’re asking, how about this deeper one: Why was abstinence education fought tooth and nail by secularists in the first place?”