Meet Derek Dye. Derek Dye is a clown. Yes, a clown. A clown who teaches abstinence-only education to middle-schoolers.
Watch the video below. Really, you must. Because there’s nothing like clown tricks set to inspirational music.
My first thought is: middle-schoolers are interested in clowns now? Even clowns that don’t have big red noses?
My second thought is: well at least abstinence-only education now has the kind of spokesperson it deserves.
The problem, though, is that this actually isn’t a laughing matter. It’s not a laughing matter because Derek Dye’s “work” — that compares drug abuse with sexual activity, and says that engaging in sexual activity with a condom outside the confines of a committed heterosexual marriage is equivalent to juggling machetes over another human being — is being funded with federal dollars. (In fact, Dye’s employer, the Elizabeth New Life Center, has received an $800,000 Community-Based Abstinence Education Grant.) And it’s not a laughing matter because instead of getting real sex education, kids are receiving this bullshit at a really crucial juncture in their lives.
For the most part, I think that kids are smart enough to not take advice from someone who is literally a clown. But I still think that delivering these dangerous messages, no matter where they’re coming from, has a negative impact — especially when they are invariably the only messages kids receive from their school. So these young teens might not believe the clown (at least I certainly hope not) when he says that having sex will completely ruin their lives. But that’s not going to teach them how to put on a condom. And when they don’t know how to put on condoms, and instead contract STDs and become pregnant, Derek Dye’s prophecy is just all that more likely to come true, now isn’t it?
One last note: I think the thing that frightened me most about Dye’s message is his extreme warnings over risk. Taking risks is dangerous, he tell us. And dangerous is bad.
But since when did this become so? Surely, some risks are stupid. Driving drunk is very stupid. Having unprotected sex when you’re not looking to become pregnant (and have the option for protection) is stupid. Playing Russian Roulette is stupid. But without risk, we see no gain. Every good thing in my life is the result of risk. The risk of starting this blog and having it hated, the risk of starting a relationship with my husband and having him reject me, and so on.
So what kind of message is it for kids, to tell them that taking risks will only ruin them? How is it anything other than utterly irresponsible to teach them this, rather than how to identify and assess risks worth taking versus those that are not? And how are our schools teaching them to view sexuality, when virtually all sex goes right at the top of the humongous list of always unconscionable risks?