The World’s Problem With Sex Ed

Roundup
tags: Sex Education



Jonathan Zimmerman, a professor of education and history at New York University, is the author of “Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education.”

Related Link  Can Sex Education Be Universal? By Jonathan Zimmerman (Foreign Affairs)

... Globalization has served to curtail rather than expand school-based sexual instruction. The more the world has become interconnected, the more sex ed has come under attack.

Sex ed in the United States dates from the Progressive Era, when groups like the American Social Hygiene Association promoted education as a route to eradicating venereal disease and prostitution. (John D. Rockefeller Jr. was a strong proponent.) Practices across the world varied widely; the early Soviet Union embraced relatively libertine sex ed, viewing traditional propriety as a form of bourgeois pretension, but in Mexico, the Roman Catholic Church led efforts to block nearly all attempts to teach human sexuality in the schools.

What’s distinctive in the last three decades is that immigrants have joined with native-born conservatives across the West to restrict these public-health teachings. As early as 1983, white conservatives in New Zealand warned that sex ed would alienate Maori populations as well as Asian immigrants.

This new alliance against sex ed went global in 1994, when the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo enshrined “reproductive rights” as a goal. “Information and services should be made available to adolescents to help them understand their sexuality,” it declared.

The backlash was immediate. Egypt, the host of the conference, joined with four other Muslim countries in dissenting, saying the ruling “could be interpreted as applying to sexual relations outside of marriage,” as an Iranian delegate explained. Two predominantly Catholic countries, El Salvador and Guatemala, also dissented, as did the delegation from the Vatican, which sent a papal envoy to Iran to coordinate opposition to the conference’s liberal ethos on sexuality. ...

In an age of globalization, in fact, schools are probably the least likely places for kids to learn about sex. Schools are central for deliberating the values we wish to transmit to our young. But on the subject of sex, we disagree too fundamentally to arrive at anything like a consensus about what adolescents should learn, know and become.




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