Letters to the Editor

Readers write about abstinence programs, pit bull dogs, and Harry Potter

Consequences of rigid abstinence programs

The July 30 Opinion article, "A truce in the sex ed wars?" correctly acknowledges the complexity of and differing views on human sexuality. But the analysis of the current debate over the best approach to sex education suffers from two major flaws.

First, the article wrongly equates the very weak evidence on the effectiveness of "abstinence-only until marriage" curricula with the strong body of evidence favoring comprehensive sex education programs. Well-documented, peer-reviewed evaluations of comprehensive sex-ed programs have demonstrated that this approach is effective at promoting both delays in sexual activity and protective behaviors among teens when they do become sexually active. In contrast, the only rigorous evaluations of abstinence-only programs have shown they do not stop or even delay teen sex.

Second, the article's proposed compromise solution to examine the different ways that human beings have conceived of sex itself is flawed in the current political context. Guidelines governing federally subsidized abstinence-education programs stipulate that for unmarried persons of any age, the behavior that must be promoted exclusively is abstinence until marriage.

These highly rigid programs do not even allow for any discussion of the benefits of contraception; it is hard to see how their proponents would support a free-ranging discussion of human sexuality.

David Landry

Senior Research Associate

Guttmacher Institute, New York

Professor Zimmerman misses the point when he says, "Right now, both sides of the sex education debate still insist that education can change sexual activity. As best as we can tell, they're both wrong." Sex education is about providing information so that people can make more informed decisions.

It is information about homosexuality, birth control, and those things that the article proposes such as "...the course would examine the different ways that human beings – across space and time – have conceived of sex itself.... And it would expose children to the enormous range of views on sex, instead of imposing a single view upon them."

This is precisely what the groups opposed to sex education object to. They want a conservative, authoritarian approach as opposed to a liberal vantage of giving alternatives. That is what the battle is about.

Lawrence Welsch
Gaithersburg, Md.

Jonathan Zimmerman offers a refreshing viewpoint on sex education, but I am afraid he has not found a true middle ground. The abstinence-only viewpoint on this subject is based on restricting (rather than mitigating) teenagers' behavior, a strategic corollary of which is restricting information. Someone who objects to teaching kids how to use forms of birth control will be livid about a curriculum that touches on non-Western religions.

William Cline
Williamsburg, Va.

Pitbulls as family pets

The July 27 article, "Dogfighting case triggers public outrage," was disappointing and biased. The article had a sizable quote from Terry Fields, stating in part "these kind of dogs pull on the chains to fight."

Pit bulls are wonderful, happy, and loving dogs. Cruel and ignorant people, like Michael Vick and Qyntel Woods, train their dogs in the most unspeakable way to become fighters. I urge you to do a follow-up story about the greatness of this breed and how many of the lucky rescued "fighters" are easily transitioned into family pets. The dogs and your readers deserve to hear the truth about pit bulls.

Paige Powell
Portland, Ore.

Should not have spoiled the ending

In your July 25 Opinion article, "Missing from 'Harry Potter' – a real moral struggle," the author wrote about her thoughts of the book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The author of the Opinion article gave away the ending of the story before many people had finished reading the 759 pages of the book. That was unfair to give it out so soon. [Editor's note: The article warned readers beforehand about the spoilers.]

Then the article criticized Harry for not being grown-up and moral. The author evidently was not familiar with the seven books about Harry, nor did the author know that Snape would not have appealed to the millions of Harry Potter readers. It appeared to me that the author's knowledge was minimal.

Leah Walls
Alamo, Calif.

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