US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform December 2004: more on the clown.

Lest you think me (simply) a mean-spirited clown-hater, I present to you a link to the December 2004 US Committee on Government Reform–Minority Staff Special Investigations Division report “The Content of Federally Funded Abstinence-Only Education Programs”.

At the request of Rep. Henry Waxman, this report is a comprehensive evaluation
of the content of the curricula used in federally funded abstinence-only education
programs.18  It is based on a review of the most popular abstinence-only curricula
used by grantees in the SPRANS program.

To conduct this evaluation, the Special Investigations Division obtained from the
Health Resources and Services Administration the program summaries of the 100
organizations that received SPRANS abstinence funding during fiscal year
2003.19  Each summary contains a proposal listing the curricula that the program
intends to use.  The Special Investigations Division then acquired each curriculum
that was listed by at least five funding recipients.20  Thirteen curricula met this
criterion (Table 1).

The 13 curricula were reviewed for scientific accuracy.  For several curricula with
a separate teacher’s guide, both the student and teacher manuals were included.
The review was intended to provide an overall assessment of the accuracy of the
curricula, not to identify all potential errors.

I had *such* trouble picking a short list of favourites. But I’ve managed to trim my list to these four excerpts, which I find particularly illustrative:

  • Several curricula cite an erroneous 1993 study of condom effectiveness that has
    been discredited by federal health officials.  The 1993 study, by Dr. Susan Weller,
    looked at a variety of condom effectiveness studies and concluded that condoms
    reduce HIV transmission by 69%. […] The Department [of Health and Human Services] cited numerous methodological problems, including the mixing of data on consistent condom use with data on inconsistent condom use, and found that Dr. Weller’s calculation of a 69% effectiveness rate was based on
    “serious error.” […] Despite these findings, several curricula refer approvingly to the Weller study. […](One) curriculum that cites Dr. Weller’s data claims:  “In heterosexual sex, condoms fail to prevent HIV
    approximately 31% of the time.”
  • [One] curriculum states, “Sterility:  Studies show that five to ten percent of
    women will never again be pregnant after having a legal abortion.”  In
    fact, obstetrics textbooks teach that “[f]ertility is not altered by an elective
  • Under the heading “Abstinence-Only Curricula Treat Stereotypes about Girls and
    Boys as Scientific Fact”:  A third curriculum depicts emotions as limiting girls’ ability to focus.  It states:
    “Generally, guys are able to focus better on one activity at a time and may not
    connect feelings with actions.  Girls access both sides of the brain at once, so they
    often experience feelings and emotions as part of every situation.”
  • One curriculum presents data on HIV exposure in a misleading and confusing
    way.  The curriculum uses data from a CDC chart originally titled “HIV infection
    cases in adolescents and adults under age 25, by sex and exposure category.”94
    The original CDC chart looks at all people with HIV under 25 and categorizes them by reported route of exposure, such as heterosexual sex or intravenous drug
    use.  But the curriculum misleadingly puts the CDC data in a new chart called
    “Percent HIV Infected” and scrambles the CDC data in a way that suggests
    greatly exaggerated HIV rates among teenagers.  For example, where the CDC
    chart showed that 41% of female teens with HIV reportedly acquired it through
    heterosexual contact, the curriculum’s chart suggests that 41% of heterosexual
    female teens have HIV.95  It similarly implies that 50% of homosexual male teens
    have HIV.96

Incredible. Truly incredible. (Sorry for the formatting niggles.)

4 thoughts on “US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform December 2004: more on the clown.

  1. for sure. yes, the thing that’s really staggering to me about this report is not what it found, but that it found what it found and *yet the funding increased*. not only did the funding increase, but there were (to my knowledge–do speak up, anyone who knows otherwise) no changes made to the system of oversight. what a twilight zone we’ve been in for the last eight years!

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