Lighting fire with fire

Don't you love those psychological tests where they ask you to name the seven dwarfs, and whether you start with Grumpy or Sneezy is a sign of how old you were when you lost your virginity, or something like that?

Me neither; they're tricky and sneaky. But I thought of a new one. Just like you can tell a lot about someone by their favorite Pokémon (you don't have a favorite Pokémon? God, you are so old), you probably can glean some insight by who they blame for our deportation from Eden.

People who blame the snake -- the outsider -- are likely to be paranoid weirdos who think something out there is looking to do them in. Outside forces are the cause of all trouble.

If they blame Eve -- the weak link -- they're judgmental bastards with no tolerance for human frailty. (Blaming Eve also could mean blaming all women for everything, seeing them as dazzling temptresses who bewitch you and lead you to ruin. Well, we had to do something before we were allowed to work.)

If they blame Adam, they're unusual. Adam is always seen as a poor dope who went along with things like he was a piece of luggage with an interesting handle. There is evidence here that men actually might be smarter then women; by just following orders, they remain blameless. Playing dumb is really very smart.

Heaven knows

Personally I blame God. You'd think someone with infinite power could keep an apple away from two morons who don't know enough to wear clothes. "Don't eat the apple": What kind of Candid Camera mind game was that? That's like saying, "Look, kids, here's a lighter," then putting the lighter down and leaving the room.

But recently, two independent studies revealed that one-third of U.S. schools are pretty much doing just that. They are teaching "abstinence-only" sex education, an oxymoronic plan that, according to an Associated Press story, teaches students not to have sex until marriage, or at least until they're older, and "leave out any discussion of birth control to prevent pregnancy or transmission of HIV and other diseases, except to talk about the shortcomings of such approaches." Time magazine reports that these classes are taught primarily in the South. (Backwardness in the South? Say it ain't so.)

Whatever your morality, it doesn't do to be stupid about the reality of horny kids. Even in Shakespeare's day they were honest about young love -- Romeo and Juliet were written as 14-year-olds (or thereabouts) so hot for each other they were willing to play dead for a chance to get their medieval rocks off together. It's pretty common knowledge that teen-age boys are spring-loaded and that teen-age girls are devoted to teen-age boys. Telling them to "just say no" to their own biological urges amounts to teaching a kind of weird sexual anorexia: Don't deal with your hunger healthily, just pretend it isn't there. (The renewed popularity of heroin indicates how well "just say no" works.)

Not only that, but if you're going to focus only on the shortcomings of condoms for preventing pregnancy and STDs, you might as well acknowledge that roofs exist but insist they won't really protect you from the rain.

Class struggle

Yet the federal government just funnelled $250 million into these lack-of-education programs. That's $250 million not to teach kids something. Maybe next year our taxes can go toward teaching them everything about guns except how to work the safety switch, and after that, everything about cars except how to use the brakes.

Kids don't need temptation to find the forbidden fruit; it grows inside them -- call it hormones -- and it's such a mysterious, gratifying and engulfing gift that even adults could use a refresher course in how to deal with it on occasion.

So we could leave teen-agers alone with all that power and then do a lot of breast-beating when they eat the apple and end up in big trouble. Or we could respect them enough to give them information that could save their lives, figuratively and literally. Sex is a great natural gift. You just have to accept that sooner or later the wrapper is going to come off it and hope that your kid has the knowledge to be responsible with it.

Spending $250 million to teach kids abstinence is a total waste of money. When you grow up, abstinence is just another word for not getting laid. No adult I ever knew had to be taught how to do that. Almost all of them caught on pretty naturally.

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