Too hot to handle: The politics of sex education

Author
Frederick M. Hess
Content Type
Video
Institution
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Abstract
How have views toward sex education changed over time, and how does sex education around the world compare to that in the United States? On Thursday, AEI hosted a conversation with New York University professor Jonathan Zimmerman on his new book, “Too Hot to Handle: A Global History of Sex Education,” which addresses the differences in sex education across countries and throughout history, finding that as countries become more democratic, sex education becomes increasingly contentious. Zimmerman recalled how the United States was originally a pioneer in sex education, which originally tended to emphasize the dangers of sexual activity. In the 1970s and 1980s, members of the international community began to focus on sex education as a way to help liberate individuals from societal norms, leaving them free to make their own choices. He pointed out that the developing world, however, did not embrace this notion of individual autonomy being granted to teenagers, and so those countries' version of sex education came to look quite different. As immigration increased closer to the present day, then, this created strange bedfellows in many Western countries as white conservatives and immigrants joined forces against sex education. Zimmerman closed by describing how schools are necessarily limited in their efficacy on this particular subject, both because it is intensely personal and because the mass media plays such a strong informative role on the topic. Consequently, he suggested that the discussion of sex education likely ought to be expanded into environments outside the school.
Topic
Education, Environment, Immigration
Political Geography
United States
External Resources
Video Link