Pop Quiz: Fear, shame, and loathing
Hi all! I’m travelling back from a conference so this will be short and sweet.
Since I’ve been in the US for a professional conference, I’ve noticed the trailers for Scary Movie V on the television several times, particularly line “no, ma’am, an STD is the worst thing you could have.” I was immediately reminded of my own high school “health” class, where most of the content of the STI unit was a collection of infamous slides showing absolute worst case scenarios and passing them off as common. The goal of the slides, obviously, was care the kids into using protection, or even better, into abstinence until sometime in their 40s.
I like to call this the DARE approach to pseudoeducation: spin scary tales for the kids to keep them away from whatever it is you don’t want them to get into so that they never consider going near it. The downside, of course, is that those who find their experience or reality generally contradicts the propaganda might be tempted to disregard even the more reasonable warnings.
But in addition to this problem, it occurred to me that programs like this, even well-intentioned, make up a huge portion of the ongoing stigma problem faced by drug users (or even people using prescription drugs as directed) and people living with STIs.
So I thought, barring serious ethical problems about lying to the kids and creating stigma (which are both major problems), would an honest appraisal of the risk profiles of certain behaviours actually improve outcomes? Or does the public health standpoint justify to some degree the approach taken?
What do you think? How should these topics be addressed in schools? How were they treated at your school?
The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.
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