When the National Abstinence Education Association gathered on Capitol Hill last month for their annual lobby day, the sense of fear in the room was palpable. Independent studies had definitively shown that abstinence-only programs are a failure, and their many millions of federal tax dollars were in serious jeopardy.
Faced with these facts, the NAEA and its allies discussed a new
strategy to continue its federal funding stream. Instead of abandoning
their demonization of condoms and adherence to social conservative
ideological over sound science, they would simply rebrand themselves as
curriculum that "wasn’t just about abstinence", but was all about
"holistic approaches" to "healthy lifestyle choices".
In other words, if they just put a new wrapper on their old product,
they might fool the federal government into continuing to give them
millions of dollars.
Earlier this month in Chattanooga, TN, we may have seen the first clear sign that this rebranding has begun.
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WhykNOw, one of the most well-known and well-funded abstinence-only programs in the country, held a large public ceremony to celebrate their sudden change of name.
With the assistance of the PR company Maycreate Idea Group, WhykNOw is
now known as OnPoint, and they have "broadened its focus and taken on a
whole new look".
Why the big change? Well, read this and see if it sounds familiar:
As to the new direction for the group, in the tech and media-driven world of teenagers, smart
decision-making means making smart choices. It’s all about providing
teens with the tools and skills needed to successfully navigate life.
"The idea," said Lesley Scearce, executive director of OnPoint, "is
to get teens involved in new, positive directions that lead to a
healthier, more fulfilling life. Without a re-naming, re-branding and
re-positioning, this new direction wouldn’t have been possible. And
Maycreate Idea Group was the creative force behind it all."
The event was highlighted with a look at the new name, logo and
promotional materials created by Maycreate. The result is new graphics,
new colors, a new message and a new tag line-"Direction for life."
Yes, instead of touting abstinence, it is all about
teaching "healthy decision-making skills". Same garbage, different
And here is the "garbage", so to speak, within WhykNOw’s old curriculum, according to SEICUS:
Like many other abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, Why kNOw?
offers limited information about important topics in human sexuality
such as puberty, anatomy, and human reproduction, and no information
about sexual orientation or gender identity. WhykNOw? does contain
some detailed information about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),
including HIV/AIDS, however, much of this information is outdated,
inaccurate, and misleading. In addition, the curriculum presents
information about condoms which is focused on exaggerated failure
rates, and contains almost no information about other forms of
Instead, WhykNOw? relies on negative messages, distorts information,
and presents biased views on gender, marriage, family structure, sexual
orientation, and pregnancy options. In addition, Why kNOw? teaches a
"traditionalism" that is patently religious in nature, and even goes so
far as to teach Bible stories as history. These biased and inaccurate
messages are clearly out of touch with the health needs of America ‘s
Is the curriculum going to change along with their name, logo, and talking points? Color me skeptical, for one.
The reason that this rebranding matters so much is that WhykNOw was not
just one large abstinence-only program. It is one of the largest
providers of abstinence-only curricula to public schools all over the
country. As WhykNOw rebrands itself and its curricula, it will provide
abstinence-only programs all over the country the opportunity to
rebrand themselves as something other than the social conservative
junk-science peddlers that they are.
This is why it is so important that we let our government officials
know about this rebranding rouse of abstinence-only organizations.
President Obama is currently finalizing his 2010 budget, and he will
decide whether we continue to fund these programs that have already
milked $1.5 billion from our federal government, with nothing to show
for it. We must not let Obama and Congress fall for this silly rebranding scheme.
This post first appeared on Amplify.