Letters to the Editor for April 2003

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Abstinence Ed Hurts Youth

Alice Leibowitz, Program Manager
Breaking the Cycle
Hartford, Conn.

I was very surprised to see an article in Youth Today that was slanted in favor of abstinence-only education. [“Abstinence Ed Money Makes Odd Bedfellows,” February.] I thought Youth Today supported empowerment of youth. What could be more disempowering than censorship?

Abstinence-only “education” programs are forbidden to teach about contraception and protection against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. When you consider that half of all Americans aged 16 and below are sexually active (and 70 percent of those aged 18 and below), it is clear that abstinence-only education leaves out important, sometimes life-saving health information. In many cases, abstinence-only programs deliberately lie about failure rates of contraceptives.

The rationale for censorship is that young people can’t handle the truth, [that] if they knew that pregnancy and STDs could be protected against, they would have rampant casual sex. Of course, some teenagers do have rampant, casual sex, as do many adults. Keeping kids ignorant won’t change that. The only educational programs shown to reduce the number of sexual partners are comprehensive sex education programs – which include information about saying no to sex, reducing the number of partners and using protection.

Abstinence-only programs lose credibility by teaching an unrealistic standard. They withhold vital information and they don’t work. To take money out of the budget for family planning and move it into abstinence-only is a dangerous policy – not just for safe-sex advocates, but for our county.

Stop the Bushwhacking

Kent Crocker, Special Projects Officer
Mississippi Department of Corrections
Jackson, MS

I have grown weary of trying to dig through the constant and intolerant left-wing Bush-bashing rhetoric to attempt to find points of interest that might actually assist in dealing with troubled and at-risk youth. Prior to Bush, the bashing centered around the Republicans in Congress. Do we see a pattern here?

Further, the moneys that will not be confiscated from the checks of working Americans will allow these Americans to provide better opportunities for their youthful offspring. I, a single guy, took in a boy to raise when he was age 8. He is now 15. While the tax cuts might be a matter for a quick sneer to you, these funds not being forcibly extracted from me have permitted me to afford a good private counselor for my “son.”

If you want any semblance of credibility with an audience outside of the hyperemotional vitriolic left-wing extremists, you might consider contributors with a broader perspective. You know the type: the ones that seek to do more without the need for ever-increasing government largess.

And as for the more open-minded view that the victims of crime deserve as much compassion as the perpetrators, these people recognize that even youths have a level of responsibility for their actions. There are many youths that refrain from dealing drugs, carjacking, raping and committing murder. You, in condoning the malfeasants, cast aside those who make the good decisions as irrelevant.

I find the thought that people who influence youths are influenced by this rag you publish disheartening.

Gordon McLean, Director
Juvenile Justice Ministry
Chicago

Our team finds Youth Today very helpful and full of information and leads that we can use as a private agency serving minority youth in the justice system.

My main regret is I find your slant often is one of attacking the president and his policies. We believe Bush is a very dedicated man, deeply concerned for youth and doing much of what he can in the face of national crisis and economic needs. Is there more to do? Of course. But I can’t appreciate your buying into the Democratic Party line and masking it, saying you are a nonpartisan youth-serving paper.

If you must take on the administration, then please be sure to get counterpoints and comments from administration officials.

Just because we care deeply about minority youth, the justice system and urban problems does not make us cheerleaders for the Democrats.

But We Like Youth Today

John A. Calhoun, CEO
National Crime Prevention Council
Washington, D.C.

Youth Today and I have wrestled many times over the years, and yet, in spite of the occasional public flaying, I have not only continued to read your publication but have been constantly in awe of your passionate and consistent advocacy on behalf of kids.

I, too, share your passion and advocacy, having served as commissioner of youth services in Massachusetts, then under President Carter as his commissioner of the Administration for Children, Youth and Families. In spite of that commitment, I have to confess to opening your journal with some trepidation, not knowing how and whether the finger of judgment would point at me. Over the long term, I suppose, no one is immune, no one should be immune, and one should be reminded of one’s inevitable compromises.

Yours has often been a lonely voice, whether in boom times when we only think about our next car, or in lean times when the first thing to be cut is usually kids’ programs. You have stuck with it. You have never flagged, and for that the field should be appreciative.

Edward W. Werz, Chairman
The Guidance Channel
Plainview, N.Y.

As a supporter and advertiser in every issue of Youth Today for the last 10 or so years, I was dismayed when I read the editorial in the March issue describing its financial woes.

I can honestly say that I know of no other publication that has worked so hard and for so long to provide an original, informative and independent voice for its constituents. Without Youth Today, the youth work field and the children it serves would be far the worse off.

If only every reader of this publication would subscribe and every subscriber increase their subscription by one, Youth Today would be sound financially and be able to continue its award-winning work.

Feedback

Youth Today welcomes comments by mail or e-mail. All letters must include the author’s name, job description or other connection to the youth work field, and phone number or e-mail address. Please send to: Letters to Editor, Youth Today, 1200 17th St. NW, 4th Fl., Washington, DC 20036 or info@youthtoday.org.