Keep Them Dumb, Keep Them Pregnant
Part 4: Reviewing Teen-Aid's Book for Junior High Schools
Me, My World, My Future
1989. 221 pages. ISBN: none.
Teen-Aid, Inc., 723 East Jackson, Spokane, Washington 99207.
A Book of Disinformation,
Distortion and Deception
David R. Stronck
Teen-Aid's Me, My World, My Future -- a book aimed at young
people in middle schools and junior high schools -- views sexuality
through the lens of the Religious Right, a collection of political
groups whose doctrines and goals include many that are based on
fundamentalist religion. The writers of this book have made no
attempt to present legitimate information or balanced analysis.
They offer false or distorted material, they disguise their personal
opinions as facts, and they ignore or misrepresent the opinions of
In all of these ways, Me, My World, My Future closely
resembles Sexuality, Commitment & Family, the book that
Teen-Aid has promoted for use in high schools.
Though Me, My World, My Future pretends to inform about sex,
sexuality and reproduction, it excludes such basic topics as
coitus. The term sexual intercourse appears on page 44 but
is defined as "a private and special way for married couples to show
their deep love and commitment for each other." (A similar
definition is given in the book's glossary, where sexual
intercourse is "a very special physical and emotional union when a
man and woman come together in order for a new life to begin and/or
to strengthen the bond in their marriage commitment.") There is no
information about what intercourse entails, and the book does not
tell how a sperm cell and an ovum come to be in the same place at
the same time. In Me, My World, My Future, reproduction
seems to happen spontaneously.
The exclusion of coitus is part of a pattern that runs through the
entire book. The student is left ignorant of many things that are
necessary for even a rudimentary understanding of how sex works and
how human sexuality is expressed in the real world.
The writers' statements about conception and embryogenesis are
based upon religious precepts, including the theme that even a
single cell is a "human" and a "baby." The product of fertilization
is said to be "a new tiny human," an embryo is said to be a "tiny
child," and a fetus is said to be a "baby" that lives in its
mother's uterus until it changes its "residency" by being born.
This is religious ideology that distorts a possibility into a
finality, and students will be deceived if they believe that a fetus
is just a "baby" that happens to have "residency" inside a uterus.
A fetus is entirely dependent upon materials delivered by its
mother's bloodstream, and a fetus's physiology is vastly different
from a baby's.
The writers' obvious goal is to teach, as fact, the political
doctrine that a fetus (or even an embryo or a zygote) must have all
the rights and privileges of a born human. Many reasonable,
responsible persons hold other views and opinions about this matter
-- and even the Internal Revenue Service reckons that there is no
human (and no baby) until there has been a birth -- but Me, My
World, My Future makes no mention of those other views or
Chapter 4 of this book is titled "Fetal Development." Here the
process of development is presented entirely backward. The
material begins with "Labor and Delivery" and then goes backward to
a full-term fetus and to smaller and smaller "babies." Only at the
end of the chapter is there a mention of fertilization and
implantation. There is no description of the early stages of
embryogeny, and the writers never use terms such as zygote,
morula or blastula. As I remarked when I reviewed
Teen-Aid's other book, it is obvious that the writers do not want to deal
with anything that bears no resemblance to a born human.
Chapter 5, "The Family Unit," begins with a story that supposedly
represents the development of "man's culture" from an idealized,
stereotypical "single family unit" consisting of a male "hunter and
protector" and a female child-bearer:
Children learned from both parents, but largely followed the
example of the parent of the same sex. Even for early man, the
comforts and success in life, fueled by a strong family system, led
to the realization that love, cooperation, knowledge,
communication, and creativity within the "extended family"
(grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) would be even more
beneficial. And so, based on the single family unit, man's culture
soon developed . . . .
There is no mention of slavery, polygamy, concubinage, prostitution
or the other practices that members of "man's culture" have devised
to modify or augment "the single family unit." When the writers
mention families in present-day America, however, they briefly
acknowledge that "Increasingly in families both parents are electing
to work to meet financial obligations or to fulfill personal needs
and desires." They should have explained how changes in the
American economy (and in the global economy, for that matter) have
created conditions in which both parents are compelled to
work if they want to try to preserve a decent standard of living for
themselves and for their children.
Me, My World, My Future contains a lot of anti-abortion
polemic, including distortions and false statements. The state laws
that formerly forbade or restricted abortion are defended as efforts
"to safeguard both mother and her developing baby," and the book's
depiction of "pro-choice advocates" is narrow and distorted: "They
feel that abortion should be available as a back-up in case of
contraceptive failure. Abortion thus provides a means to terminate
a pregnancy and thereby enable women to pursue vocational and social
goals unhampered by the need to care for a baby." The message here
is that abortion is simply a device which selfish people use as a
"back-up" to contraception. The book does not have any tabulation
of the actual and diverse reasons for terminating pregnancies.
