Thursday, August 11, 2011

Enough of the "We Can't do this in South Carolina" Talk

I’ll be honest, it’s one of my pet peeves – this talk about what we can and can’t do simply because of the limits of geography.  I moved to South Carolina fifteen years ago which comes close to making me a “local”, but I fully understand that even another fifteen years won’t make me a “native.”  Nonetheless, I have dedicated a considerable amount of that time doing things that (in my opinion) are making the state better.  I care about South Carolina, care about its citizens and have an especially large place in my heart for its young people and others who are presumably without a voice in decision making.

One of my many professional goals is to ensure that all young people in South Carolina are receiving research proven, age-appropriate sexuality education in school.  It’s a seemingly never-ending battle met with many iterations of “we can’t do that here!”  To be fair, some communities and school districts are well on their way to this level of instruction and are doing the best they can with what they have; however, saying there is widespread implementation of effective sexuality education in South Carolina would be a stretch.

Given this interest, I pay attention when I see that other states or locales have instituted sexuality education policies like this story that broke out of New York City this week.  Let the chorus rain… “yeah but, that’s New York City”… and, of course the “but we can’t do that here.”  Well, here’s the dirty little secret hidden in the article: “a survey… in 2009 found that 81 percent of city voters thought that sex education should be taught in public schools.”  And, the article implies that was enough to overcome opposition from a variety of groups.

Guess what?  In South Carolina a survey conducted in 1997, replicated in 2004 and replicated again in 2007 indicated that 81% of South Carolina registered voters support sex education being taught in South Carolina public schools that emphasizes abstinence but also includes information on contraception.”  Want more? Community level surveys conducted in Spartanburg County (87% support) and Horry County (87%) in 2011 indicate that support may actually be increasing!

The question is no longer “can we do that here” rather, we must begin to ask ourselves “do we have the will, drive and commitment to GET IT DONE here!”  We are on our way, so one final question - who’s with us?

By: Forrest Alton, CEO, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

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