Saturday, February 19, 2005

Oh no, a teenager might actually think about sex!

From the N & O:

"Wake officials say they believe in that goal, but they don't like some of the probing questions, particularly those about sex. The questions seem to assume that high school students are sexually active, they say, and that goes against the system's abstinence-only sex education curriculum.
Of particular concern, all said, were the sequencing and wording of questions. For example, the section about sexual activity, included only on the high school questionnaire, begins with the question: "Have you ever had sexual intercourse?"

But respondents, including those who answer "No," must read seven more questions about sex, including this one: "The last time you had sexual intercourse, did you or your partner use a condom?" That question can be answered in one of three ways: "I have never had sexual intercourse," "Yes" or "No."

Those who objected to the survey say those who answered "no" to question one should be able to skip to the next section. The subsequent questions, they say, are too suggestive.

"We just didn't want to make kids read these questions over and over if the answer is 'no,' " said Kathryn Chontos, principal of Athens Drive High School and president of the Wake County Division of Principals."

A poorly worded survey? Potentially, but repeating of questions in a certain way can tease out information. For instance, if after asking a question about intercourse, one of the seven questions is about oral sex, a respondant may have answered no to the intercourse question but in the affirmative to oral sex, having drawn a distinction in their own mind between acts of sexual activity.

Wake County is one of the largest school systems in the country, and it's embarrassing they have an abstinence-only policy, but if that's the decision of the community, then it should be forced to stand the scrutiny of performance through surveys like this. Personally, I think they don't want their policy to face the harsh light of examination, especially given recent reports that this type of education is completely ineffectual.

The idea that these questions are suggestive is ludicrous, in an age of cable TV, Internet porno, and shock-jock radio.


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