It seems that in Saline County, Arkansas, an abstinence only program called, "The REAL Deal" is operating under the same loophole I discussed in a previous blog post. According to my nephew, they never overtly mention their religion, nor do they spend their time preaching the gospel to the students. But what they are doing is floating themselves in the murky boundary between public funding and the establishment clause. And they do this without ever asking the parents to sign a consent form.
Here's what Dr. Google found: According to their website, they are affiliated with another company called Abstinence By Choice, which is registered in Little Rock, Arkansas. This program, and "The Real Deal" copycat, targets 7th, 8th and 9th grade students in public and private schools across the state.
If you can stomach it and look over their website, you'll note that they are really, really good at making unsubstantiated claims. (Just like my reverent sparring partner, Scott Cheatham.) For example, on their home page they claim:
"A recent evaluation, involving a sample of nearly 1,000 students, shows that the program has been highly effective in changing the attitudes that are directly linked to early sexual activity.
When compared with similar students who had not been exposed to the program, the Abstinence by Choice program reduced the sexual activity rates as follows:
- Girls by approximately 40 percent (from 10.2 percent to 5.9 percent)
- Boys by approximately 30 percent (from 22.8 percent to 15.8 percent)
I can find no citation of a study anywhere on their website, nor can I find anything that would suggest where these people got their numbers, other than pulling them out of their collective backsides, of course. Further, this NCHS Data Brief from the CDC lists the state of Arkansas as having the third highest teen birth rate after New Mexico and Texas, with Oklahoma a close fourth. So to put it mildly, the clinical studies for abstinence actually working are definitely lacking. As a matter of fact, I can't find one abstinence only study online without having some kind of religious bias.THE REAL DEAL, will be using the same curriculum as Abstinence by Choice. We have been given permission to copy any material they have used in the past and feel this is the best way to continue teaching abstinence in all of Saline County."
I suppose now is as good a time as any to reveal what it was that centered my attention on this program. Here's a picture what my brother and my sister-in-law found:
|The card my nephew was forced to sign, and expires on his wedding night.|
Even if these deluded people believe that a significant number of teens, in the heat of a mutually consenting moment of heavy petting will suddenly put an end to it because they remember that they signed a 3" x 6" contract with the good people at, "The Real Deal", there's still the matter of valid data. I mean, if we're going to address a real problem, then we have to be honest with ourselves and provide real data. And from everything I could find, teen pregnancy has been on the rise in Arkansas over the past 6 years.
Okay, so here's my favorite part of this silly thing. Now, I'm talking to my nephew, or anyone else that signed one of these things: All of these empty promises have an expiration date! That's right! After your wedding night, you can disrespect yourself (and others) by drinking, doing illegal drugs, watching all the porn you want, and have all the sex you want (even outside of marriage!) Why? Two words: EXPIRATION DATE!!! **NOTE: this paragraph was intended to be read with sarcasm.**
Honestly, do sensible people even read these things?
P.S. This is just the beginning. I have sent an email to the board members via their "Contact Us" page asking them for a copy of their statistical studies, and for each of the board members to share their abstinence-only testimony so that I may validate the purity of their credentials. I suggest more Saline County parents do the same.
***UPDATE: I finally received a response from "The Real Deal of Saline County". Read on...