Thursday, July 5, 2012

MN GOP. Better than Texas but still...

In case you haven't heard, the Texas GOP 2012 Platform is absolutely insane.
But seeing that got me thinking: "Surely all republicans aren't that bad?"  It seemed the easiest way to test this was to read the Minnesota GOP platform  for comparison.

Most of it was pretty sensible: roughly 90%.  There was one section that caught my eye though:

Emphasize Traditional American Values
We believe that every classroom should be required to display the United States flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily. In keeping with our heritage, all history classes should include information about the important role religion played in our Nation’s founding, including study of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and other original sources.

We should continue to encourage the voluntary expression of religious beliefs and traditions of students. Specifically, educators who discuss creation science should be protected from disciplinary action and science standards should recognize that there is controversy pertaining to the theory of evolution.

We believe that K-12 public school teachers should not initiate discussion, teach lessons, or provide
resources to students on the topic of family structure, human sexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgenderism.

Instead, we should require that K-12 public school teachers teach about sexual abstinence, that premarital sex and extramarital sex is wrong, and that the use of contraceptives is not safe sex. We oppose the dispensing of or referral for birth control drugs and devices in schools.

Let me just respond to each paragraph in turn.

1. I think that patriotism is good, but it should be neither blind nor forced. Mandating the pledge has a taint of blind obedience about it that never sat well with me. Besides the supreme court has ruled conclusively on this and students are permitted to ignore any such mandate in Frazier v. Alexandre (2006).

As for national heritage, many religious people and many non-religious people were involved in creating our constitution, which together with the Bill of Rights and the 14th amendment guarantees both religions free from government and government free from religions. The separation of church and state has led to both flourishing in ways we don't see in countries with established churches. Take the church of England for example, which has been reduced to utter irrelevance in the UK.

In his letter to the Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson spoke of a wall separation between church and state. Why were the Baptists so eager to build up that wall? They were being persecuted by the Congregationalists of Connecticut, their fellow Christians. The wall of separation has allowed religions to flourish and spread without interference from the government and by proxy other religions.

2. "We should continue to encourage the voluntary expression of religious beliefs and traditions of
students" In my estimation they don't need any help. Between YFC, FCA, CRU, Navigators, EQUIP, UMYS, JUMYS, and the students themselves there is plenty of voluntary expression going on. We don't need an illegal government intervention to encourage it, it's doing just fine. Also, the same law that prevents the government from encouraging these groups prevents the government from banning or silencing them as well.

I am surprised to see the words "Creation Science" as that phrase was ruled on explicitly in Edwards Vs. Aguilard (1987) and found to be unconstitutional to teach in schools. To say that teachers should be protected from prosecution for violating a supreme court ruling goes against the very core of our constitution. As to the "controversy" pertaining to the theory of evolution, there is no scientific controversy-only a political/religious one. The former type of controversy is the only type that should have any sway over what is taught in science classrooms.

‎3. This one is more difficult, because I do have reservations about having teachers give moral proclomations at the K-12 level. However, to not provide resources on this issue is equaly problematic because it perpetuates a culture of ignorance about the LGBTQ community. Utah has the highest teen suicide rate in the country in large part because they don't allow teens access to these resources. Gay teens are at high risk of suicide not because they are gay, but because they are told being gay is bad, different, queer, and many more unpleasant terms. Providing teens access to a community and rich, positive literature base is one of the best ways to help fix this problem. I see this plank as having the exact opposite effect: creating a sense of "other" and taboo around the issue. (Garofalo R, Cameron Wolf R, Wissow LS, et al. Sexual orientation
and risk of suicide attempts among a representative sample of youth.
Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 1999;153:487–93)

4. I don't dispute that abstinence is effective as both birth control and an STI prevention, but Abstinence Only Education (AOE) isn't. Research by Kirby et al demonstrated that comprehensive sex ed was effective at promoting both abstinence AND other protective behaviors which together reduced teen pregnancy rates. Manlove Et Al described much the same effect for delaying onset of sexual activity. Abstinence is not 100% effective in preventing pregnancy or STIs as many teens fail in remaining abstinent.

These results are consistent with many other studies of the topic. To quote a meta-review of AOE by Santelli:
"Bearman and colleagues have examined the virginity pledge movement; they estimate that over
2.5 million adolescents have taken public “virginity
pledges.” They found that pledgers were more likely to
delay initiation of intercourse, 18 months on average for
adolescents aged 12–18 years. However, those pledgers
who failed at abstinence were less likely to use contraception after they did initiate sexual intercourse. At six-year
follow-up, the prevalence of STIs (chlamydia, gonorrhea,
trichomoniasis, and human papillomavirus [HPV]) was similar among those taking the abstinence pledge and nonpledgers.

Although pledgers tended to marry earlier
than non-pledgers, if married, most pledgers had vaginal
intercourse before marriage (88%). Virtually all non-pledgers who had married had sex before marriage (99%). Although pledgers had fewer sexual partners compared to
non-pledgers, they were less likely to report seeing a doctor
for an STI concern and were less likely to receive STI

I find these statistics appalling and eye-opening. If we really want to reduce the number of unwanted teen pregnancies, unsafe extramarital sex, and abortions (as I most certainly DO) then we must realize that AOE is at best an incomplete solution and at worse a direct cause of harm.

Texas (the great state whose GOP started this whole discussion) is home to perhaps the most adamant AOE program in the nation. Yet after it was introduced, their teen pregnancy rate increased to nearly 6.2%, the third highest in the nation. The REPEAT teen pregnancy rate is now the 2nd highest if I recall correctly.

J. Santelli et al. Abstinence and abstinence-only education: A review of U.S. policies
and programs. Journal of Adolescent Health 38 (2006) 72– 81

Kirby D. Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to
Reduce Teen Pregnancy. Washington, DC: National Campaign to
Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001

Manlove J, Romano-Papillo A, Ikramullah E. Not Yet: Programs to
Delay First Sex among Teens. Washington, DC: National Campaign
to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2004.

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