Pawlenty’s flawed sex-ed

Youth shouldn’t have to learn basic medical facts the hard way.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has turned down a condition-free $850,000 federal grant to educate Minnesota teenagers about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as the benefits of delaying sexual activity.

His spokesman said the grant was rejected because Pawlenty “is striving to find ways to stop” the new federal health care legislation that funds the grant.

Governor Pawlenty’s dislike of the new heath care law cannot be his only reason for turning down the grant. As he rejected the sex education grant, he approved a grant for abstinence-only education that requires $379,000 in matching state funds in order to receive $500,000 in funding from the same federal health bill.

Pawlenty’s real point of contention must not be the funding source but what students will — or will not — be taught.

After the state of Minnesota employed abstinence-only programs until 2007, trends show that Minnesota teenagers need to be taught more, not less, in school. Teenage STD rates are rising. Minority youth especially have above average rates of teen pregnancy and STDs.

A report issued this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics confirms that teenagers turn to television and other media as information sources if all they hear at school is wait until marriage. The same investigation found the constant unrealistic portrayal of sex in the media. Over 70 percent of teenage shows contain sexual content, and less than 10 percent of them were judged to show responsible content that mentions the use of contraception, the risks of STDs and other dangers of sex.

Pawlenty should treat Minnesota students as the young adults they are and let them learn the facts of life in the classroom, not the school of hard knocks.