Social Question

Nullo's avatar

Do you suppose that, as a culture, we put too much weight on intellect?

Asked by Nullo (21826 points ) January 29th, 2010

Politicians try to undermine their opponents by claiming intellectual superiority. People try to gain social leverage by accusing others of being stupid. A person and his opinions (whatever they might be), once deemed unintelligent, may safely be ignored, or ridiculed. And even suggesting that someone is more or less intelligent than somebody else is an insult.

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79 Answers

susanc's avatar

To answer the question in the least intellectualizing way possible: yes. I do suppose that.
Thanks for asking this.

shilolo's avatar

No. I wish we as a culture put more stock into intelligence, as opposed to other things (like looks, athletic prowess, etc.) Let’s just say one of my favorite movies is Revenge of the Nerds…

MagsRags's avatar

I think as a culture we don’t put enough weight on intellect. How else was GW Bush elected? Twice?

Blackberry's avatar

Huh? We need to put more weight on it if anything. We as a populace must get smarter, nothing bad can come from that. Maybe there’s too much weight on people trying to be elitists, I agree with that, trying to appear smart and intelligent just makes one look more dumb lol.

efritz's avatar

If you dismiss someone just because they are said to be stupid, without finding out for yourself, then you yourself must not be very smart. Do you have specific examples of this happening in the media? Or politics? Or is this an occurrence in your own personal experience?

Fred931's avatar

See, if we were all actually smart, we wouldn’t even be calling each other stupid.

laureth's avatar

Politicians try to undermine their opponents by calling them “intellectual elite” and claiming that they won’t understand guys like Joe the Plumber. People try to gain social leverage by sneeringly calling others “academics.” I think we need to put more weight on intelligence.

When a society is on the way up, they value their intellectuals. When it’s on the way down, they start blaming them and heading their way with torches and pitchforks.

fireinthepriory's avatar

No, we don’t put enough weight on intellect!! I have never seen politicians use thiir intelligence as an argument. I doubt that American politicians are much more intelligent, on average, than the rest of America. They are just richer.

Personally, I think that the most important focus should be on education, something we can change. The problem is not that most people are unintelligent since, people, on average, have average intelligence! Shocking!! ;). The problem is that so many people are uneducated.

Nullo's avatar

@efritz
Just something that I’d noticed in the course of my Internetting. I have no specific examples.

HankMoody's avatar

Maybe it’s just because I’m getting older or perhaps it’s because I don’t entertain the possibility that I received a great education, but it seems to me (anecdotally) that people are getting dumber at an alarming rate. More than that, I run into more and more people who just can’t be bothered to think, form an opinion based on substance—because it’s just too much trouble.

She hardly invented it, but it’s the Sarah Palin factor. “Hey, she’s as dumb as me! Let’s put her in charge!” So no, I don’t think we place too much value on intellect. In fact, not enough.

shilolo's avatar

I agree with @laureth. In the past 100 years, we’ve seen the anti-intellectualism of China (The Cultural Revolution) and Nazi Germany flourish. Moreover, the fact that we still have “debates” about evolution in the US points to a significant anti-intellectualism flourishing here as well.

lonelydragon's avatar

Interesting question. I would say no. We as a culture are interested in quantifying intelligence in the form of test scores and dollar signs. If someone’s intelligence doesn’t enable them to score well on an IQ test or enable them to make themselves (or their employers) rich, then our culture is not interested int. We don’t value intelligence and education for their own sakes. As Laureth pointed out, calling someone an “intellectual” is almost an insult in Western society.

HankMoody's avatar

@laureth I’m proud to say I don’t understand Joe the Plumber. The guy seems like a total moron.

AstroChuck's avatar

I think as a culture, we put on too much weight, period.

Spinel's avatar

America is famous for being fat…not smart. See an issue here? Basic intelligence should tell us that eating pounds and pounds of food isn’t good. Basic intelligence should tell us that being over 500 pounds is bad. Yet apparently, that’s not sinking in…

If seems like the average American can barely perform the basics. Spelling, decent math, self forming good opinions for self, politeness…all of these and more are lacking in 21st century America. Society overdoes it with the label ‘intellectual’. Society at large however, is anything but intellectual (mass advertising is proof of that). We desperately need critical thinking skills

cbloom8's avatar

I think we look at intellect in the wrong way. Overall, intellect is one of the most desirable traits/qualities of a person, but as a society we attempt to measure and compare intellect. What we truly need to measure and judge by is what comes from our intellect, not our intellect itself. Intellect is the tool, not the product. Does a carpenter gain success because of his tools? No, he gains it from what he makes with his tools; this should be the case with intellect too.

