Debate Forum 08/13

Debate Center: Some schools are handing out more than just free lunch

 By Alex Culpepper

Illustration by: Ted Rall

Most schools in the country provide some form of sex education, whether it’s abstinence-based, safe-sex contraceptive information or both. Here in Ohio, an amendment nearly made its way into the budget bill last spring that would have made abstinence-only curriculum the sole means of presenting sex education to students. The amendment would have made it illegal to promote “gateway sexual activity” and it would have banned distribution of contraceptives on school property. The amendment was rejected, and with it a new direction in sex education teaching was halted, but Ohio is not the only corner of the country where sex education is taking a new direction.

In Boston, Mass., high school students will now have access to free condoms in school. To get the condoms, students will seek the school staff member who dispenses the condoms and receive mandatory information about safe sex practices. Parents have the choice about whether they want their children to take part in the new program. Boston’s new direction follows condom availability programs currently underway in other cities across America, such as in New York and Los Angeles. Philadelphia has taken condom availability even further by providing condom dispensers in high schools. The access to condoms is a response by the school districts to curb and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). As expected, such policy has been met with cheers and disappointment.

Supporters of condom availability in schools welcome the move. They view it as a public health issue and believe sexually active people should have easy access to contraception to prevent unintended pregnancy and the spread of STDs. They further say studies show no link between condom availability and increased sexual activity. Supporters also believe the availability is key because students would otherwise need to seek a health center for free condoms, places they may not likely go to or even know about.

Opponents are not supportive of such policies at schools. They claim the condom handout is promoting irresponsible behavior, and students should be taught abstinence as the only 100 percent-effective way to prevent unintended pregnancies and the spread of STDs. They say schools are there to educate, not to teach about or promote matters of sexual activity. Opponents further say a condom is not a magic shield for preventing disease, and they cite diseases such as herpes and human papilloma virus (HPV) as two that can be spread even with condom use.

Although most condom availability programs are measures undertaken in larger cities that have distinct needs, suburban Boston districts have condom distribution programs as well. Depending on outcomes and studies, other cities and other districts could follow the Boston and Philadelphia models. In those other places, too, supporters will see it as a great step forward in public health, and opponents will see it as promoting sexual activity in the wrong place.

Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at


Debate Forum Question of the Week:

 Cities across the United States have programs making condoms available to students at high schools. Should public high schools provide condoms to students as part of teaching sexual responsibility?

Debate Left: A prophylactic policy

By Ben Tomkins

 One would think that a parent would be relieved that a school is having “the talk” with their son or daughter so they could minimize the necessity of their own role in the whole affair. Nothing horrifies mothers and fathers more than the inevitable day when their child will start becoming sexually mature, but when that fear turns into educational paralysis, the parent has created a situation that puts our whole society at risk. It is the number one health issue among young people in our country and deserves to be addressed both accurately and pragmatically.

As a public institution whose mission is to produce intelligent, well-informed members of society, sexual education and birth control are just as important curricula as math and science because the effects of STDs and unwanted pregnancy are issues that students will face not only in their teen years but throughout their entire life.

Plus, it’s not as if social education has no precedent in schools: take drunk driving, for instance. What my parents told me is probably a variation on what every kid in America hears: “Don’t drink. It’s illegal, and you could get arrested, get sick or die. However, if you do drink, for god sake, don’t drive or get in a car with someone who has. Pick up a phone and call me and I’ll come pick you up with no questions asked. We can deal with the non-lethal punishments that will be inflicted upon you in the morning, because mommy and daddy love you so much that we will happily go to prison for beating the shit out of your dumb ass than have you dead.”

No parent on Earth would dream of telling a school not to reinforce that message because it so obviously benefits their child and society, and this is despite the fact that it addresses the possibility that the student may well drink anyway. Even better, if the school provided a phone and a safe place from which the student knew they could make that call, parents would be on their hands and knees thanking them. The consequences of the mistake are simply too great to not have a contingency plan in place.

Unfortunately, when it comes to sex, so many parents go with the abstinence-only message of “Don’t have sex, and I don’t need to tell you what to do if you do have sex because you shouldn’t be doing it anyway,” and expect their schools to close their doors in the face of any student who is in a bad situation.

Furthermore, I reject the argument that sex education and making birth control available increases the likelihood that your kids will choose to have sex any more than a kid who knows they can always call their parents if they get drunk increases the likelihood that they will drink. Kids who are going to do these things will do them anyway, and kids who won’t … well … won’t. The problem is that nobody can be sure who those kids are until it’s too late, because everyone’s teenager is an idiot to some degree or another. Worse, abstinence-only policies create a cone of silence that renders our children defenseless against the tantalizing and vague vices they will inevitably encounter in their lives.

Given that, it makes sense that the teenage sex talk is incomplete until we add in the contingency plan for the worst-case scenario. And that, in a nutshell, is exactly what sex education is. “Don’t have sex. However, if you do, for god sake use a condom and don’t have sex with someone who won’t. Pick up a phone and call me and I’ll come and get you with no questions asked. We can deal with the non-lethal punishments that will be inflicted upon you in the morning, because mommy and daddy love you so much that we will happily go to prison for beating the shit out of your dumb ass than have you pregnant or sick.”

