Wednesday, November 7, 2007

An Important Lesson in Data Analysis

The headline shouted "Study Finds Abstinence-Only Programs Fail to Reduce Teen Sexual Behavior." I found this tempting, so I read the article.

The first three paragraphs read as follows:

"Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of millions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

"At present there does not exist any strong evidence that any abstinence program delays the initiation of sex, hastens the return to abstinence or reduces the number of sexual partners" among teenagers, the study concluded.

The report, which was based on a review of research into teenager sexual behavior, was being released Wednesday by the nonpartisan National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy."

This is not encouraging news...and I also didn't find it very believable. So I kept reading. In the seventh paragraph, the name of the leader of the study was given, one Douglas Kirby. Kirby is a "senior research scientist at ETR Associates." The seventh through ninth paragraphs summarizes Kirby's "findings," which are the usual politically correct, pro-sex-ed spoutings of those who think our public school students should be given lessons in how to mate.

And then we get to paragraph #10:

"The sponsors of the study praised Kirby for his "thorough research" and for being "fair and evenhanded," but they also acknowledged that ETR Associates developed and markets several of the sex education curricula reviewed in the report. Several of the previous studies that were reviewed also were written by Kirby." [Emphasis mine...because it sure wasn't found in the article]
Notice what we have here: In the tenth paragraph (of twelve) of the article, we are informed that Kirby is anything but an unbiased reporter of data! He works for a company that markets sex education curricula, and he cites a lot of his own "research"! This should be considered as nothing more than a shameless attempt at marketing his company's wares, but the media will pick this up as serious, evenhanded research and use it to try to mold public policy.

One more reason why we need discernment today!

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