In reference to the "One in four teen girls infected with STD" article (March 13), I was a little perplexed when I read the proposed cause: "Blame is most often placed on inadequate sex education, from parents and from schools focusing too much on abstinence-only programs." At least they mentioned, "blame is most often placed" without citing erroneous data. The reason they didn't cite any is because there is none to back that statement up.

Many studies have been conducted by Planned Parenthood and other proponents of sex ed to try to show how beneficial their curriculum is in preventing unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. Yet many times the evidence has been shown to the contrary. Teens do use condoms more when they go through these programs, but sexual activity also increases. And when sexual activity increases, you have more teens who are irresponsible.

Thus, you have more unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Also, every thinking adult knows that using a condom is not a definite way to keep from becoming pregnant or from getting an STD. So, in essence, in most of these sex-ed programs, we are teaching our children how to play Russian roulette. This is like saying that the cause for the rise in drug abuse among teens is the "Just Say No" campaign against drug and alcohol abuse.

I understand the thinking: "Teens are going to be sexually active anyway, so we need to teach them how to do it in a responsible way." Well, I hate to say it, but teens are going to use drugs and alcohol, and I think we would all agree that the answer is not to teach them to do it in a responsible way. If we did that, we all know that the rate for abuse among teens would rise, just as it does with the curriculum that teaches it's OK to be sexually active.

In 1950, genital herpes was a rare disease, and we all know it was because we had a much better sex-ed program back then (I hope you notice my sarcasm). Please don't take me for a Mr. Goody Two Shoes or that I am against sex. One, I love to be intimate on a regular basis with my wife of 28 years. It's awesome! Two, I did not follow the advice of this article when I was in my teens, and I regret it very much. In fact, I remember when I was a teen wondering why we should hold back at all in sex. Let's just "live and let live" and "if it feels good, do it." You might say that is a pretty stupid way to think. I now agree.

The fact is there are many teens who think the same way I did. And much of the sex-ed material encourages that way of thinking. Sex is portrayed as a nonrelational, recreational activity that needs the protective equipment of a condom — just like you need a helmet for football.

And then we wonder why we're in the mess we are in.

The problem is that it has be-

come taboo for teachers to teach what is right and wrong in this area. Instead, we're allowing children to make that decision for themselves. We have teens who have all kinds of hormones raging through their bodies and not thinking further than the nose on their face. We don't allow them the choice with alcohol, but we do that with something as intimate, relational and life-altering as teenage sex? Are we stupid or what?

Sexual activity affects the kind of person we are in deep and lasting ways. Someone had it right from the beginning. If we would listen, we wouldn't have all these unwanted pregnancies, abortions, STDs and single-parent homes. Is that freedom?

Life-altering events happened in my life to show how wrong my way of thinking was as a teen. The key in sex ed is not to let them make their own choice, the key is to let them know that they are not old or mature enough for that activity in their lives. If we do that as a culture, we may get back to the STD rates of the 1950s.

If you say we will be fighting a losing battle, then we might as well give up in all areas where we should exercise self-control: drugs, alcohol, diet, anger management, etc. We all know that is not the answer there. Why do we think it is in this area?


Tom Koehler is the pastor at Christ Community Church in Salt Lake City. He is in the process of starting "Good Foundations Academy," a charter school based on the principle that character is a vital part of education.