But by all means, don’t just take my word that sex education has positive effects – a childless blowhard who can speak of these things with the ease of one who doesn’t have to actually deal with the horror of discussing my son or daughter’s gross parts. Take it from the state of California, whose sex education programs are required by law to be comprehensive, medically accurate and provide an option of birth control. In the last 20 years, teen pregnancy has dropped off by 60 percent, and it’s not because everyone’s balls and ovaries are dropping off due to the chemicals the food industry pumps into meats and sprays on vegetables. It’s because they have decided that pretending things are different than they are is stupid.

The question worth asking ourselves is, “As a parent and as a citizen, do you care more about a possible – although unproven – increase in teen sexuality directly attributable to sex education in schools or the outcome that your son or daughter has a 60 percent less chance of getting pregnant if they are exposed to these programs?”

The task we assign our schools is they provide the best possible education, and the teachers therein serve as both role models and safe confidantes for students facing scary situations. Making a school slam the door in their face will only result in more teens with health and pregnancy issues.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at


Debate Right: Don’t empower the predators in government schools

by Mark Luedtke

 Do you ever wonder why government school officials are more interested in the sex lives of students than their education? It’s because they’re perverts. Not all of them, of course, but an inordinate amount are perverts. Now these perverts want to give your child condoms. What could go wrong?

Officials pretend they’re concerned about the students, but that lie is easily disproved. The New York Times reported on the results of an improved standardized test administered to New York students: “The exams were some of the first in the nation to be aligned with a more rigorous set of standards known as the Common Core, which emphasize deep analysis and creative problem-solving over short answers and memorization. Last year, under an easier test, 47 percent of city students passed in English, and 60 percent in math.”

The results for the Common Core test are worse. “In New York City, 26 percent of students in third through eighth grade passed the tests in English, and 30 percent passed in math, according to the New York State Education Department.” Anybody who is surprised by these numbers has been living with their head buried in the sand.

Failure isn’t confined to the city: “Across the state, the downward shift was similar: 31 percent of students passed the exams in reading and math, compared with 55 percent in reading and 65 percent in math last year.” And we wonder why our country is in decline. The most insightful aspect of this story is, as bad as the previous test scores were, those tests were dumbed down to make students appear better educated than they actually are.

New York government school officials are panicked. To paraphrase Mel Brooks, they’re in danger of losing their phony-baloney jobs. They were caught with their pants down, many of them literally. In 2010, 600 New York teachers were suspended but still receiving full pay. The Guardian described the reasons: “The reasons cited for their confinement to what has been described as purgatory or jail for teachers range from excessive lateness or absence, sexual misconduct with a student, physical abuse, incompetence or use of drugs or alcohol.”

U.S. News and World Report indicated we have similar problems in Dayton: “More than 60 percent of first-year students at Dayton, Ohio’s Wright State University aren’t ready for college-level reading, writing or math. Starting in fall 2012, Wright State will send most ‘developmental education’ students to nearby Clark State Community College or Sinclair Community College.” I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Government even admitted its failure to teach math and science by creating STEM schools.

Government’s coercive schools have left the majority of young high school graduates functionally illiterate, and if you allow government to kidnap your child into a government school, chances are your child will graduate illiterate, too. This is why government schools are the most destructive institution in America. It’s ironic that government-loving newspapers are hastening their demise by helping produce a generation of illiterates.

These numbers prove that government schools are not concerned with the welfare of students. If they were, they’d teach reading, writing and arithmetic. Government schools benefit politicians, bureaucrats and teachers at the expense of taxpayers and students. That’s why they attract perverts and predators.

Former Spanish teacher Kelsey Hartmann of Wayne High School in Huber Heights was recently convicted for having sex with a student. It seems like I see a story about a local school official having sex with a student every week. My anecdotal observation is born out by the report that accusations of teacher misconduct in Ohio have tripled since 2007. The more government spends on education, especially the federal Department of Education, the worse schools get.

These are not isolated incidents committed by a few bad apples. This is a pattern of predatory behavior that is the direct, predictable consequence of the coercive nature of government schools. Government schools can’t teach reading, but they’re great at teaching sex. Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck told ABC22, “Parents have a right to expect that their children will be safe and protected when at school. Teachers have a duty to not only help educate our children, but to serve as role models.” Politician Heck is saying what people want to hear, but it’s propaganda. Heck knows people who want to prey on children are drawn to work for government schools because government isolates children from their parents, siblings and friends and locks them in prison-schools, making them vulnerable to predators. Government schools elevate predators to positions of unnatural authority over vulnerable children, making them even easier prey. Predators twist any power given to them to their advantage.

That’s why it’s folly to empower government schools to give condoms to students.

Government schools promote teen sex and predation. They’re the problem, not the solution. The best way to prevent STDs and teen pregnancy is to take children out of government schools. That has the added benefit of ensuring they get a quality education and grow up emotionally and physically healthy, happy and safe from government school predators and other dangers.

Mark Luedtke is an electrical engineer with a degree from the University of Cincinnati and currently works for a Dayton attorney. He can be reached at



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