Spinel's avatar

…because they are lacking in this modern day. The time limit on editing is my worst enemy.

Cruiser's avatar

I agree with f@fireinthepriory our education system has dropped the ball and it is more important to be cool and be on the team than to excel in school. The next series of budget cuts will be painful to watch as all the higher learning classes will be slashed to the bone because we don’t value intelligence over productivity. Watch China, Russia, India to name a few who’s students will beat out all but the brightest of our brightest. It’s such a shame it’s not cool to be smart and intelligent these days.

galileogirl's avatar

Ooh someone is a little cacomorphobic. America is known for a lot of things. High interest in sports, big breasts, making money without working for it, pets. Intellectual achievement doesn’t make the top 20.

absalom's avatar

I think the global impression of Americans is at variance with what you’re talking about here.

I’m also very sure that the people around me place little to no importance in intellect and/or intellectualism. Even my friends who are English majors/minors (who by stereotype are supposed to be intellectually snobbish, right?) would rather watch Bones than read a book.

This is anecdotal evidence, obviously, but when your friends get excited about Kim Kardashian and America’s Best Dance Crew and little else, it’s hard to have faith in them and even harder to say that “we put too much weight on intellect.”

Ron_C's avatar

Absolutely not. Intellectuals are constantly discriminated against and the better students are ostracized. Americans seem intimidated by thoughtful opposition and skeptical of reasoned arguments. Politicians are elected because they look good on television. Voters listen to people like Charlton Heston or Chuck Norris because they confuse their movie characters with their real life ones.

By the way when I look at intelligent people, I don’t mean those clowns from the think tanks. I mean people with a good intellect that understand the world around them and interact with it. Harvard professors may be intelligent but they are not necessarily intellectual. It is hard to make sensible decisions when you are surrounded by people that tell you how great you are. You need experience, communication, and deep understanding to be a real intellectual.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

I don’t believe we put too much of an emphasis on intellect. I believe we do not put enough emphasis on education. A genius high school drop out will be just that: a high school drop out.
-Dan

galileogirl's avatar

In America, nerd is a greater insult than stupid, slut or even fatso.

filmfann's avatar

Considering favorite American television shows (Jeff Foxworthy, American Idol, COPS), I doubt it.

shilolo's avatar

@filmfann You left out “Are you smarter than a 5th grader” and basically every reality TV show.

Factotum's avatar

I believe Americans have a healthy streak of anti-intellectualism. It serves us well. Conversely we do value practical intelligence.

We are suspicious of ‘ivory tower’ professors because we imagine they have little practical experience and that because of this their policy recommendations might not function in the real world. We also don’t trust snake oil salesmen from out of town.

This distrust helps slow change which gives people more time to adapt to change and more time to recognize a proposed change as doing more harm than good.

filmfann's avatar

@Jeruba , I am out of town this weekend. Don’t hit 20K till I get back.

suncatnin's avatar

@Dan_DeColumna It’s not just not putting enough emphasis on education, however. I think that it also comes down to what kind of education it is. We have more people graduating high school and going on to obtain bachelor’s degrees than we have in the past, but are the degrees actually signifying anything? Are we encouraging critical thinking and reflection or just the regurgitation of information?

I’m doing doctoral work at a large state university after having gone to a small private undergraduate institution, and the differences in the caliber of work expected of the undergraduates is phenomenal. Unfortunately (?), the degrees are equally valued by many employers.

DominicX's avatar

I don’t think we put too much emphasis on it, as others have said numerous and I don’t need to reiterate, but I do see what you are saying. We are incredibly quick to call someone else “stupid”. Confuse your/you’re? You’re stupid. Got a B on that test? You’re stupid. Didn’t know the capital of Norway? Stupid. Asked for clarification on that explanation? Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Someone slips, someone doesn’t know a certain fact (no matter how trivial) and we immediately assume they are of low intelligence and we ignore them and don’t allow them to progress and then we whine about how everyone is stupid. Yet we are feeding the problem.

