Thursday, April 24, 2008

Social Engineering, Republican Style

Once upon a time "social engineering" was a nasty term the conservatives applied to almost any liberal proposal that looked like increasing civil rights or human rights. It wasn't the place of the government to dictate such matters, the story went.

It may come as a surprise that now it is the conservatives who practice social engineering, and with a vengeance. The government has programs which promote marriage and programs which promote abstinence as the only solution to that hormone-driven dilemma of teenage years: what to do about sex.

You would think that something as noble and pure as abstinence would be cheap and easily promoted. The reverse turns out to be the case:

Proponents of abstinence education argued that society should set high standards for teenage sexual behavior. They would prefer, they said, that programs focus on the emotional, physical and societal repercussions of sex outside of marriage.

But several witnesses emphasized that despite 11 years of federally funded abstinence programs, at a cost of more than $1.3 billion, teens are still having sex and becoming infected with sexually transmitted diseases. Those who support comprehensive plans said teens should get the information they need to protect themselves.

A study released in December by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed a rise in the teenage pregnancy rate in 2006, the first such increase in 15 years. Between 1991 and 2005, the rate dropped 34%.

Astonishing. Someone is making quite a good income out of abstinence education, but as far as I can figure out the message boils to a Nancy Reaganesque "Just Say No." How can delivering that cost so much?

Just kidding, of course. The money spent is really a handout to one part of the conservative base, and the fact that best studies show no real effect from the abstinence policies is a mere irrelevancy. The program works in the way it was planned to work.