For a society so drenched in sexual imagery and innuendo, we have a surprisingly difficult time talking about sex. As SAGLRROILYBYGTH are well aware, our American sex paradox leads to one of the most difficult and stubborn issues of our educational culture wars. This week, Trey Kay explores the question of sex ed at Us & Them. Is it too much to ask of schools to fix a wider culture that can barely talk about sex?
Kay describes a talk at his alma mater by conservative sex education activist Pam Stenzel. Watch out, Stenzel yelled at the assembled teens. If you get an STD, you could be ruined for life.
Kay also chats with a mother who wants kids to learn about sex in a rational, non-judgmental way. Kids will be having sex, she thought. It was criminal to leave students floundering without basic information about it.
Other conservatives such as Texas’s Don McLeroy weigh in, too. If we really want to heal our sex-ed problem, McLeroy argues, we need to do more than teach a class or two about it. We need to reform our whole society top to bottom.
Historian Jonathan Zimmerman might not agree with McLeroy on much, but he agrees that schools do not take the lead in sex education. Zimmerman talks with Kay about his new book, Too Hot to Handle. In that work, Zimmerman examines the history of sex ed and concludes that it has been most conspicuous by its absence in schools. As Zimmerman explained in a recent talk here on the scenic campus of Binghamton University, in the United States the problem of sexually transmitted diseases was treated first and foremost as a problem for the schools to fix. In Paris, they changed the laws. In the US, they changed the curriculum.
The assumption in America has always been that schools can fix any problem. But, as person after person told Kay about their own real-life sex ed, almost nobody learned anything of importance about sex from classes at school. Perhaps the real culture-war battle over sex ed needs to learn from these interviews and move out of school onto the streets and TV rooms where the real education seems to take place.
As usual, Trey Kay does a great job of including people with very different perspectives. Want to know what smart people on both sides of our culture-war divide think about sex ed? Check out the whole podcast.