SUMMARY: SIECUS REVIEW OF Choosing the Best WAY
Choosing the Best WAY is designed for sixth grade students and written by Bruce Cook, the founder of Choosing the Best, Inc. SIECUS reviewed the second edition which was published in 2006.
As is typical of abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula, Choosing the Best WAY provides limited information on human sexuality and does not cover such basic topics as puberty, sexual response, or reproduction. Other important issues such as contraception, abortion, sexual orientation, and STDs, including HIV/AIDS are presented in an unbalanced manner that seems designed to promote one point of view rather than simply inform students.
Relying on Negative Messages
Messages of Fear and Shame—Trying to Scare Students and Instill Guilt
The author’s focus on the inevitable consequences of premarital sexual activity is clearly designed to scare students rather than to educate them. There is no scientific evidence to support the assertion that all sexual activity outside of a marriage is emotionally and physically threatening. Furthermore, it is important to remember that 47 percent of all high school students have had sexual intercourse. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for an education program to imply that these teens lack value and dignity or suggest that they are less worthy of love, trust, and respect.
Sexual Abuse—Portraying Victims as Having Control
· The curriculum asks students rhetorically: “How do some people say NO with their words, but YES with their actions or clothing?” (Choosing the Best WAY, Leader Guide, p. 40).
We applaud the author for including a section on sexual abuse in Choosing the Best WAY. The lesson includes four rules to stop sexual abuse all of which have good messages including “it’s never your fault” and “if something feels wrong, then it probably is.” The curriculum also encourages young people to get help by telling a responsible adult. Unfortunately, other messages in the lesson are troublesome. Moreover, in a number of places (such as the examples above) the curriculum undermines its own message that it is never the victim’s fault.
Promoting One Point of View
Guys vs. Girls—Perpetuating Gender Stereotypes
The activities and pictures in this section serve to perpetuate long-standing gender stereotypes, without any discussion of how these stereotypes can be harmful. Students are not challenged to question the nature, validity, or origin of these gender stereotypes, or to explore how stereotypes affect communication within friendships or sexual relationships. Such a presentation is detrimental to all young people by limiting their options, influencing their behavior, and coloring their expectations for future relationships.
Virginity Pledges—Asking Students to Publicly Promise Purity
Research has found that, while under certain circumstances virginity pledges can help a select group of young people delay intercourse, pledges only help young people delay intercourse for approximately 18 months (far short of marriage). In fact, 88 percent of young people who take a pledge ultimately have sex before marriage. And, pledges taken by an entire class as part of a lesson were not effective. Most importantly, however, young people who took a pledge were 1/3 less likely to use contraception when they did become sexually active than their peers who did not pledge. Far from providing a solution to the complex problems of unintended pregnancy and disease transmission, these simplistic pledges undermine the use of contraception among teens, potentially exposing them to greater harm.
Marriage—Mandating Relationships for Students
The messages in these exercises are clear: all people wish to and will marry and staying abstinent until marriage is both necessary and sufficient when it comes to creating a perfect life. In reality, there is no reason to believe that those who remain abstinent before marriage will be happy or that premarital abstinence would ensure that someone would meet her life goals. Though presented as fact, these are opinions based on one world view and may be damaging to students.
 J. Grunbaum, et al., “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance — United States, 2007,” Surveillance Summaries, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, vol. 57, no.SS-4, pp. 1-136., accessed, 5 June 2009, http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dash/yrbs/.
 P. Bearman and H. Brückner, "Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and the Transition to First Intercourse," American Journal of Sociology, vol. 106, no. 4 (2001), pp. 859-912; P. Bearman, et al., “The Relationship Between Virginity Pledges in Adolescence and STD Acquisition in Young Adulthood,” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 110, no. 1 (2004), pp. 44-92.