Add abstinence to curriculum, but don't subtract

June 27, 2001 12:00 am

To do prevention right, sometimes you are going to seem like you are encouraging the very behavior you are trying to prevent.

If you intend to explain the different cancer risks of cigarettes and cigars, you have to explain that one is inhaled into the lungs, the other the mouth cavity.

Expressing the dangers of intravenous drugs must include the need for sterile needles, if only to explain how the danger of the narcotic is magnified by the danger of blood-borne disease.

And youth heading out into the world with a full head of steam and ignorance need to understand that knowing a potential sexual partners past sexual history is important. Because if that the partners history includes exposure to disease, that history will become the new partners history the instant the two come in contact.

Then you realize you are laying all of this on 15-year-olds, and it does make you shudder.

We can appreciate Baker School District trustees John Goodyear and Dan Garricks desire to see a strong emphasis in the high school health curriculum on abstinence from drugs, alcohol and sex.

If that includes adopting a supplemental program that promotes abstaining, we can likely lend our support to adding it to the curriculum.

But if it means sanitizing the curriculum of information that can help persuade students not to make poor choices or help keep them as safe as possible if they make a poor choice we wont have any part in it.

Through grade eight, the health curriculum offers a blanket NO to alcohol, drugs and sex.

That the high school program goes into greater detail on the topic does not, however, translate into a YES.

High school is our last chance as a culture to impart some of our collective knowledge on many youngsters. The day after graduation, their immediate peers and the media they tune into take over. And not all of these sources offer reliable information or healthy messages for the mind ill-equipped to make its own decisions.

Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power. Our students need the best information so they can make the best choices as free-acting individuals.

A large part of that must be the message that abstinence is the only sure prevention.

Compared to the depth and breadth of information about sex, alcohol and drugs, however, the abstinence message is likely to seem underemphasized.

We encourage the school board to strengthen the abstinence message through addition to the curriculum.

Because you wont be protecting our students if you dont trust them to make the right decisions with health information and therefore withhold that information.

In fact, youll be putting them at an even greater risk.