Two current questions provoke immediate visceral reactions—sex education in the schools and gun-control laws. The response may be wild—transcending logic and even the facts—or it may be reasoned, but always it is marked by intense conviction.
In the matter of sex education in the public schools, it appears evident that the real issue is not whether there will be such programs but rather what kind of instruction will be offered, to whom it shall be given, and at what age. The data from polls indicate that the majority of the American people favor sex instruction in the schools. Some want it because they believe it will reduce the problems of venereal disease and premarital pregnancy and improve social conditions. Others are convinced that it is essential for marriage stability, will shield young people from the influence of harmful information from unreliable sources, and will diminish prurient interest. Undoubtedly many parents who opt for sex education in the schools do so because they feel it will relieve them of a responsibility they hesitate to shoulder, an embarrassing duty they shrink from facing. By delegating this responsibility to the schools they are delivered from a sense of guilt and can disclaim blame for any untoward consequences.
Some people are opposed to sex education in the schools regardless of what it consists of and who does it. For them the question is not one of curriculum or teachers or value judgments about extramarital sex. Even if the materials used were wholly acceptable, they would still hold that sex education has no place in the schools.
Many people are indignant, however, not because sex is being taught, but because of the abuses that have sometimes accompanied this teaching. They fear it is ...1
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