Health Education Textbooks

Texas Will Adopt Inadequate Health Education Textbooks in 2004

The Written Testimony of Steven Schafersman, President of Texas Citizens for Science, is now available online and as a PDF file and Word document. This testimony has been submitted to the State Board of Education for the textbook hearing in Austin on Wednesday, July 14. The written testimony reviews and analyzes the treatment of sex education in five different health education textbooks. In brief, the five 2005 health textbooks submitted for adoption this year treat teenage sexuality no differently than the 1998 book described below: all promote abstinence-only sex education and avoid mentioning any other methods of prophylaxis for prevention of STDs and contraception for prevention of pregnancy. Four are "Texas Editions," and you know what that means: keeping the students ignorant. Over 60% of Texas students engage in sexual activity before graduating from high school, so the textbooks, the state health education curriculum, and the state's public education officials are all complicit in the extremely high teenage pregnancy and STD rates in Texas.

The TCS Oral Testimony is now available online and as a Word document.

Please read the Press Release that the TCS distributed by email on June 26, 2004.

Health Education textbooks were last adopted in Texas in 1992, and the books that were chosen then were poor. They omitted adequate information about contraception, birth control, family planning, abortion, and how to handle sexuality in any way except abstinence. The books promote abstinence-only behavior among teenagers to the exclusion of everything else. In effect, Texas health education books promote ignorance about human sexuality among the single group of individuals who most need to learn reliable, scientific knowledge about it. The bright orange "Texas State Approved" sticker on the front cover of these health testbooks--rather than being a mark of approval--should be considered a mark of shame for misleading the very students the books purport to educate about their personal health by refusing to provide them the reliable knowledge they most need to know about human sexuality.

Let's examine the health textbook pictured above, Making Life Choices, Health Skills and Concepts, published by the West Publishing Company. Here are the statistics of its coverage of important topics concerning human sexuality:

Topic

Number of Pages About this Topic

Abstinence
Birth control devices and contraception
Emergency contraception
Family planning concepts and strategies
Spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)
Abortion (elective, induced)
Condoms (for prevention of STDs)
Condoms (for prevention of pregnancy)
How to cope with sexual pressures
Methods for young women to require young men to use a condom if they want to engage in sexual intercourse
Insights on when to engage in sexual intercourse
Reliable knowledge about human sexual intimacy
Homosexuality
Masturbation

9
0
0
0
1
0
3
0
2

0
0
0
0
0

As you can see, this textbook avoids the very topics about which teenagers most need to know at the age when they begin to engage in sexual activity, including intercourse, as more than half of them will (by their 18th birthday, 6 in 10 teenage women and nearly 7 in 10 teenage men have had sexual intercourse). Believing that students this age will remain abstinent--because that is all that is taught to them in Texas health education classes--is more than unrealistic, it is absurd and dangerous. Keeping students ignorant of honest, reliable, and scientific knowledge about extremely important topics of interest--and forcing them to learn about these topics from their friends or by trial and error (assuming that parents also ignore these topics)--is unbelievably counter-productive and unethical. This is an example of anti-education or miseducation, a crime that should be condemned, not a practice that should be accepted, much less endorsed, by public officials charged with ensuring the quality of health education in Texas.

It is highly likely that some current members of the Texas State Board of Education will attempt to adopt similar--possibly even worse--health education textbooks in 2004 and thus perpetuate the ignorance, secrecy, and implied shame of human sexuality, thereby leading to the well-known effects of such cruel and misguided education in Texas: high illegitimate teenage pregnancy rate, high rates of sexually-transmitted diseases among Texas teens, high teenage abortion rate, high divorce rate, the country's highest birth rate among teenage girls, and similar unfavorable statistics. These undesirable statistics are completely avoidable, because other Western, industrialized countries (e.g., European countries, Japan) have such rates at about 10% of those in Texas, since they provide their students reliable, scientific, and honest instruction about human sexuality. Texas is well-known for its pervasive use of abstinence-only sex education programs, which have been proven to be counterproductive in preventing the very undesirable social behaviors and effects that the programs and their supporters wish to end. Until the Texas SBOE begins to treat human sexuality in an honest and scientifically-realistic manner within the health education curriculum, Texas will continue to have some of the worst sexuality and health statistics in the nation. Texas ranks 5th in teenage pregnancies and 1st in teenage births; because there are so many obstacles to obtaining an abortion in Texas, the state ranks only 26th in teenage abortions.

Resources

Links to Resources about the Health Textbook Adoption Process on the Texas Education Agency Website. This page includes the submitted written and oral testimony, the public hearing transcript, and the publishers' responses to the written and oral testimony.

Newspaper Articles about Texas Health Textbooks and Abstinence-Only Sex Education Prior to the July 14 Public Hearing includes stories published in the Houston Chronicle,the Austin American-Statesman, the Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Newspaper Articles about Texas Health Textbooks and Abstinence-Only Sex Education for the July 14 Public Hearing.

