Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jun 2007
Source: Boulder Weekly (CO)
Copyright: 2007 Boulder Weekly
Column: The Danish Plan
Author: Paul Danish
Cited: Conference on World Affairs
Cited: Boulder Valley School District
Cited: Institute for Policy Studies Drug Policy Project
Bookmark: (Students - United States)


For a guy who's running a no-spin zone, Bill O'Reilly has managed to
get his shorts twisted into quite a knot over a Conference on World
Affairs panel on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll - as have 10 Republican
members of the Colorado Legislature.

OK, I'm making up the part about rock 'n' roll. The actual title of 
the panel discussion, which took place at Boulder High School on 
April 10, was "STDs: Sex, Teens and Drugs."

At least one student who was forced to attend was outraged. When word
of her outrage reached New York two months later (evidently
communications between fly-over America and Manhattan are a bit slower
than we've been led to believe), O'Reilly was outraged. A couple days
later, when word that O'Reilly was outraged reached the Colorado
Legislature (evidently news travels faster east to west than west to
east), the 10 Republican members were outraged. Outrage, like sexually
transmitted diseases, is contagious.

Anyway, O'Reilly is carrying on about how the road to ruination runs
through Boulder High School, and the Republican amen chorus is howling
for someone's job - presumably someone involved in setting up the
panel or, failing that, anyone who wasn't sufficiently outraged.

Both O'Reilly and the 10 Republicans are showboating. The actual
comments of the panelists (as excerpted in the Camera last Saturday)
are pretty sensible advice - certainly more sensible than what teens
could expect to hear from O'Reilly's side of the culture wars.

Consider a few examples:

Panelist Sanho Tree, who is the director of the Drug Policy Project at
the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, told the audience that
"drugs make you feel good. That's the reason people take drugs."

Yuh think?

Strange as it seems, very few people do drugs because drugs make them
feel bad. The suggestion that people take drugs because drugs make
them feel good strikes me as a self-evident truth. Why the outrage?

Tree also said we need to "educate kids about drugs in terms of the
relative harms caused by these drugs."

What's outrageous about that? If you don't have accurate information
about the relative harms caused by various drugs, you don't have a
basis for making informed decisions about drug use.

The real outrage here is the tens of billions of dollars the war on
drugs has spent mis-educating kids about the relative harms caused by
drugs - falsely portraying all drugs as equally dangerous, equating
marijuana with heroin and cocaine when it's less addictive and harmful
than beer - on the grounds that to tell "our kids" anything else would
be "to send the wrong message."

Turning to sex, Joel Becker, clinical director of Cognitive Behavior
Associates in Beverly Hills, Calif., said, "If you think that having
sex doesn't come with feelings, that's where you're mistaken."

Hard to imagine anyone would get outraged over that.

But then he added: "I've been told this is a very liberal high school,
and I'm probably speaking to the choir by encouraging you to have
healthy sexual behavior because most of your parents have probably
given you similar views, but you know when you are 13 - 12, 13, 14 -
certainly one of the most appropriate sexual behaviors would be
masturbation. Masturbate. Please masturbate."

Granted, there's something about word "masturbation" that seems to
cause social conservatives to come unhinged, but it's still perfectly
reasonable advice. Masturbation is obviously a less risky form of
sexual behavior than intercourse - especially for adolescents. Jacking
off doesn't result in unexpected pregnancies (and thus children
raising children), and you won't get AIDS, the clap or even a yeast
infection from a dalliance with your hand (unless your fingernails are
really, really dirty).

Just what exactly would O'Reilly propose to tell 12- to 14-year-olds?
That masturbation will grow hair on your palms and cause you to go

However, one suspects the thing Becker said that really outraged
O'Reilly, et al., was this: "I'm going to encourage you to have sex,
and I'm going to encourage you to use drugs appropriately. And why I'm
going to take that position is that you're going to do it anyway."

That might seem over the top - until you consider the alternative
message, favored by most social conservatives: Kids don't have sex;
kids don't do drugs.

We've been sending that politically correct message to "kids" for a
long time. It has caused millions of adolescents to conclude that if
"kids" don't have sex, and if "kids" don't do drugs, the way to stop
being a kid is to have sex and do drugs (and drink a lot).

Becker's approach is much sounder psychology, because it doesn't set
up drug use and sex as rites of passage into adulthood. The only
downside is that it causes state legislators to get in touch with
their inner blowhard.

O'Reilly has a point when he gripes about some students being forced
to attend the panel. Panel discussions like this one should be
elective affairs. On the other hand, most students have had years of
prohibitionist misinformation and propaganda about drugs and sex
shoved down their throats by the time they reach high school. Exposing
them to the other side at least once is just a matter of being fair
and balanced.
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