In Teens, Sex, and Cigarettes in the Sunday Boston Globe Magazine, former Boston city councilor Thomas M. Keane, Jr. presents us with a silly analogy. With tobacco we are “prohibitionists” in how we approach educating kids. With sex, we are “libertines.” I guess he’s arguing that we should be more open about tobacco use or be more abstinence oriented in sex ed or both.
Imagine for a moment that we taught children about smoking the same way we teach them about sex. For the first few weeks, we’d discuss the mechanics: the various kinds of seeds, growing conditions, aging processes, and the like. Then we’d move onto personal issues. Some people, we’d explain, like cigarettes, others cigars. Some even chew their tobacco.
“That’s gross,” one sixth-grader would inevitably say.
“Now, class,” we’d admonish, “we need to be accepting of all kinds of tobacco lifestyles.”
Later on, we’d discuss more complex topics: filters or not; the propriety of doing it in public; techniques for making smoke rings. Oh, and at the very end of the semester, we’d spend an hour on abstinence.
There’s a real problem with the analogy. Smoking is bad and should be discouraged, period. Kids shouldn’t smoke, and they shouldn’t smoke once they are adults or get married either. Sex is a different matter. Even the proponents of an abstinence curriculum don’t condemn sex within marriage.December 12, 2005