Kids, Condoms, and Guns

Posted: Jun 01, 2001 12:00 AM
Let us, for a moment, take the sex-education pushers at their word: If you teach a child how to use a condom, you're promoting safety -- not usage. That's what a new review of sex-ed curricula claims. "The overwhelming weight of evidence shows that sex education that discusses contraception does not increase sexual activity," concludes Douglas Kirby, a senior researcher at ETR Associates in Scotts Valley, Calif., in a report entitled "Emerging Answers." Out of some 250 programs, Kirby identified eight (a whopping 3 percent) that purportedly reduced "sexual risk-taking, pregnancy, and childbearing among teens." Two of the sex and AIDS education programs that showed the "strongest evidence of effectiveness" were developed by Kirby's employer. The New York Times' breathless report on the study neglected to mention this obvious potential conflict of interest, but the article did eagerly note that abstinence-only programs have "shown no impact on young people's behavior." What Kirby's study actually says is that the evidence is "not conclusive" and that "one should be very careful about drawing conclusions about abstinence-only programs in general." The Times also failed to mention that Kirby's report was not published by any peer-reviewed scientific journal, but by an advocacy group with many members who participated in programs reviewed in Kirby's report. But like I said, let's take them at their word: If you teach a child how to use a condom, you're promoting safety -- not usage. Why, then, doesn't the same logic apply to guns? In Maryland, Democrat Gov. Parris Glendening has just vetoed bipartisan gun safety education legislation. It would have made Maryland the first in the nation to establish public-school guidelines for gun safety instruction from kindergarten through grade 12. Some teachers' groups and school administrators argued against top-down, unfunded curriculum mandates. But the same groups hardly complained when the state legislature passed a politically correct mandate for HIV-AIDS education in 1988. Gov. Glendening's objections show just how willing some liberals are to sacrifice children's safety to absolutist anti-gun ideology. The bill, Glendening said, "would create a clear appearance of the state encouraging young people to handle weapons and potentially furthering their interest in a time when we are trying to fight the scourge of gun violence." He attacked a provision allowing students in grades seven through 12 to participate in hunter-safety programs at certified shooting ranges, and he blasted another provision allowing local school boards to work with community or civic groups to develop their safety curricula. Those parts of the law, he said, raised "the specter of the National Rifle Association (NRA) taking bus loads of 13-year-old boys and girls off to a firing range for a day of shooting." And what exactly would be wrong with that? The NRA teaches tens of thousands of children and teens across the country every year how to handle firearms safely and responsibly. In Maryland, several health educators have already adapted the NRA's Eddie Eagle program for use in the public schools. The lessons do not promote firearm ownership or use. Eddie Eagle teaches them sensibly that firearms are not toys, and should not be touched without adult supervision. It's education, not titillation. Nevertheless, Glendening fulminates: "For many young impressionable children, handling weapons in this setting may lead to a heightened interest and contribute to the glorification of guns in our society." As if licensed gun-safety instructors were on par with Uzi-waving gangsta rappers and thugs. The liberal mindset never ceases to amaze. When it comes to teaching kids about sex, the more the better. The younger the better. Bring on the condoms and bananas, diaphragms and diagrams. Don't worry about the heightened interest and glorification of pre-marital sex that might result from young, impressionable children handling contraceptives. But when it comes to guns, Glendening and his ilk turn into tight-lipped prudes preaching absolute abstinence. Giving kids basic information about how guns work promotes safety -- not usage. Like the captains of kiddie condom classes always say, knowledge isn't deadly. Ignorance is.