A Plea for Obstinence Education


We used to teach obstinence in our schools, and it’s time we did again. I’m not arguing for obstinence-only, just obstinence-mostly.

We’ve become far too fluid in our readiness to just entertain any old new idea that floats by. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” usually works just fine.

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We used to make fun of people who followed fads to the point that they bought pet rocks. Today, if the fad you’re buying is an idea, then you’re considered virtuous.

I’d give you a bunch of examples, but then there’d be no point in my writing any further since 100 percent of you would be angry that I’d just made fun of your own personal belief that you’ve deeply held for about six weeks.

To be clear: I’m not saying you shouldn’t change your mind when you genuinely realize you’re wrong. Just stop changing your mind to follow the zeitgeist.

Remember when your teachers told you not to bow to peer pressure? That’s what you’re doing now!

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I don’t mind if you disagree with me on something — just stand up for it instead of believing it because everyone else believes it. Have some backbone. I’ll respect you for it.

That said, I may be changing my mind about something myself.

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"Let's talk about new ideas because my mind is open to them!"
“Let’s talk about new ideas because my mind is open to them!”

I have long held to the logic that nobody believes himself to be wrong about anything. What I mean is that you believe yourself to be right — even when you’re wrong — but the instant you discover you’ve been wrong, you change your mind. Thus, you always believe yourself to be right. Or, in other words, you don’t say, “I believe X, though I know Y to be true instead.”

I’m starting to believe there are indeed major portions of society that believe X — despite knowing Y to be true.

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Two millennia ago, the Athenians apparently spent all their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas. The funny thing is, the “new” idea that the Apostle Paul got them everybody hopped up about was actually a pretty old idea. Which makes the point that everything old is new again — including tired clichés.

I find it hard to believe that people really have been coming up with actual new truths every couple of days for thousands of years. Sure, we legitimately learn new things over time, but some of the stuff we claim to “learn” is actually stuff we’re making up on the fly. Enough of that.

For example, obstinence education — again, not obstinence-only, just obstinence-mostly — could prevent us from electing outsider presidential candidates who don’t have any idea how to do politics.

"I may not be smarter than Donald Trump, but I can learn new tricks!"
“I may not be smarter than Donald Trump, but I can learn new tricks!”

If you don’t want to take my word for it, look at the animal world. (I know a lot of you think animals are smarter than us. You’re wrong, but I also know you obstinately cling to that belief.) My beagle, Mollie, turned 10 this past summer. That’s roughly equivalent to my own 51 human years. You know the old saw that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? It isn’t true: it just takes proper motivation (food).

Yes, I can teach Mollie new tricks. But, by and large, she continues right along with her same routine. When my wife or I come home after a decent time away, she whines until she is let outside. It bothers her if we move the location of her food or water.

In other words, she’s obstinate. But she will also accept the moving of her water dish if she has to.

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Sometimes when I write essays like this, I actually change my mind about something right in the middle. While I argue a position, sometimes it hits me that the facts don’t support my argument and so I have to reassess. I’m obstinate, yes. But I’m also open to new facts.

This is why some of our newfangled ways of communicating in 140 characters or fewer incites arguments rather than reasoned debate. You can’t write long enough to catch yourself when you are wrong.

The good news is that Twitter will soon start allowing tweets longer than 140 characters. That’s a new idea I heartily embrace. I believe it’s the right thing to do.

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