Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Schools Get Failing Grade On Sex Education...

Schools Lacking In Sex Education, Former Surgeon General Says
Wednesday, Apr 23, 2008

Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders

"Condoms will break, but I can assure you that vows of abstinence will break more easily than condoms."

"Education, education, education. The only way we are going to get around [AIDS] is with education. We have no vaccine, we have no magic drug. All we've got is education."

"As long as I was in Washington I never met anybody that I thought was good enough, who knew enough, or who loved enough to make sexual decisions for anybody else."

---Quotes By The One & Only Dr. Joycelyn Elders...

By John Lyon
Arkansas News Bureau

LITTLE ROCK - A survey of college campuses on sexual health issues highlights the need for better sex education in Arkansas schools, former Arkansas health director and U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders said Tuesday.

Talking to reporters at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Elders cited a 2007 study commissioned by the contraceptive manufacturer Trojan that ranked 139 college campuses according to availability of sexual health information, contraceptives, testing for sexually-transmitted diseases and other related services.

The study ranked the University of Arkansas' Fayetteville campus at 77th, UALR at 136th and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro at 137th.

"We've not been educating our young people ... We need to make sure that we have more information available for our students on campus, we need to educate our students better and we need to do some education before they get to campus," Elders said.

Elders, 74, is now a professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and an adviser to Trojan on sexual health issues.

Known for her outspoken views while serving as the nation's first black surgeon general - suggesting masturbation "perhaps should be taught" in schools as a way to avoid the spread sexually transmitted diseases led to her forced resignation in 1994 - Elders remains an advocate for comprehensive sex education in public schools.

"I think abstinence-only education is wonderful for kindergarten through sixth grade," she said. "I think after that they really need much more."

Myths about sex education prevent young people from obtaining important information, Elders said.

"We've gotten into this idea that, if we tell them about it, they'll do it," she said. "Well, they're already doing it. Ignorance is not bliss; we've got to educate our young people."

Elders' visit to UALR was arranged by Trojan, which is conducting a bus tour of college campuses to promote safe sex. As Arkansas health director in the 1980s, she approved the dispensing of condoms at public school health clinics.

On Tuesday, Trojan employees gave free condoms to UALR students who agreed to sign pledges to use condoms every time they have sex, if they choose to be sexually active.

Students also could play games to win condoms, including a race to place condoms on bananas.

Elders also spoke Tuesday at a convention of the National Forum for Black Public Administrators in Little Rock. Many inadequacies and inequities persist in the American health care system, she told the group.

"We're No. 1 in spending, but we're behind in everything else," she said.

Statistics Elders cited included:

-The U.S. is ranked 52nd in the world for life expectancy.

-The U.S. has the 21st lowest infant mortality rate among whites; the ranking is 171st among blacks.

-One in every four girls ages 14-19 in the U.S. has a sexually transmitted disease; for black girls the ratio is one in two.

-Sixty percent of AIDS patients in the U.S. are black.

-Black women in the U.S. are three to four times more likely to die in pregnancy than white women.

Among the solutions are better health education and universal health care, Elders said.

"Our youngest and our poorest will never have health care until we all have health care," she said.

Elders said some may ask how the country can pay for universal health care. If the country can pay for the war in Iraq, then "why can't we pay for education and health for the most vital resource we've got?" she said.

Copyright © Arkansas News Bureau, 2003 - 2006

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