Next to “whore” and “slut”, “stupid” is the most common insult. We love using those three insults. It’s a matter of arrogance and nothing more.

Nullo's avatar

@DominicX
I’m glad you got the point that I was aiming at (and apparently missed). Kudos!

Jeruba's avatar

No. Far too little, in my opinion. If people will vote for the guy they’d like to have a beer with instead of the guy who has the brains to run the country, they are not overvaluing intellect. If they endorse a politician who is as ordinary as they are, saying they support her “because she’s just like me,“do they think someone just like them is qualified to be president? A software project team can’t even bring out a new feature in as little time as they’ve given the new president to solve probems as big as any president has ever faced. People who think that way are not exhibiting an excessive amount of intelligence, much less giving it great weight.

The evidence you cite speaks to our oddly divided public mind. Parents want their kids to be geniuses, and they won’t tolerate an intimation that their darlings (and they) are not intellectual giants. In this context, “smart” is a compliment. Yet it quickly becomes a pejorative, something you are expected to hide like a defect of birth and even apologize for. People sneer at those they dub know-it-alls, tease and torment young geeks and nerds who are going to grow up to invent Microsoft or Apple or cochlear implants or solve the energy problem, lavish hate on anyone who makes them feel dumb just by existing, and greet articulate speech with a snide remark about showing off your big words. If they feel inferior (which is ultimately their problem), they want to blame someone for it, and they assume that anyone whom they think is superior actually feels superior. Then that person must be punished. This is not an attitude of overvaluing the intellect. It makes the bright oddballs want to pull away and leave the rest to interbreed.

DominicX's avatar

@Jeruba

But you must acknowledge that there are intelligent people out there who do in fact feel superior and they express it in the form of arrogance and condescension. That condescension is insulting and off-putting to people who simply might not match their level of intelligence. Unfortunately, people then use that to generalize all people who are more intelligent than them, which is a bad move to make.

I’m only saying this because of your comment about people being made to feel dumb. In a lot of cases, nothing is being actively done to make them feel dumb, that’s just how they perceive it and they perceive it negatively and as a threat, so they act out and decry those more intelligent people. Those kinds of people are simply insecure and are overreacting and just making themselves look even more dumb. But at the same time there are intelligent people who do actively make people feel dumb by telling them that they are dumb and such.

Zuma's avatar

America is, perhaps, unique in the world for not listening to experts in nearly ever aspect of its national endeavors. Our experts on drugs and crime tell us that Prohibition doesn’t work, and we not only do the opposite of what they recommend, we double down on what doesn’t work. The same is true for every other aspect of the criminal justice system, foreign policy, economics, or any other subject upon which there is expertise. We reelected a leader who made decisions by praying that his gut hunches were right, and who continued to follow them even though things turned out not only to be wrong, but disasterously wrong.

We seem to be in the grip of the idea that God looks out for drunks, fools and the U.S.A. And we conduct ourselves as if we can do no wrong because we are so blessed. This belief in our own natural superiority leads to a kind of triumphalism and exceptionalism which allows us to justify the otherwise unjustifiable, from Manifest Destiny to Abu Ghraib; and from slavery to believing that America is above international law.

Naturally, when one begins with such intellectual limitations, it becomes difficult to maintain any semblance of intellectual integrity. So, of course, anyone who points out their stupidity is being disloyal to the cause, and can safely be dismissed as arrogant and condescending. This, of course, is an ad hominem fallacy, and inadmissable in principled discourse. But here, intellectual honesty has long since been abandoned in favor of paying reverence to self-serving platitudes and cant.

Jeruba's avatar

Absolutely true, @DominicX. I avoid them just as assiduously as I’m sure you do, and from time to time I find myself thinking that what would do them the most good is a sound spanking.

Yet we see the same arrogance, presumption of superiority, and condescension among some people who occupy the rightmost extreme of the bell curve in any domain, whether it be physical beauty, wealth, athletic prowess, professional standing, technical accomplishment, artistic talent, social skill, or muscular might. Surely you have heard the pretty girls scoff at the homely ones, the socially adept laugh at the awkward, and the body builders mock the puny specimens. Surely you have heard some person of extremely comfortable means sneer at a less pecunious associate’s appalling taste in wardrobe or decor, as if disposable income were not a factor. For some reason those crimes don’t generalize to all the beautiful, popular, strong, and rich.

