In Stories On Teen Sex And Pregnancy In UK, the Daily Mail And The Times Abstain From Discussing Religion

“If you want more of something, subsidize it; if you want less of something, tax it,” argued Ronald Reagan. A study released last month in Britain reports this maxim is true not only of economics, but sex. 

The Daily Mail, The Times, and other outlets report that claims that cutting government spending on sexual education would lead to a rise in teen pregnancy have been shown to be untrue.

Researchers actually discovered the obverse: cutting sex-ed spending leads to a decline in the rate of teen pregnancies. 

The lede in the May 30, 2017, story in The Times entitled “Teenage pregnancies decline as funding for sex education is cut” states: 

Teenage pregnancy rates have been reduced because of government cuts to spending on sex education and birth control for young women, according to a study that challenges conventional wisdom. The state’s efforts to teach adolescents about sex and make access to contraceptives easier may have encouraged risky behavior rather than curbed it, the research suggests.

The Times story is behind their paywall, but the Daily Mail’s version, entitled “Sex education classes DON'T help to curb teenage pregnancy rates and may encourage youngsters to have unprotected intercourse” lays out the same story. (The 18-word headline from the Daily Mail is not unusually long for the newspaper’s online edition. A symptom perhaps of the lessening attention span of readers, who once would have read the first paragraph, then the first sentence, and now confine themselves to the headline only?) 

The Mail reports that researchers looked at teen pregnancy rates in the wake of government cutbacks on sex education spending beginning in 2010. Advocates for funding of government sex-ed classes had claimed at the time this: 

“would have a detrimental impact, the reverse appears to have happened.  The decline in teenage pregnancy rates is greatest in areas where local councils have been forced to make the biggest cuts to such services, experts say.” 

Sex ed advocates have rejected the findings, but seem to be trying to shift the argument. The lede in a reaction story in the Times Education Supplement stated:  

Sex educators have hit back at claims that cutting sex education is the key to reducing teenage pregnancies. They argue that there is extensive evidence to show that sex education not only ensures that teenagers use contraception properly, but also increases their ability to recognise and report abuse. 

What they seem to be saying is that, even though sexual education does not work, it is at least good for other purposes such as increasing the “ability to recognise and report abuse,” employ sex-ed instructors, sell sex-ed textbooks, keep education ministry bureaucrats busy. 

Ironically, the study comes shortly after the British government issued new regulations mandating sex education for all school children. Sex education had been mandatory in state-run schools, and now it will be required of all schools, public and private, the BBC reported in March.

The Mail closed its story by noting there might be a moral or faith element in this story -- but they would not be exploring it.  

Conceptions among under-18s have halved in just eight years, according to the most recent official statistics published in March. Experts believe it is because the so-called 'sensible generation' are turning away from smoking, drinking, drugs and risky sex.

The decline also coincides with the rise of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, which has transformed the behaviour of young people. Many now choose to stay indoors and interact with the world through their computer screens.

Researchers have also previously pointed to a stigma that is attached to teenage pregnancy that could also have impacted on the sexual behaviour of young people today.

Should not the press be asking if there is a faith element in any of this? Does not a 42.6 per cent decline of teen pregnancy rates between 2008 and 2013, reaching levels not seen since the 1960s, not have an ethical or religious angle? 

What has happened in Britain that has led to the creation of a “sensible generation” of children immune to the lure of sex, smoking, drinking and drugs? Does that dreaded word, “abstinence," have anything to do with it?

The articles are silent on this point and remarkably incurious. Either religion is so extraneous to the British psyche that it plays no role in what were once called moral questions -- or the press is extraordinarily obtuse.