Friday, October 15, 2004

Keeping God in Your Head & Man Out of Your Pants

I've been troubled by the "armies of compassion" phrase that Bush trotted out twice while preaching to his creepy choir during the debate in Arizona the other night. He and his administration have used the term to sell faith-based initiatives, so I thought I'd look at those a bit.

I have to admit I'm less than tickled pink (not that I ever tickled pink before I was married) that Bush requested $73 million in his 2004 budget for abstinence-only education. (That's no problem if you are part of the 1% who got the huge tax cut, you lucky-stiff-who-still-gets-something-to-do-with-it you.) Sure kids having kids is a problem, and not just programming for Sally Jesse Rafael, but to deny that teens have urges that often wake up too soon, to act as if kids aren't curious, and to deny teaching children how condoms can keep them both from being parents and from dying, well that's just stupid.

According to a Health Resources and Human Services press release from July, at least $31 million in new grants were awarded to 50 communities teaching abstinence-only. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson was quoted in the release (oops, can I call it a release given the context?): "Sexual activity before marriage can have a negative social and psychological impact on teenagers. Abstinence-only education programs support teens in their decision to remain abstinent until marriage."

Does this quote sound as whacky to you as it does to me? First, what about the negative psychological impacts of virgins and their uneducated expectations come their surely botched wedding nights? More seriously, it seems as if Thompson is suggesting all highly-hormonal and at last no-longer-teens need to rush to wed to get their rocks off. You'd think he was recruiting for one of those Moonie mass marriages.

I would prefer some teens make the beast with two back too soon than get married too soon just so their sex is consecrated in the eyes of God and Tommy Thompson. Shouldn't the divorce rate bother these so-called religious? The CDC (part of the government, but science-based, so probably not to be trusted) reports: "The largest proportion of divorces were granted to men and women who had married between the ages of 20-24 years. First-time male divorcees on average were 24 years of age when they married; for women, the average age was 22 years." Gee, I can't imagine any of those divorces were folks guilt-tripped into becoming Mr. and Mrs. just so they could go down on each other (pardon the language, but the ab-only folks even consider mutual masturbation a no-no). Something blows here, even if it's not the poor couple.

Then there's the money side of it. A measly $31 million is a mere drop in the voluminous $413 billion deficit bucket, but it's $6 million more than the $25 million in matching grants the federal government gave to Reading is Fundamental(RIF), which annually serve 5.1 million children of all ages, most of whom are at risk of educational failure, with a focus on those from birth to age 11. RIF has provided more than 265 million books since 1966 for children to choose and keep.

So reading, the crux of education and critical thinking and therefore the motor of a sound economy and good citizenship, gets less money than trying to keep kids from denying that their groins have urges. (I realize there is more federal money that goes toward reading education.)

Perhaps Bush & Co. call these initiatives faith-based because the only way you can think they are correct is to believe.


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