But let some poor hapless 99-pound egghead who has nothing going for him but his giant IQ assert his moment of lordliness over his less well-endowed fellows, and he’ll be shoved into a garbage can at lunch, and all the other bright ones tarred with the same brush. “You think you’re better than me” doesn’t seem to require any proof. And few if any will move to defend him. Intellectual potency alone is a punishable offense.

laureth's avatar

If the meaning behind this question is really more akin to @DominicX‘s quip, might I also suggest that we then also put too much weight on being celibate, beautiful, and heterosexual.

ninjacolin's avatar

@Jeruba‘s awesome.

Myself, I believe the real issue is ignorance, not stupidity. In fact, it is an ignorant mistake to conclude others are “stupid” when they are merely ignorant. It’s another mistake to assume they are the same thing.

While stupidity implies incorrigibility, ignorance implies only a lack of opportunity to learn.. as yet. I remain optimistic about our cultures. We just have to stick together and help everyone to have the same opportunity to learn.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

NOT ENOUGH!
are you kidding me with this question? this is one of those countries (out of all I’ve lived in) that celebrates random dumb luck and mediocrity much more so than it does intelligence…though it claims to value individuality..every ‘little guy’ can make it in this land…please, if only we spent more energy on instilling the love of education, learning and travel in our young…

this is the only country where people love to play up the fact that they didn’t go to school, that they don’t need academia and all that stuff (yet in return they’ve got nothing to show for themselves)...where people talk of ‘street smarts’ when they grew up on “white fence 2.3 kids and dogs” street…I have lived here for over 13 years and have definitely gotten a strong whiff of some people’s pride in their ignorance.

Jeruba's avatar

Nice point, @ninjacolin, to call out the crucial difference between ignorance and stupidity. You’re right, one is often mistaken for the other, or they are treated as interchangeable.

I regard ignorance as the state of not having learned and stupidity as the inability to learn. The former is remediable and the latter is not.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba Hm, that is not at all how I define stupidity. I am not quite sure how I define it, either, but I know it when I see it.

Jeruba's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, I think I reserve the very incorrect expression “really dumb” for what I’m guessing you probably mean by stupidity. By stupidity I really do mean low intelligence, and I regard intelligence as above all a capacity to learn.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba I guess your definition is what I’d use for someone whose mental abilities are retarded, in a clinical sense

Jeruba's avatar

I see it as a continuum. It’s relative.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Jeruba definitely and it might be an interesting question to ask…are all the people that we consider stupid, given our own personal definitions, in the range of ‘normal’ intelligence or might they be mentally retarded but socially capable…

liminal's avatar

Sometimes, I think that the separation of intellect and common sense is celebrated in this country. Thus, leading to what others have noted, a perception of people as either having intellect or “street smarts”. I think it is more a failure of not knowing how to blend intellect with intuition and experience. “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” ~Charles Spurgeon

MissAnthrope's avatar

I don’t think we put enough emphasis on intellect and I’m not sure how one could even come to that conclusion.

I don’t understand why people who play sports, who act, and who play music are the most lauded and highly-paid people. We don’t prize our scholars, artists, poets, or writers. We definitely don’t prize our teachers as we should.

Edit: I realize that acting and music are arts, which I think is great for intellect and culture. What I was referring to above is kind of the “pop” arts, which I feel are like eating Cheetos instead of brie.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@liminal very interesting, thanks for that comment. I agree.

DominicX's avatar

@MissAnthrope

As much as I love writing and being a writer is the 1 main thing out of those fields you mentioned that I really focus on (in terms of me creating), I don’t think it’s fair to downplay music like that. Music can take immense talent and music is an important of almost every person’s life. I think it is definitely worthy of praise.

All these tan-colored avatars are really confusing me!

MissAnthrope's avatar

@DominicX – See my correction. Music when done well, when it’s a product of passion and mastery, is absolutely important in terms of culture. It has a big place in my life. The music I was dismissing is a product of making money, not of talent or quality.

laureth's avatar

@MissAnthrope – or Brie instead of Humboldt Fog. ;)

But the actors, athletes, etc., are paid more than the poets and teachers because they generate more income, i.e., more people will pay more money to see a sports event than will pay to go to a poetry reading. Supply and demand.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@laurethThe cheese is creamy, light, powdery, slightly lemony and mildly goaty. Mildly goaty. Haha. I love it.

belakyre's avatar

If we did put too much weight on intelligence, then I shudder to think of what internet trolls must’ve been like before this.

