Public Eye 

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens crowed over the passage of his so-called education reform bill this week, educators cringed at the ramifications of grading wealthy and poor schools -- and students -- based on one pat formula.

And, critics believe, while education may not improve as a result of Owens' "reforms," the number of teen pregnancies and teenagers who contract sexually transmitted diseases now stands a good chance of ballooning.

Here's some numbers for you: Colorado currently ranks 18th in the nation for teen pregnancy rates. Last year, for every 1,000 teenage girls in Colorado, 111 got pregnant. The state Department of Health reported 4,389 cases of STDs among Colorado's teens.

Now it's time to go back to Basic Common Sense 101. Almost universally, health experts say that the more information people receive about sex education, the better they are able to avoid unwanted disease and pregnancies or choose abstinence.

But some people -- notably many conservative lawmakers -- seem to believe that if you don't tell kids about the birds and the bees, they simply will not figure it out. Now, many of these politicians have not been to school in a very, very long time. So some may truly think that teenagers will naturally remain chaste until their wedding night, when all of a sudden sex hormones will hit them like a lightning bolt from God.

Currently sex education is not mandated by the state. That means that school districts have the option of teaching sex education. But, thanks to a fund set up as part of the 1985 Colorado Comprehensive Health Education Program, money is available to help pay for sex education. About 26 of 176 school districts currently participate in the program.

Under the governor's new reform package, parents will now have to opt their kids into, rather than out of, sex education programs.

The anti-sex education provision was retained as part of the reform package when six conservative lawmakers threatened to torpedo the whole thing. Three of those conservative lawmakers were El Paso County's finest: Sens. MaryAnne Tebedo, Doug Lamborn and Mark Hillman.

Ellen Brilliant, spokeswoman for the Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said she doesn't know how many schools or school districts in the state currently offer comprehensive sex education programs.

But Brilliant is sure the governor's education "reforms" will translate to trouble. "At a time when STDs and teen pregnancy are so high we shouldn't be backing away from the responsible teaching of sex ed."

* * * * * * * Who says accused murderers can't still keep their place as society mavens? Certainly not the Gazette.

The society column in last Sunday's daily newspaper featured a big picture of the smiling mayor, along with four other women who were having a fabulous time at the Performing Arts for Youth Organization (PAYO) Bellas Arts Ball.

Mary Lou Makepeace was shown "having a ball" with event chairwoman Eve Tilley, Kayle Higinbothem, Kristin Donovan and Debbie Wadle at the March 18 gala.

But the G's society doyen Diane Wengler failed to note that Wadle is currently awaiting trial after she was arrested on first degree murder charges in the March 15, 1999, shaking death of her husband's five-month-old step-grandson. Little Kevin Patrick Callum was taken off of life support three days after he was shaken, said Gretchen Whitworth, a friend of the family.

And the picture of Wadle, rubbing elbows at a children's benefit, did not sit too well with Whitworth and other family friends.

"I saw this and was horrified," she said. "This picture is sending the community a message that the City of Colorado Springs and a prominent children's organization support Mrs. Wadle."

The woman's trial is scheduled to begin in June.

* * * * * * * Time, Inc. wants you to live the simple life. Just don't forget to fork over $19.95 for a subscription to the publishing conglomerate's newest magazine, RealSimple.

The glossy magazine, on the newsstands this week, claims to be "the new magazine for a simpler life, home, body and soul."

The premier issue offers a number of tips for making life, uh, real simple, including demanding that junk mail providers take you off their list and paying off your high-interest credit cards as fast as you can.

Not exactly the most enlightening stuff. But astute Indy readers may chuckle at the comparison between Time's commitment to simplicity with last week's Indy interview with Scott Savage, whose journey into simplicity included giving up driving, electricity, the TV and the computer.

Really, it was only a matter of time before a multinational corporation could discover the concept of giving up material greed, and try to make a whole lot of money off of it through mass marketing. The irony is rich yet, well, simple.

-- degette@csindy.com


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