What the book alleges about the opponents of elective abortion --
the so-called pro-life faction -- is similarly deceptive:
Pro-life advocates point to the biological fact that human life
begins at conception and that abortion takes the life of an innocent
unborn child. . . . With the increases [sic] understanding
of of [sic] the humanity of the unborn child, they maintain
that both mother and child should be treated as patients. They
point out that this is now made possible by the advances in medical
But, of course, there is no "biological fact that human life begins
at conception," and the idea that the union of a sperm cell and an
egg instantly produces "an innocent unborn child" is silly. It will
appeal only to certain religious extremists. The last sentence,
implying that nameless "advances in medical technology" have
eliminated all of the medical reasons for abortion, is false.
The description of abortion as "a back-up in case of contraceptive
failure" seems to be the only reference to contraception in the
entire book. There is no information or advice about contraception,
but the writers do mention condoms in the context of sexually
transmitted diseases. There the writers' apparent objective is to
use inaccurate statements and false implications to teach that
condoms are more or less useless.
Me, My World, My Future, like Teen-Aid's other book, is
suitable only for use in Sunday-school programs operated by
fundamentalist religious groups.
A Book That Deals in Falsity,
Evasion and Scandalous Lies
Nancy S. Padian
Even after reading Me, My World, My Future from cover to
cover, I find its purpose unclear. There is not enough information
about sexuality or development or sexually transmitted diseases
(STDs) to make this book useful as the basis for a sex-education
curriculum, and there is no information at all about contraception
or about methods by which the spread of STDs can be prevented. This
is a superficial "feel good" book whose main message is: Listen to
your parents, your clergymen and your school counselors, and simply
say no to sex, drugs, alcohol and abortion. To amplify that
message, the writers rely on erroneous "facts" that are set forth
with no citations of sources. The book is long and obvious on
morality but short on science.
Me, My World, My Future has generated considerable
controversy, including a lawsuit in Florida, and the American
Association of University Women has issued a plea that schools not
use it. I can understand why: This book panders to those who would
happily see school funds wasted on "sex education" that treats sex
by avoiding it.
I have been struck by the prominence that Teen-Aid's writers give
to the role of external reinforcement in personal development. In
this book, external pressure -- as long as it comes from adult
authority figures -- is always viewed as positive, and adult
authority figures are always good. Thus if a child suffers sexual
abuse, the child is supposed to tell a parent. The possibility that
a parent may be the abuser is never considered.
This book's world view is implicitly white, implicitly
middle-class, and overly optimistic. It implies that any child, with a
little self-discipline and attention to personal hygiene, ought to
be able to control most of the negative influences of life.
Students are told that it simply isn't healthy to dwell on negative
feelings, and they are taught that they are more likely to be
accosted by a molester if they appear "unkempt or neglected."
People can be reasonably sure of having long and happy marriages
(provided that they do not get married too early), and girls can
count on having healthy pregnancies (provided that they do not
become teenaged mothers). Marriage and children -- which always go
together and always occur in that order -- are life's ultimate
Both conformist and racist undertones are evident. For example,
one of the few depictions of a non-nuclear family -- a picture
showing two adult males and a young boy -- appears in the section
called "The Family Under Stress." It is also one of the few
pictures of persons who aren't white.
For Teen-Aid's writers, going steady is a prelude to marriage --
since marriages grow out of committed relationships -- and sexual
intercourse is described only as "a very special physical and
emotional union when a man and woman come together in order for a
new life to begin and/or to strengthen the bond in their marriage
commitment." Students are left to wonder how "Sperm find their way
to the cervix," and even rape is described without reference to
The text is rife with mistaken material about STDs -- and because no
sources are cited, one can only guess at the origins of this
misinformation. The prevalence rates ascribed to various STDs are
questionable, and the writers ignore the point that there is a
vaccine available for at least one such disease. (That disease is
hepatitis B, which the writers don't mention anywhere.) There is no
advice about what people should do if they contract STDs or think
that they have been exposed to STDs. In fact, the role of medical
practitioners in preventing, diagnosing and treating STDs is not
A supplement called "Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)" has been
bound into the book, between two chapters, and its "facts" are
glaringly inaccurate. The failure rate for condoms is inflated, and
I find it interesting that the HIV supplement is the only place
where condoms are acknowledged. The role of condoms in suppressing
the transmission of other pathogens is never discussed, nor is the
use of condoms in contraception.