Jeruba's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir, that would be an interesting one, but I’ll bet it would also spark some rancor.

stardust's avatar

Of course not. We are living in a consumer driven world, where beauty reigns supreme.
As @cbloom8 said, intelligence is a tool & should be used as such.
If one uses his/her intellect in order to ‘feel’ superior, then I would imagine that they are lacking in awareness. This to me says more about a person’s self-worth, etc.

mattbrowne's avatar

No, it seems we put too little weight on intellect.

Ron_C's avatar

Our educational and economic system is in a race to the bottom. Schools are wasting time on sex education and bible studies instead of teaching kid how to read critically and balance a budget. High schools should be teaching subjects like science and history, and ethics instead of wasting a large amount of money on sports programs that only benefit a few. Children should be taught how to learn and think, not how to toe the line and become part of the compalcent non-voting majority.

I venture to say that more people care about the super bowl than the state of the Union. That’s pretty much how the Roman leaders handled their citizens when the empire was falling apart. History repeats itself.

Dan_DeColumna's avatar

@Ron_C: panem et circenses

Zuma's avatar

Sex education is never a waste of money.

Ron_C's avatar

@Zuma it is when they teach the Abstinence only program. All you get at the end is a bunch of broken promises, pregnant girls, and kids with STD’s

Nullo's avatar

@Ron_C
Find me the school that ‘wastes’ resources on Bible studies. I thought that they had been banned.

@Zuma
Did you know that this country went, oh, call it two hundred years without a sex ed class? And we were doing pretty well on the world stage (such as it was). I don’t think that sex ed has helped much.

Ron_C's avatar

I just watched CNN and the Tennessee School Board (Public) just approved a bible course for high school students, Georgia and Texas are also heading in that direction.

I don’t live in either of those states but resent the fact that public money is spent on such a waste of student time and materials. If they have that much excess, they should be improving the education system or reducing taxes. Can the teaching of Intelligent Design be far behind?

Zuma's avatar

@Nullo Apparently, you aren’t aware of the actual history of “fallen” women turned out into prostitution; women committing suicide because they couldn’t bear to have another child; the high prevalence of unwanted pregnancies, and the terrible price borne by unwanted child; the abandonment of unwanted children on the steps of churches and orphanages; the pressure cooker of domestic violence because too many children strained the family’s resources; the thriving underground trade in abortifacients, the botched back alley abortions; the ignorance about and the consequent epidemics of venereal disease; or the hundreds of thousands of preventable teenage pregnancies that occur each year due to lack of accurate information about sex. And then there is AIDS and safe sex education.

After such an ignorant statement as the one you just made, it is no wonder why you might think too much emphasis is being placed on intellect.

@Ron_C Abstinence only is not sex education (think about it).

Ron_C's avatar

@Zuma I know that abstinence isn’t sex education, that is my point. I think the number was somewhere around $1 billion federal dollars spent last year for a program that patently does not work but satisfies our religious elite. The point is that the conservatives don’t really care how many people suffer as long as their philosophy prevails.

Factotum's avatar

@Ron_C If the Bible course in question is anything like the one available at my HS twenty-five years ago it is one of those ‘Bible as Literature’ courses, is an elective and doesn’t teach the Bible as the literal word of God but as a series of stories – stories which are, like it or not, part of our Western heritage just as the Greek myths are.

On the other hand, if they’re proselytizing I hope the ACLU eats them for lunch with Republican ketchup.

@Zuma Dude, there is no doubt that before sex ed there was misery for those who had sex or were raped. Nullo said we were doing pretty well as a country and he is accurate in saying so. Whether sex education classes have given us less misery than we might otherwise have is debatable. I have no intention of trying to put that particular genie back in the bottle. We are where we are and I am personally grateful that women don’t have all the weight, risk and responsibility of sex on them.

In our brave new world we have crack whores to take the place of fallen women, far more unwanted pregnancies per capita than ever before, abandonment of children in garbage cans, a thriving trade in legal abortifacients and plenty damn venereal disease. And of course there are still plenty of preventable teenage pregnancies each year regardless of accurate information about sex.