Newspaper Articles about Texas Health Textbooks and Abstinence-Only Sex Education for the September 8 Public Hearing.

The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) is a national, nonprofit organization which affirms that sexuality is a natural and healthy part of living. SIECUS develops, collects, and disseminates information, promotes comprehensive education about sexuality, and adovocates the right of individuals to make responsible sexual choices for themselves.

SIECUS Links, the most comprehensive list of links to Web resources about all aspects of human sexuality, reproductive health, and government and private organizations.

Fact Sheet on Sexuality Education

Adolescence and Abstinence Fact Sheet

The Truth about Adolescent Sexuality

What's Wrong with Abstinence-Only

History of Federal Abstinence-Only Programs The U.S. Government has a program to provide federal money to finance abstinence-only health and sex education programs in America's public schools. This free money is too much of a temptation for most school districts to resist, and many of them abandoned realistic and successul abstinence-first sex education programs--which include contraception and prophylaxis information--for the incompetent and unsuccessful abstinence-only programs.

The documents below will download as PDF files; right click and select "Download Link to Disk" or "Download Target to Disk" or "Save Target As..."

The Truth About Adolescent Sexuality

Adolescense and Abstinence Fact Sheet

Facing Facts: Sexual Health for America's Adolescents

Teenage Pregnancy, Birth and Abortion

Public Support for Sexuality Education

Issues and Answers: Fact Sheet on Sexuality Education

Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education: K-12

The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI) is a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research, policy analysis, and public education. AGI publishes reports on topics pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and rights. The Institute's mission is to support every individual's ability to obtain the information and services needed to achieve their full human rights, safeguard their health, and exercise their individual responsibilities in regard to sexual behavior and relationships, reproduction, and family formation.

Youth - Information about teenage sexuality and pregnancy, including Teenage Pregnancy Trends by State and Sexuality Education Fact Sheet (both are PDF files).

Sexual Behavior - Information about reproductive health and sexual behavior, including Teenagers' Sexual and Reproductive Health (PDF file).

Prevention and Contraception, Family Planning, and State Policies.

Abortion

. . . and much additional information.

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues facing the nation. The Foundation is an independent voice and source of facts and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the general public.

Sex Education in America: General Public/Parents Survey (PDF file).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are our country's primary medical and public health resources for the prevention and treatment of communicable diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases. Their site contains valuable statistics about the prevalence of STDs by state.

STDs in the South discusses the consistently-higher prevalence of STDs in the southern states of the United States, including Texas, and has links to tables that document this fact. The most important tables are listed below:

Chlamydia
Reported cases and rates ranked by state
Reported cases and rates alphabetically by state

Gonorrhea

Reported cases and rates ranked by state
Reported cases and rates alphabetically by state

Syphilis

Reported cases and rates ranked by state
Reported cases and rates alphabetically by state

The National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the primary source for statistical information about the health of our nation's human population. The NCHS publishes the National Vital Statistics Report that makes available valuable statistics about pregnancy, birth, reproduction, marriage, and death rates in the United States, all tabulated by state.

Birth Data includes pregnancy, reproduction, fertility, and birth rates:

Estimated Pregnancy Rates for the United States, 1990-2000: An Update (15 June 2004, PDF file, 710 KB)

Trends in Characteristics of Births by State: United States, 1990, 1995, and 2000-2002 (10 May 2004, PDF file, 1.4 MB) Fact Sheet: Shows Westward Shift in Births

Reproduction Rates for 1990-2002 and Intrinsic Rates for 2000-2001: United States (18 March 2004, PDF file, 895 KB) Fact Sheet: Reproduction Rates

Births: Final Data for 2002 (17 December 2003, PDF file, 7.8 MB) Fact Sheet: Teen Birth Rate Continues to Decline; African-American Teens Show Sharpest Drop

Number of births, birth rates, fertility rates, total fertility rates, and birth rates for teenagers 15-19 years by age of mother: United States, each State and territory, 2002 (17 December 2003, PDF file, 169 KB, Very useful single-page table; Texas ranks 2nd in births among teenagers of age 15-19)

Revised Pregnancy Rates, 1990-97, and New Rates for 1998-99: United States (31 October 2003, PDF file, 1.1 MB) Fact Sheet: U.S. Pregnancy Rate Down from Peak; Births and Abortions on the Decline

Teenage Births in the United States: State Trends, 1991-2000, an Update (30 May 2002, PDF file, 293 KB) Fact Sheet: Teen Birth Rates Decline in all States During the 1990s

The Texas Department of Health is the state agency responsible for public health in Texas.

The Center for Health Statistics is the primary source for the health statistics of Texas. It bills itself as the "The Portal for Comprehensive Health Data in Texas." Its 2002 Texas Vital Statistics Data Tables contains links to tables and maps available for statistics on such topics as births, deaths, pregnancies, abortions, marriages, and divorces tabulated by age, ethnicity, gender, and county of residence.