For some reason, the writers imply that only women who are infected
with HIV are likely to have such co-infections as tuberculosis or
salmonellosis. For some reason, they say that "female prostitutes"
have a high risk of HIV infection, though that isn't true in the
United States. And for some reason, they include a little section
about "Sanitation," which tells students how to deal with
potentially infected fluids. Because it is unlikely that young
people will find themselves having to clean up blood, urine or
vomitus from HIV-infected individuals, we must consider the
possibility that the "Sanitation" section is intended to cast false
implications about how HIV can be transmitted. Another curious
aspect of the HIV supplement is the introduction of sophisticated
topics such as diagnostic tests, reverse transcriptase, T-4
lymphocytes, and the concept of latency. These are mentioned but
are never explained, which suggests again that the purpose of the
HIV supplement is to confuse rather than to clarify.
The most egregious statements in Me, My World, My Future are
those related to fetal development and to abortion. There are
repeated references to an embryo or a fetus as an "unborn child," a
"tiny human" or a "baby," and there are unsubstantiated claims of
unknown origin. For example, the student is told that ten to twelve
weeks after conception, a fetus "begins to learn and remember
things" and is developing a "personality."
The material about alleged sequelae to abortion is scandalous and
includes "facts" that actually are lies, such as the claims that
5-10% of all the women who have legal abortions become sterile, that
4-10% contract "infections of the pelvic organs," and that an
abortion increases -- by a factor of 2 to 10 -- the risk of
miscarriages during subsequent pregnancies.
The presentation in Me, My World, My Future is second-rate.
There are typographical errors throughout the text, the
illustrations come straight from the 1950s, and material is
presented haphazardly, so that one chapter does not lead logically
to the next.
As to whether this book may appear credible to the
junior-high-school students whom it is intended to reach: I have asked my
daughter, Ann-Catherine, about that. Her reaction to Me, My
World, My Future comes next.
Me, My World, My Future is so clearly out of the question
that no teacher worth his or her salary would consider using it in a
curriculum. It is simply overflowing with problems, beginning with
its purpose. The book seems to cover three main categories of
subjects: drugs, alcohol, tobacco and diseases; sex and
reproduction; and decisions about how to be a better person. The
first category is covered in chapters 11 through 15 and part of 10,
the second is covered in chapters 2 through 6 and part of 10, and
the third is covered in chapters 1, 7, 8, 9 and 15, and the rest of
10. The book ought to be reorganized so that its purpose would be
at least a little more clear.
Another general problem is that the writers seem to feel a need to
list, classify and number everything that is discussed. On page 11
they list feelings that may be connected with anger. However, the
list is not analyzed in any way, so nothing is learned from it.
Another example is on pages 79 and 80, where the writers categorize
"four basic levels of friendship." Even assuming that the "levels"
are more or less real, the purpose of such categorization is
unclear. Another example is the "Growth Chart" list on page 32,
which supposedly gives the ages at which boys and girls go through
the stages of puberty. This is a little strange, because the
writers have just said that people develop differently and should
not compare themselves to others.
However, the major problem with this book is the way in which the
writers blatantly impose their own values and morals on the reader.
They speak extensively about their conception of "family values,"
they preach abstinence from sex outside of marriage, and they even
go so far as to limit the idea of a "sexual relationship" to "a
special way married couples can express their lifetime commitment to
each other." Such statements, and the idea that dating always and
inevitably leads to marriage and a family, are religious views,
which certainly have no place in the classroom.
The book is written, overall, in a very condescending manner, one
which is more likely to inspire sniggers in the classroom than
insightful discussion. The writers' unfortunate use of the word
"we," as in "we must be careful," is reminiscent of hospital
nurses. The writers clearly do not understand kids or what kids'
reactions to condescension will most probably be.
Overall, the best way to improve this book, and the only way to
make it acceptable for the classroom, would be to scrap all of it
except the "Health and Wholeness" sections that discuss drugs,
alcohol and tobacco. All else demands to be rewritten with the
help of someone who understands children and is not intent on
imposing a private morality upon the reader.
David R. Stronck, a specialist in science education and in health
education, is a professor in the Department of Teacher Education at
California State University, Hayward.
Nancy S. Padian is an associate professor in the Department of
Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University
of California at San Francisco. She also teaches in the Department
of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the same institution. Her
professional interests include studies of contraception and of
heterosexual transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus.
Ann-Catherine Padian, who was a junior-high-school student when she
wrote her commentary that appears here, is now in high school.