Sex education, since its advent at the dawn of the twentieth century, has provoked the hopes and fears of generations of parents, educators, politicians, and reformers. On its success or failure seems to hinge the moral fate of the nation and its future citizens. But whether we argue over condom distribution to teenagers or the use of an anti-abortion curriculum in high schools, we rarely question the basic premise—that adolescents need to be educated about sex. How did we come to expect the public schools to manage our children’s sexuality? More important, what is it about the adolescent that arouses so much anxiety among adults?
Teaching Sex travels back over the past century to trace the emergence of the “sexual adolescent” and the evolution of the schools’ efforts to teach sex to this captive pupil. Jeffrey Moran takes us on a fascinating ride through America’s sexual mores: from a time when young men were warned about the crippling effects of masturbation, to the belief that schools could and should train adolescents in proper courtship and parenting techniques, to the reemergence of sexual abstention brought by the AIDS crisis. We see how the political and moral anxieties of each era found their way into sex education curricula, reflecting the priorities of the elders more than the concerns of the young.
Moran illuminates the aspirations and limits of sex education and the ability of public authority to shape private behavior. More than a critique of public health policy, Teaching Sex is a broad cultural inquiry into America’s understanding of adolescence, sexual morality, and social reform.
Jeffrey Moran provides an engrossing chronicle and thoughtful analysis of government-sanctioned programs designed for a captive audience of high school students… Since the Sixties, sex educators have been repeatedly thwarted by holier-than-thou reactionaries with political agendas, especially on themes such as contraceptives and abortion. But Moran also takes educators to task for not taking into account the interest of those they purport to be teaching. His book is a must read.
Jeffrey P. Moran has written an informative and entertaining book with an accessible style of writing that displays a non-intrusive sense of humor. The book is not polemical, not for the most part argumentative, but rather it summarizes the way in which perceptions of adolescent sexuality and general social attitudes toward sex have changed through the last century, in particular the way adolescent sexuality has been seen as a problem to be met by some definite action on the part of society.
A timely historical overview on the politics of sexuality education…[and] a valuable resource full of fascinating information.
This well-written book is an objective, excellently documented history of sex education in American public schools from the early 1900s to the present.
This book is a comprehensive treatment of an elusive history. It is a single resource which shows us the foibles of our predecessors and points the way to teaching sex in a manner which promotes health for adolescents and young adults. A must read.
Jeffrey Moran uses the history of ‘teaching sex’ in America to completely recast our understandings of contemporary political struggles in sex education. Thoughtful and gracefully written, at once a clear-eyed history and a compelling piece of social criticism, Teaching Sex is a revelatory book.
Well-researched and unfailingly intelligent, Teaching Sex exposes the ways in which sex education almost inevitably involves deep moral issues. An excellent book, and an important perspective on American culture in the twentieth century.
Jeffrey Moran has written a helpful and important book for understanding sexual perception and information aimed at adolescents in the twentieth century. He has a rare ability to synthesize complex and disparate materials, and explores not only ideas about sex education, but also their implementation in cities and schools and the range of reactions that they occasioned. He is ever attuned to the shifting political contexts that change the way that adults understand youth and sexuality.
Jeffrey Moran’s book Teaching Sex offers an impressively lucid and balanced history of sex education and related matters in twentieth century American life. It fills a large gap among studies of American cultural and social history.
- 304 pages
- 5-3/4 x 8-7/8 inches
- Harvard University Press
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