The Bureau of HIV and STD Prevention is responsible for prevention of these sexually-transmitted diseases in Texas. Its home page contains links to many information and reporting resources. A primary page of interest is the one that contains the Statistics and Trends of HIV and STDs in Texas tabulated in various ways.

The Texas Department of Health's most important document is the Indicators of Sexual Activities in Texas Youths Aged 13-17 in 2001 in which Texas teenage pregnancy and STD rates are tabulated by county in alphabetic order. This document is really an eye-opener, since it reveals quite clearly which Texas counties are doing a good or poor job of educating their teenagers about how to avoid unwanted pregnancies and STD infections. This document will download as a PDF file and is also available here.

Protect Our Kids is the new coalition initiated by Texas Freedom Network to promote responsible health education and reliable, accurate Information in health education textbooks in Texas. Planned Parenthood, the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, the Texas Association of Ob/Gyns, the Gray Panthers, the League of Women Voters, Texas Citizens for Science, and many other organizations have joined with Texas Freedom Network to achieve these goals. Protect Our Kids says that without basic, common sense information on how to protect themselves from STDs, HIV, and unintended pregnancy, teenagers are in danger. Unless we act now, teens won't have access to this vital information in their health textbooks. Responsible health education is under assault in Texas schools this year. After decades of pressure from far-right groups, publishers have submitted new health textbooks that rely on ignorance and fear rather than scientifically and medically accurate information to teach Texas teens about sex and health. Protect Our Kids is taking a stand in support of responsible health education for Texas teens. The Protect Our Kids website includes the following noteworthy Facts about Teens and Health:

Parents support comprehensive sexuality education for young people.
(National Public Radio/ Kaiser Family Foundation/ Kennedy School of Government, Sex Education in America: General Public/Parents Survey, January 2004.)
  • 93% of parents with high school children say it is appropriate to teach teens about birth control and methods of preventing pregnancy.
  • 84% of parents with high school children say it is appropriate to teach students how to use and where to get contraceptives.

High teen pregnancy and STD infection rates are a problem in Texas and across the country.

  • 50% of Texas high school students have had sexual intercourse, and 45% did not use a condom the last time they had intercourse. (Grunbaum, J., et al., "Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance - United States, 2001," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 28, 2002)
  • Texas has the nation's highest teen birth rate. (National Vital Statistics Report, Volume 52, Number 10, December 17, 2003. Based on 2002 data.)
  • A sexually active teen not using contraception has a 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year. (The Alan Guttmacher Institute (AGI), Facts in Brief: Sexuality Education)
  • Nearly half of all new cases of STDs across the country occur among youth ages 15-24. (Cates, J. R., et al. (2004). Our Voices, Our Lives, Our Futures: Youth and Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Chapel Hill, NC: School of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
  • Sexually active youth aged 15-19 have the country's highest rate of STD infection. (Cates)
  • Half of new HIV infections in this country occur among youth ages 15-24. (Cates)

Abstinence-only education is not effective.

  • No strong evidence shows that abstinence-only programs either delay sex or reduce pregnancy among teenagers. (Douglas Kirby, Ph.D., Do Abstinence-Only Programs Delay the Initiation of Sex Among Young People and Reduce Teen Pregnancy? Washington, D.C.: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2002.)
  • 88% of teenagers who took a "virginity pledge" reported having sexual intercourse before they married. (Peter S. Bearman and Hannah Bruckner, Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse, American Journal of Sociology 2001)
  • Teenagers who participate in virginity pledges are less likely to use contraception when they break the pledge. (Bearman and Bruckner)
  • Teenagers who took the pledge were nearly as likely as those who did not to contract STDs. But they were less likely to know they had an STD or to get tested. (Bearman and Bruckner)

Comprehensive sexuality programs are effective.

  • Comprehensive sex-ed programs have been shown to increase the age at which teenagers have sex, reduce the frequency of sex or reduce the number of sexual partners. (Douglas Kirby, Ph.D., Emerging Answers: Research Findings on Programs to Reduce Teen Pregnancy, Washington, D.C.: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2001.)
  • Comprehensive sex-ed programs, such as Reducing the Risk, increase the use of condoms or other contraceptive methods when students choose to have sex. (Kirby, Emerging Answers...)

The Sexually Transmitted Disease Website is a source of information about STDs.

The Demise of Abstinence-only Sex Education in Ector County ISD, Odessa, Texas consists of news stories from the Odessa American describing why the Ector County ISD felt obliged to add contraception information to their former abstinence-only health education classes when many of their teenage girls were becoming pregnant and sexually transmitted disease rates increased. This situation is actually common all over Texas, where school districts have accepted free federal money pushed by a national government program to fund abstinence-only sex education in public schools, and then watched as their teenage pregnancy and STD rates climbed.

Reported cases of STD have doubled in Midland. Cases of chlamydia have increased 227% and gonorrhea have increased 260% in the last twelve months according to the Texas Department of Health, from a news story in the Midland Reporter-Telegram.


Last updated: 2004/09/19