My Hero for the Day

I had a story in my news feed this morning about a high school student who is protesting a presentation at her school by abstinence crusader Pam Stenzel. This young woman, Katelyn Campbell, who's age is not listed but couldn't be older than 17 or 18, has shown not only the wisdom to detect the false information in Stenzel's presentations and the violation of student's rights by forcing them to attend a blatantly religious themed assembly, but also the guts to stand up and say no in spite of mounting consequences to her academic life. She deserves a huge round of applause and all the support she needs to see herself vindicated.

So for some background on this, Pam Stenzel is an abstinence 'educator' of the absolute worst order. She travels the US giving speeches to all kinds of groups of kids but mostly high schools, teaching them about all the bad things that will happen to you if you have sex. Her presentations are riddled with inaccurate information. She says that condoms are not effective in preventing pregnancies and STI's and that abortion causes depression and suicidal thoughts. She says that abortions are painful and cause bulimia. Her presentations are chockful of gender stereotypes - she places both the blame and the responsibility for sexual activity almost solely on girls. She tells girls that they are devaluing and debasing themselves if they have sex and says that if their mothers give them birth control, it means they hate them. She says that a girl is ten times more likely to get an STI if she's on birth control. There is also a large dose of Christian Fundamentalism along with all of the other stuff. If you don't believe me, and if you don't mind throwing up in your mouth a little, take a look at this clip of one of her presentations.

I love that this crowd doesn't think she's funny - even though she's trying to make jokes. If that doesn't bother you, check this out!

Notice how its really just the girls who need to stop having sex and confess to their husbands what they've done.

Ok, so it doesn't take a genius to realize that this stuff is harmful. In fact, if you look at any recent research, you'll see that it's been irrefutably proven that this kind of 'education' is not effective in delaying the age of first sexual activity, reducing numbers of pregnancies, or preventing STI's. But I still applaud Katelyn for pointing it out and for standing up for all of the people in her school who were made to feel uncomfortable, ashamed, or downright terrified by Pam and her crazy shitshow. Katelyn refused to go to the presentation and started a protest against it. Her principal threatened to call the college she had been accepted to and tell them that she was a 'bad character' and a 'backstabber'. In a beautiful little response, Wellesley College tweeted yesterday afternoon that Katelyn need not be concerned about her spot for next year. Glad to see that they support her right to protest.

It's not so much that Katelyn needed to win this and actually stop the presentation from happening. It's just that students should, and really do need to, have both sides of the story. Students should be made aware of the fact that Stenzel has been roundly criticized for giving misinformation and they should know the actual facts as opposed to what she says. They should have resources so that they can sit in that room and judge fairly for themselves whether they agree with her or not. And they should have the right to choose not to attend the presentation. The fact that none of those things were available and that the school would attempt to force their students to listen to someone berating and scaring them and offer them no alternative information is baffling and scary to me. They should have at least allowed and welcomed Katelyn's protest and allowed her to give out her information - letting the students decide for themselves. But that's exactly what this boils down to. Katelyn's principal and Pam Stenzel and their ilk want to tell teenagers what to do. The last thing in the world they want is for them to think for themselves. They want them to blindly follow where they lead them and meekly do what they are told. But is that the kind of education we really want? What do we get when we teach our children to sit back, listen and obey? We get a generation of blind followers. Is that what we want? Or do we want a generation of thinkers, questioners, innovators and leaders like Katelyn?