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17 November 2011

Praise: Ohio State University Research on Sex Education

Politicians periodically poke their noses into education with demands based on ideology and not on the realities of science or education.  In 1996, the did so to implement abstinence-only sex education classes at schools around the country.  The idea was to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and reduce the number of children having babies.  Both are reasonable goals and it initially looked like it might be working.

It took a while to realize that it did not work.  A lengthy 2005 report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) goes into many of the initial findings.  Students were more aware of abstinence but not more likely to abstain.

What researchers at Ohio State, the University of Kentucky, and George Mason University found is that students need to be in more discussion and less testing.  This is very different than the continued calls we hear for evidence that education is working.  Professor Eric Anderman, the lead on this research, is quoted in the news release:

When students focus on tests, they are thinking about what they need to remember to get a good grade, he said.  They are not taking the time to think about why they are learning this information, and why it is important in their life.
“Ideally, in the perfect world, I would say students shouldn’t be tested in health classes.  Tests are important in a lot of areas, but health is not one of them,” he said.
“But if you have to have tests, make them minimal and low-pressure.  This is not about separating students in terms of ability.  It is about getting students to adopt healthy habits.”
This is what we need to know when approaching education, not what some religion or some politician takes on faith.

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