Archive for the ‘education’ Category


Monday, February 22nd, 2010

It seems to be generally agreed that to achieve the goal of fewer abortions performed in this country there needs to be a sharp reduction in unwanted pregnancies. Particularly this is important among teenagers and especially for those who are in disadvantaged situations. The question is what kind of public policy will help to achieve that goal as well as reducing significantly the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases [STDs] in this very vulnerable age group.
 For some time there has been an ongoing debate about a federally mandated and supported program of school based abstinence-only sex education. In the recently passed Omnibus government spending bill signed into law by President Obama in December 2009 there was included a provision for removing all spending for these highly restrictive abstinence-only programs. The programs, under longstanding Federal law since the 1980’s, denied young people accurate information about contraceptives, STDs and the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies.
 A congressional study mandated in 2007 demonstrated that elementary and middle school children receiving abstinence-only sex education, had no fewer unplanned pregnancies than those in a similar group of students who had not been exposed to the program. Also States that opted out of these mandated abstinence-only programs had lower abortion rates than in those states participating. The new initiative, to replace the abstinence-only education program, is championed by the Obama White House. It will be managed by new office of adolescent health within the Department of Health and Human
Services. [1]
 Recently a new study reported this year from the University of Pennsylvania showed that in a select group of middle school students abstinence-only was emphasized, 33% delayed having sex for a 24 month period as compared to 42% in a group assigned to classes incorporating comprehensive sex education.  As explained by the study director. Dr. John B. Jemmott III, this new study differed from previous restrictive abstinence-only programs in that in addition to counseling abstinence, sexual activity was not portrayed negatively nor were condoms taught to be ineffective. In addition, the classes contained only medically accurate information.[2]  Considering those modifications, this study does suggest that in younger age groups abstinence emphasis may have definite value.
 Taking into consideration currently available medically and scientifically based information, IPPA strongly supports that this new federally supported national public policy emphasizing comprehensive, medically accurate and age appropriate sex education, including abstinence, [particularly in younger age groups] be available to students in every region of this country. Once implemented it is also very important that these programs undergo rigorous evaluation. Widespread access to such programs should help in reducing unwanted pregnancies, thereby hopefully reducing the need for abortions, as well as reducing the incidence of STDs.

1. Editorial, “End to the Abstinence-Only Fantasy” New York Times
2. Tamar Lewin, “Abstinence Education Is found to Delay Sex”
     New York Times 7-3-2010

STUDENT COLLEGE LOAN REFORM—A Step in the Right Direction

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

The US House of Representatives passed [on September 17, 2009] the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. This new bill will allow students to borrow directly from the government through their colleges and universities. Senate passage is hoped for in the near future. The bill will replace the existing plan whereby the government provides capital to private lending institutions,  subsidizes to those institutions to lend to students and in addition guarantees the loans so that the private institutions have no risk. The new plan, by ending these federal subsidies to private lenders, may save up to $ 80 billion over the next 10 years. $40 billion of these savings can be applied to increase the maximum annual Pell grant scholarships. An additional $ 10 billion is cited for work training programs as well as construction for the nation’s community colleges. The legislation also provides about $8 billion for early-childhood programs and $2.55 billion for historically black colleges and universities. There is also a predicted additional savings in this legislation of $10 billion to return to the US Treasury. [1] Included is provision to minimize the number of questions on the loan application form that families must fill out when applying for aid. This new plan should provide more reliability for students in need as loan availability would not depend on the variations in the credit markets. There would also be more transparency and stability in the terms of the loans.
 This is good news as this new plan facilitates the extremely important goal of regaining United States dominance in the number of adults obtaining college degrees. However, there is the remaining vexing problem of college tuition running ahead of inflation. The assumption that students can just pay the bill with borrowed money has to be one of the reasons schools are not feeling more pressure to control costs.[2] Since perhaps two-thirds of students now borrow to help pay for college this problem has yet to be addressed.
 What do you think about what needs to be done to control escalating college costs?

[1] Tamar Lewis, New York Times, September 18, 2009
[2] Gail Collins, oped column New York Times, September 17, 2009