Interview With Chastity Speaker Jason Evert
SAN DIEGO, California, 12 JULY 2007 (ZENIT)
A recent study published
by a public policy research firm that claims abstinence education
programs aren't effective, doesn't tell the whole story, says an expert.
Jason Evert, an international chastity speaker, author and full-time
apologist for Catholic Answers, disagrees with the methods and findings
of the study by Mathematica Policy Research, Inc .
Evert shared with ZENIT what the study gets wrong, and what good
abstinence education programs get right in helping teens save sex for
Q: A recent study found that abstinence-education programs "don't work."
What, specifically, did the study find? What do you think of the study's
Evert: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., tracked 1,209 students in four
elementary and middle school abstinence programs to determine if the
education they received impacted their sexual behavior. What the
researchers found was that the "programs had no effect on the sexual
abstinence of youth" two to five years after the program ended.
This study, however, had serious flaws.
First, the students in the study were between the ages of nine and 11,
which is hardly the age at which young people understand the relevance
of an abstinence message.
Second, the study had no high school component, and the students had no
follow-up to the program
especially when they would have needed it the most, during the teenage
In the words of the Mathematica researchers, "The findings provide no
information on the effects programs might have if they were implemented
for high school youth or began at earlier ages but served youth through
Third, the researchers did not evaluate a comparable sexual education
program in order to compare the findings.
Fourth, the majority of the students were poor African American children
from broken families. Such youth are considered high risk for early
sexual activity. Therefore, their behaviors are not representative of
most young people.
Fifth, the sample of four schools studied represents less than 1% of the
more than 900 abstinence programs that receive federal funding.
Sixth, the abstinence programs that were studied have already been
revised and updated. Therefore, any conclusions drawn from them are
The Mathematica study was released for one reason: to influence
congressional leaders to restrict the amount of funding given to
Since the early 1990s, abstinence education has received millions of
dollars in federal grants. Although the government provides $12 worth of
sexual education for every $1 given to promote abstinence, any financial
support for abstinence means less money available for its opponents.
The good news about this study is that it shows how desperate the
opponents of abstinence education have become. If this research
which cost taxpayers $6 million
is the best case against the effectiveness of abstinence education,
we're in good shape.
The media's frenzy over this study is another effort to distract the
public from the fact that sexual education has been a complete failure.
After decades of "safe sex" education in the United States, nearly half
of the 19 million new sexually transmitted disease infections each year
are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.
In the words of Heritage Foundation researcher Robert Rector, "The
number-one determinant of whether a person will catch a sexually
transmitted disease is the number of lifetime sexual partners. We seem
to go out of our way as a government and a nation to avoid telling
people that, but we hand out a lot of free condoms."
Q: Do all sexual education programs have the same goal? Are they simply
various methods for approaching the public health issues of venereal
disease and out-of-wedlock pregnancies?
Evert: There are hundreds of different sexual education programs, and
their goals vary. Some focus on HIV or teen pregnancy prevention, while
others peddle contraceptives or promote perverse ideologies.
For example, Allendale Pharmaceuticals
makers of a contraceptive sponge
gave grant money to Planned Parenthood to create a sexual education
curriculum for teens. In this program, the curriculum discusses the
sponge 28 times, and birth control is mentioned more than 10 times more
One lesson in the curriculum even tells the teens to create their own
advertisement for birth control. Later in the program, the textbook
argues that there would be fewer teen pregnancies in America if there
wasn't so much social and political pressure for teens to be abstinent
While some sexual education programs have been used to stir up business
for birth control companies, others expose children to graphic sexual
For example, The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the
United States recommends in their "Guidelines for Comprehensive
Sexuality Education" that 5- to 8-year-olds should learn about lesbians
being in love.
Meanwhile, they propose that 15-year-olds should know that some people
choose to watch pornography as a way to enhance sexual fantasies.
Lest you assume that the Centers for Disease Control would control such
nonsense, even they funded a transgender beauty pageant in San
One thing that all sexual education programs seem to have in common is
their relativistic approach to sexual values. Pervading the curricula is
the idea that "only you can choose the right time for becoming sexually
Because of this mentality, abstinence is looked at as a form of birth
control, and is not given great emphasis. When abstinence is discussed,
the arguments in favor of such a lifestyle are hardly convincing.
For example, Planned Parenthood's Web site for teens states, "Some
people may choose to be sexually abstinent in certain circumstances. A
person who just broke up with someone might abstain from dating and sex
play because being close to another person might not feel right, yet."
Not surprisingly, sexual education programs spend an average of 4.7% of
their content on the topic of abstinence.
Q: Let's assume abstinence education programs in schools "don't work."
Evert: Suppose a school offered an anti-drug and alcohol program to its
students, and the curriculum failed to have a positive impact.
Imagine, as a result, that the school board concluded, "We need to take
a more comprehensive approach. Let's encourage the students to refuse
drugs, and give clean syringes to those who are going to do it anyway.
For those who choose to drink and drive, we should encourage the use of
seat belts. After all, we need to be realistic."
No one would take such an approach with drugs or drinking because there
is unanimous consent that such behaviors are harmful for teens. This is
where abstinence and sexual education programs diverge.
Those in the sexual education camp do not believe that unwed sexual
activity is inherently harmful. Meanwhile, those in favor of abstinence
know what's at stake
and therefore prefer an approach focused on prevention instead of
If certain abstinence programs are defective, the weaknesses must be
identified and the deficiencies remedied.
For example, if a program failed to have a long-term impact, the
educators should build into the curriculum such features as a longer
follow-up or greater parental involvement. If the program is still
defective, it should be dropped in favor of one that has already been
evaluated with positive results.
Q: Would abolition of all sexual education programs in schools,
including abstinence-based programs, foster more parental involvement?
Evert: No. The elimination of sexual education in schools will not
prompt parents to become more involved in the lives of their children.
This would be like thinking that parents would exercise more with their
children if schools dropped physical education classes.
Indeed, parents are the primary sex educators of their children. The
family is a school of all virtues, including chastity. When parents
practice this virtue in their marriage, the children will see why Pope
John Paul II called chastity "the sure way to happiness."
In order for parents to learn the value of chastity, the Church must
proclaim it with courage from the pulpits. Especially through promotion
of Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, children and adults can
discover God's plan for life and love.
Q: Are there any successful abstinence programs with which you are
Evert: Programs offered by Project Reality, Heritage Keepers, Sex
Respect, Teen Aid, Friends First, PEERS, Pure Love Club, Project REACH
and many others have been evaluated with very positive results.
More than 30 scientific evaluations have shown that abstinence education
reduces sexual activity and has positive effects on teens.
For example, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health
demonstrated that girls who take virginity pledges are 40% less likely
to have a child out-of-wedlock than young women who do not make such
Contrary to what you may see in the media, the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention reports that teen sexual activity rates have been
dropping since 1991, and now the majority of high school students are
In fact, between 1991 and 2005 the sexual activity rate of high school
boys dropped twice as quickly as that of high school girls. The increase
in abstinence education has played a major role in this new sexual
Q: What can Catholic schools learn from the failures of various programs
in public schools? What should Catholic schools be doing about sexual
Evert: The first lesson to be learned is that one cannot simultaneously
deliver a convincing abstinence message while explaining how to practice
Second, Catholic schools should make sure that their materials are
age-appropriate, medically accurate and in conformity with the wishes of
the parents. When it comes to sexuality education, schools and churches
exist to assist the parents, not replace them.
Teenagers are looking for love and searching for meaning in their lives.
At a time when they are so vulnerable to the temptations of the world,
they deserve to hear the convincing power of the beauty of God's plan
for human sexuality.