SUMMARY : SIECUS REVIEW OF FACTS
The FACTS (Family Accountability Communicating Teen Sexuality) curricula provide incomplete and inaccurate medical information; present opinions and beliefs as universal truths; and portray a biased view of gender, marriage, family structure, sexual orientation, and pregnancy options. The format and underlying biases of the curricula do not allow for cultural, community, and individual values, and discourage critical thinking and discussion of alternative points of view in the classroom.
Ultimately, the FACTS curricula fall far short of meeting the needs of young people so that they may develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become sexually healthy adults.
Relying On Negative Messages
Messages of Fear and Shame
This focus on consequences is clearly designed to scare students rather than educate them. There is no scientific evidence to support the assertion that premarital sexual intercourse leads to everything from an inability to bond in the future to alienation from friends and family. Forty-seven percent of all high school students have had sexual intercourse. It is inappropriate and potentially harmful for education programs to imply that these teens face an inevitably bleak future.
Inaccurate Messages About STDs
The curricula rely on exaggerated symptoms, messages of shame, and the suggestion that medical treatment might not work. This does little to inform students. It may, however, prevent them from seeking vital STD testing and treatment. Discouraging treatment is in direct conflict with the public health needs of our young people.
Exaggerating Condom Failure
FACTS’ discussion of condoms and contraception relies on exaggerated failure rates and suggests that teens are incapable of using any contraceptive method. This focus seems to be based on the illogical assumption that if young people believe contraception will not work, they will abstain from sexual intercourse. While such inaccurate information may discourage teens from using contraception this does not mean they will not have sex. Instead it means that they will be at increased risk for unintended pregnancy and STDs, including HIV, when they do become sexually active.
Fostering Gender Stereotypes
The curricula reinforce societal myths and double standards that imply that young men are only interested in sex while young women only agree to have sex to get love. These messages place all of the responsibility for refusing sexual activity on the shoulders of young women and are detrimental to all students by limiting their options and coloring their expectations for future relationships.
Idealizing Marriage and Depicting Non-Traditional Families as Troubled
This discussion seems to be meant to impress upon students the importance of getting married and selecting a marriage partner carefully. However, many students will likely think of their own families. It is unfair to put the burden of family structure on students who, as children, have no control over their current family situation. There are may reasons—including divorce, death, desertion, cohabitation, and gay and lesbian partnerships—that student may live in a family that does not match the ideal model espoused by FACTS. Suggesting that these young people will face a lifetime of difficulty will undoubtedly distress and alienate many students.
Discounting Gay and Lesbian Individuals
The curricula consistently discount gay and lesbian students. All references to sexual activity and arousal within the curricula are specific to male-female couples and the focus on marriage ignores the fact that gays and lesbians cannot legally marry in this country. In addition, by defining sexual orientation exclusively in terms of genital activity and dismissing young people who are questioning their sexual orientation, the curricula perpetuate the stereotype that homosexual relationships are less valuable than heterosexual relationships and cannot be meaningful or committed. This is demeaning to all gays and lesbians and may be very confusing for students who are questioning their sexual orientations as well as those growing up with gay or lesbian parents, family members, or friends.
Mandating Decisions for Pregnant Teens
It is not the place of education programs to mandate choices for students. Instead, students need unbiased information about the options they have, should they experience an unintended pregnancy as a teenager or an adult. It is then up to students to make choices consistent with their own values and the values of their families and communities. By presenting clearly biased and inaccurate information about abortion and adoption, FACTS does not allow individuals to make informed, personal decisions.