Thursday, September 20, 2007

Curse the giant rubber!

You have to forgive Katie. She sent her last child, a daughter, off to college this fall. She is understandably worried about the influence of college life on the fledgling she has worked so hard to protect all these years. (Katie referred to her high school-graduating daughter in a column that is no longer up on the Strib site.)

Katie must have nightmares about the giant condom that stalks the University of Minnesota campus. She wrote about it in today's column:

Goldy Gopher is stumbling these days in his role as the University of Minnesota's mascot. Seems like every time he trots out onto the field, our football team is thrown for another loss.

Is the U scoring big in anything that counts anymore?

And how. In the U's darkest hour, a new mascot has stepped forward to lead our flagship university to a national championship. I'm talking about SHADEy, the university's giant walking condom, whose exploits were a major factor in last week's announcement by the maker of Trojan condoms that the U ranks No. 1 in the nation for its students' "sexual health."

Now of course Katie would never send her precious daughter to something as common as a public university—a Land Grant school no less—but the image still has to haunt her.

To those of us living in a reality-based world, we recognize that a lot of teenagers are having sex, although the numbers appear to be declining slightly. The same report shows that contraceptive use is high.

Katie undoubtedly prefers the abstinence-only approach:

President Bush has consistently supported the view that sex education should teach “abstinence only” and not include information on other ways to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. White House Spokesperson Ari Fleischer has asserted that “abstinence is more than sound science, it’s a sound practice . . . . [A]bstinence has a proven track record of working.”

In pushing an “abstinence only” agenda, however, the Bush Administration has consistently distorted the scientific evidence about what works in sex education. Administration officials have never acknowledged that abstinence-only programs have not been proven to reduce sexual activity, teen pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.

Related, of course, is the notion that non-marital sex should carry the risk of punishment: pregnancy or even death. Katie has written about abstinence-only sex education on prior occasions; Spot commented on one column here.

From a public health standpoint, practical measures to help young people avoid unwanted pregnancy and STDs are the only logical path.

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