Tag Archives: teen pregnancy prevention

Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education is “Evidence-Based.” Also, Unicorns Are Real

2 May

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released an updated list of “evidence-based” programs for teen pregnancy prevention. Since we have apparently been plopped into an alternate universe where “evidence-based” means exactly the opposite of what it sounds like, the Heritage Keepers Abstinence Education program somehow made the list, despite a glaring lack of support in peer-reviewed research literature.

No surprise about the lack of effectiveness. A few choice quotes from the Heritage Keepers Student Manual, pulled from RH Reality Check’s piece on the curriculum:

  • “Males and females are aroused at different levels of intimacy. Males are more sight orientated whereas females are more touch orientated… This is why girls need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex. For this reason, girls have a responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts.” (Heritage Keepers, Student Manual, p. 46)
  • Sex is like fire. Inside the appropriate boundary of marriage, sex is a great thing! Outside of marriage, sex can be dangerous.” (Heritage Keeper, Student Manual, p. 22)
  • “Cohabitation (when two people live together before marriage) is not like marriage! [Heritage Keepers, p. 30] When couples live together outside of marriage, the relationships are weaker, more violent, less [equal], and more likely to lead to divorce” (Heritage Keepers, Student Manual, p. 26)
  • “One reason may be that when people bond closely through sexual activity, then break up and bond with someone else, and then someone else, it may become increasingly difficult to maintain a lasting bond.” (Heritage Keepers, Teacher Manual, p. 56)
  • Young men are asked to envision their wedding day: “The doors swing open and there stands your bride in her white dress…This is the woman you have waited for (remained abstinent for) who has waited for you…This woman loves you and trusts you with all that she is and all that she has. You want to be strong, respectful and courageous for her. With all your heart, you want to protect her, and by waiting (sexually) you have.” (Heritage Keepers, Student Manual, p. 59)
  • Young women are asked to envision their wedding day: “Everything is just as you have seen it in a million daydreams…” When the bride takes her father’s arm: “Your true love stands at the front. This is the man who you have waited for (remained abstinent for) and who has waited for you…This man wants to be strong and courageous for you, to cherish and protect you… You are ready to trust him with all that you have and all that you are, because you have waited (sexually) you have it all to give.” (Heritage Keepers, Student Manual, p. 49)

Gross, gross, gross, gross. What was the Obama administration thinking? This program drips with dated gender attitudes, unsubstantiated (and often blatantly false) claims about the dangers of premarital sex, heterosexism, and slut-shaming. Even if Heritage Keepers somehow manages to produce scientific support of the caliber expected for other programs on the “evidence based” list (very unlikely), its deeply problematic premise and language choices make it an unacceptable choice for schools or any other public sphere. Punching someone in the mouth may be an effective way to remove teeth, but dentists don’t use it in practice because it’s damaging, unethical, and a generally crappy thing to do. Again, I doubt Heritage Keepers will ever prove its effectiveness in peer-reviewed literature, but regardless of research outcome, I sincerely hope the Department of Health and Human Services recognizes its error and pulls its endorsement for a program that should never have received serious consideration in the first place.

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