A study suggests that school-based prevention programs begun in elementary school can significantly reduce problem behaviors in students. Fifth graders who previously participated in a comprehensive interactive school prevention program for one to four years were about half as likely to engage in substance abuse, violent behavior, or sexual activity as those who did not take part in the program. The study, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a component of the National Institutes of Health, will appear in the August 2009 print issue of the American Journal of Public Health. The online version of the article is viewable today.
I was happily reading along, noting that the authors were appropriately cautious, talking about the longer-term follow-up that needs to be done. Then I hit this paragraph.
“This study demonstrates that a comprehensive, schoolwide social and character development program can have a substantial impact on reducing problem behaviors of public health importance in elementary-school-age youth,” said Dr. Brian Flay of Oregon State University, the study’s principal investigator.
“[C]haracter development”? Huh. “Character” is one of those words, right up there with “class” and “breeding,” that generally tells me someone is trying to separate the “deserving” and the “undeserving” for their own exclusionary purposes. I headed to the website of Positive Action, the program in question.
The first look was not promising. Their page title reads, “Positive Action: an Evidence-Based Character Education Program.” There was the problematic word again. However, the further I dug into their curriculum, the less I saw that was in any way objectionable, since it turns out the reliance on this nebulous quality of “character” was all surface.
Relieved but grumpy, I bitched to DM.
They’ve got to make the program all about “character”? Because if we instill self-esteem and teach kids to analyze behavior and view influences skeptically, they might turn out to be too radical or something.
Don’t mind me. I’m just pissed that we have to support conservative buzzwords that are tied to all sorts of nasty thinking in order to get a good idea past them.
Thankfully, the Obama administration has brought some measure of sanity to public health policy, cutting most abstinence-only education funding from the 2010 budget. But abstinence organizations are not going away. In fact, they’re getting organized. Well aware that their cause is in trouble and unpopular, purity proponents are revamping their image to appear more mainstream. And with Obama’s faith-based initiative lending them an ear, it just might work. [...]
The lack of consistent and presentable leadership, combined with ripe-for-mockery educators like Deltano, has made it all too easy to dismiss the virginity movement’s message. And they know it. One of the “Strategic Objectives” now listed on the NAEA website is “Rebranding the abstinence message.”
So when the NAEA met for its annual lobby day in March, high on the list of priorities was developing a strategy for continuing to receive federal dollars. Joe Sonka, managing editor of the Advocates for Youth blog Amplify, wrote of the lobby day, “Instead of abandoning their demonization of condoms and adherence to social conservative ideology over sound science, they would simply rebrand themselves as a curriculum that ‘wasn’t just about abstinence,’ but was all about ‘holistic approaches’ to ‘healthy lifestyle choices.’”
At an April 29 Capitol Hill briefing, Huber told the room that abstinence-only education is “not a ‘just say no’ message.” “This is not abstinence only, this is a holistic message that prepares and gives students all of the information they need to make healthy decisions,” Huber said. In fact, the NAEA isn’t even calling its programs “abstinence only” anymore–now they’re “abstinence centered.”
You know, of course, that they’re nothing of the sort. I highly recommend reading the article to find out what new guises the abstinence movement is using to hide itself. It’s even claiming to be “science-based,” although as you would expect, the science is the bought-and-paid-for sort that the energy companies are using to fight effective action against global warming.
Yes, read and be prepared (as it were). But while you’re reading, feel free to take a moment to be heartened, because it’s awfully nice to know that they are feeling the need to adopt our language for a change.