Sex Ed’S Failure Rate

What if public-school instruction focused not on reproductive “plumbing” but on care and respect?

With apologies to all its politically correct proponents, the teaching of “safe sex” does not work. Evidence suggests condoms fail 15 percent of the time (would you use a parachute with a similar failure rate?), and premarital pregnancies usually increase in schools where condoms are available.

In fact, there is not any conclusive evidence that teenagers who receive sex education are less likely to get pregnant, AIDS, or other sexually transmitted diseases. Maybe that is why a former president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals said it might be a good idea for public educators to get completely out of the sex-education business.

I share his sentiment, but not his solution. Like it or not, kids need instruction as hormones rage and mores slip. But instead of sex education, I propose our schools begin teaching love education.

Sociologist Pitirim Sorokin foresaw this need to educate young people about love rather than sex. He contended that if we pursued the latter instead of the former, we would end up with an overly “sensate society.” Are you listening, Madonna fans?

Sorokin was so committed to his belief that love education was the answer that he set up the Institute of Altruistic Love at Harvard, where he chaired the sociology department. He envisioned a curriculum that would teach children and teenagers how to love rather than use each other for selfish pleasure.

One of his disciples, and one of my teachers, James Bossard, concurred with Sorokin’s assessment. “Sex education,” he said, “should not be a curriculum that provides ...

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