After such an ignorant statement as the one you just made, it is no wonder why you might think too much emphasis is being placed on intellect.

Cheap shot. Please don’t.

Zuma's avatar

@Factotum Point taken on the cheap shot. I apologize.

Nullo’s remark about how what a great country we are (or used to be) rather strongly implied that it was due to a lack of sex education (otherwise his remark would be a complete non-sequitur).

As for crack whores there are on the wane now that the crack epidemic has run its course. As for rape, teaching adolescents that No means no, and that it is rape to take advantage of someone who is drunk or passed out can only help, not hurt. Likewise, the research shows that prevalence of VD, the incidence of abortion, and abandoned infants, can be reduced when sex education and contraception are available.

Ron_C's avatar

@Zuma why should we have to rely on the ACLU. Why should a school board do an end-around the constitution to bring a religious book into school? Isn’t this a shot over the bow with the ultimate goal of bringing christian teaching into public school?

I don’t care what christians do as long as I don’t have to pay for it.

Nullo's avatar

@Zuma
I’m just saying that sex ed does not necessarily a grand country make.

Zuma's avatar

@Nullo Well, actually you were saying that you didn’t think sex education helped much. And I think it has helped millions of people avoid unwanted pregnancy and venereal disease. That may not be what makes a country great, but I think it helps.

Nullo's avatar

@Zuma
Right up until the killing starts.

Zuma's avatar

@Nullo Killing? What does sex education have to do with killing?

Nullo's avatar

@Zuma
Nothing, it just seemed… appropriate, somehow.

I would be interested in statistics outlining the prevalence of sex ed and abortion rates, though.

Zuma's avatar

@Nullo From Wikipedia:

“The debate over teenage pregnancy and STDs has spurred some research into the effectiveness of different approaches to sex education. In a meta-analysis, DiCenso et al. have compared comprehensive sex education programs with abstinence-only programs. Their review of several studies shows that abstinence-only programs did not reduce the likelihood of pregnancy of women who participated in the programs, but rather increased it. Four abstinence programs and one school program were associated with a pooled increase of 54% in the partners of men and 46% in women…”

And this conclusion from a another literature review from the prestigious Alan Guttmacher Institute:

“Evidence shows that comprehensive sex education programs that provide information about both abstinence and contraception can help delay the onset of sexual activity among teens, reduce their number of sexual partners and increase contraceptive use when they become sexually active. These findings were underscored in “Call to Action to Promote Sexual Health and Responsible Sexual Behavior,” issued by former Surgeon General David Satcher in June 2001.”

Preventing teen pregnancy prevents teen abortions.

Zuma's avatar

@Factotum Notice it says it might work. This doesn’t undo the bulk of the other studies showing that abstinence only doesn’t work.

Factotum's avatar

@Zuma Undo them? no. Call them into question and suggest we need more studies? yes.

Zuma's avatar

@Factotum Despite the misleading hype, if you actually read the article you will find that it wasn’t an “abstinence only” program that was being evaluated. It was an “abstinence until you are ready” program which exhorts kids to “delay having sex until they are ready”—which, by the way, is what current sex education already does.

Moreover, the program also taught kids about condom use, and that condoms are effective, which regular sex ed classes do but which “abstinence only” programs don’t. Of course, more studies are always desirable to help find what really works, but given what we know, this study in no way suggests that any of them will find that “abstinence only” works or even might work.

Nullo's avatar

Abstinence is a viable option, you know. Heck, I abstain and I got conventional sex ed. It’s like that for a lot of people.
I don’t think that education (y’know, short of a years-long program) actually does all that much to change your initial inclinations.

Zuma's avatar

@Nullo I don’t know if it really counts as “abstaining” if nobody asks you. :)

You are right, of course. People eventually become sexually active on their own timetable, no matter what you teach or preach to them. The idea that you can exhort kids to “save” themselves until marriage, we now know, tends to backfire with alarming regularity.

The idea behind sex ed is to prepare kids for adulthood. And that means giving them accurate and non-judgmental information about sex so that they can avoid unwanted pregnancy and venereal diseases. Sex ed can encourage kids to delay sex until they are ready, and when they are ready, to take responsible precautions. In the age of the Internet, this is probably all moot anyway.

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