A controversy is sweeping America, one that has stirred up some communities more than anything else since McCarthy’s hunts two decades ago. The issue: sex education.

Actually, “sex education” in the schools extends back for decades, if the phrase is taken to mean high-school courses on the family or biology lectures on reproduction. But the current controversy has developed since 1962, when researchers for School Health Education Study discovered after extensive surveys that most young people were receiving haphazard, deficient sex instruction at home. Alarmed, though not really shocked, the National Education Association and the American Medical Association decided to form a “voluntary health organization” that would serve as an inspiration, guide, and clearing house for sex-education programs in local schools across America. They named it the Sex Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). And, unwarily, they planted the seeds of today’s controversy.

For five years, SIECUS directors and officers were continually called upon by school administrators throughout the country to help develop materials and guidelines for sex-education programs. They published study guides, served as consultants, and spoke at schools and seminars, in an effort to create a more wholesome national sexual climate. Their aim, as they describe it, is “to help people five their total lives as whole human beings, neither sex machines nor repressed hermits, neither sexual exploiters nor sexually exploited.”

Programs spurred by SIECUS ranged from popular three-week pilot classes for 3,000 fifth graders in Chicago to family-living courses for 166 of New York City’s schools. In Kansas ...

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