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Maryjo Oster Appears on Television Program to Discuss Teenage Sex Education

Article about graduate student Maryjo Oster

by Joe Savrock (January 2009)

Oster_MaryJo.jpgMaryjo Oster, doctoral candidate in Penn State’s Educational Theory & Policy program, recently appeared as a guest on a television interview program that examined the topic of teenage sex education and abstinence.

Oster appeared January 12 with three other guests on Business Matters, a weekly half-hour show that features business and community leaders who discuss regional public policy issues and world trends. The program, hosted by Tony Iannelli, is produced by WFMZ-TV, a commercial television station in Allentown, Pa. WFMZ is broadcast on 46 cable companies and reaches 2.2 million households.

On the program, Oster represented her employer, the Pennsylvania Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (PCPTP). Other guests in the segment were Michael Geer, of the Pennsylvania Family Institute; Bob Smith, director of Allentown schools; and Jennifer May, a representative of the group Pennsylvania for Responsible Sex Education.

During the program, Oster described abstinence as a good message to be sent to youth, but it shouldn't be the only message.

“The scientific literature demonstrates that teens fare far better when they are given information about abstinence as well as information about safer sex,” she states. “The empirical research actually reveals that comprehensive sex education keeps kids abstinent for longer periods of time than abstinence-only programs. This suggests that when kids are given all of the information, they make better decisions than when information is withheld from them.”

Oster is employed with PCPTP as an evaluation coordinator for a project funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The project is intended to increase the capacity of schools and community organizations to implement science-based programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV. Oster previously served as a member of the organization's executive board and was a member of its advocacy committee.

“Sex education is just one small piece of the much larger and more complex issues of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and HIV acquisition,” says Oster. “But it is so relevant because it is symbolic of the modern American culture wars in which socially liberal and progressive Americans are pitted against those who hold to more socially conservative or orthodox standards.

“Yet, while we battle back and forth about whose truth is greater, adolescents remain at risk for these severe social and health problems,” she continues. “Which is precisely why I promote evidence-based prevention efforts that have demonstrated positive behavioral outcomes for youth.”