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When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on…
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When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex--and Sex Education--Since…

by Kristin Luker

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Once in a while, a book comes along that attempts to answer one question but manages to answer a whole slew of other questions in the process. Kristin Luker has managed to do this with When Sex Goes to School. She spent over 20 years interviewing and observing people in four different towns (two on the west coast, one in the south, and one in the rust belt of the east coast), each embroiled in their own sex education battle. Over the course of these two decades she saw some interesting patterns emerging in the people on both sides of the debate. Although separated by time and space, she found that the conservatives (in favor of "abstinence-only" sex education) and the liberals (in favor of "comprehensive" sex education) everywhere she went bore striking similarities on very basic and substantive levels.

Her findings about both conservatives and liberals are eye-opening, providing an insight into social psyche that does more in explaining the divide than anything I have heard thus far. It is easy to say that liberals are x and conservatives are y, but it is much more difficult to figure out why they are this way and how they became compelled to view the world in such divergent ways. What's more, she discovers many answers when talking to people about sex education that are simple yet easily extrapolated to other issues, supplying a deeper insight into other decisive issues at play today in America. I came away from this book with a much clearer understanding of what it means to be conservative or liberal, and more importantly, I came away with a deeper respect for those on the other side.

What she discovered and what the sex education debate really boils down to is a long-standing social institution: marriage. As she states: "Not only is the debate about sex education based on different but unarticulated views about the relationship of sex to marriage, it also evaluates interventions in light of those values, at the same time mixing together different kinds of harm, because the harms themselves are based on different views of the proper relationship of sex to marriage." While sex education has been with us for about 100 years, these sex education debates are relatively new. Sex did not change, we did. And while we are still in the midst of these changing views of sex, marriage, family, and procreation, the debate is at an epoch in which each side of the debate believes that their views are the ones that society as a whole should accept as the norm. Both sides vehemently feel that what is at stake is the direction that future generations ought to follow.

Her findings about both conservatives and liberals are eye-opening, providing an insight into social psyche that does more in explaining the divide than anything I have heard thus far. It is easy to say that liberals are x and conservatives are y, but it is much more difficult to figure how why they are this way and how they became compelled to view the world in such divergent ways. What's more, she discovers many answers when talking to people about sex education that are simple yet easily extrapolated to other issues, providing a deeper insight into other decisive issues at play today in America. I came away from this book with a much clearer understanding of what it means to be conservative or liberal, and more importantly, I came away with a deeper respect for those on the other side.

What she discovered and what the sex education debate really boils down to is a long-standing social institution: marriage. As she states, "Not only is the debate about sex education based on different but unarticulated views about the relationship of sex to marriage, it also evaluates interventions in light of those values, at the same time mixing together different kinds of harm, because the harms themselves are based on different views of the proper relationship of sex to marriage." While sex education has been with us for about 100 years, these sex education debates are relatively new. Sex did not change, we did. And while we are still in the midst of these changing views of sex, marriage, family, and procreation, the debate is at an epoch in which each side of the debate believes that their views are the ones that society as a whole should accept as the norm. Both sides vehemently feel that what is at stake is the direction that future generations ought to follow.
  Carlie | Sep 11, 2008 |
added by lemontwist | editThe Women's Review of Books, Janice Irvine
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393060896, Hardcover)

There's a sexual revolution coming to a schoolroom near you, but it's not the one you remember.

When Sex Goes to School explores the ideas and values behind the fight over sex education through the lives of parents, its most passionate participants. Distinguished sociologist Kristin Luker spent over twenty years talking to people in ordinary communities about sex and how, if at all, it should be taught. Luker argues that Americans are now deeply divided over sex, largely as a legacy of the 1960s. She traces sex education from its birth in 1913 to its more politicized modern incarnation, examining in detail the marriage-minded 1950s and the sexual and gender revolutions of the 1960s. She explores how our parents' sexual attitudes have influenced us and, in turn, how our sexual choices affect the way we teach our children about sex. Her conclusions are unexpected, and after reading this book it is impossible to look at the intersection of the intimate and the political in the same way.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:46 -0400)

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