Diana Thu-Thao Rhodes, vice president for policy, partnerships, and organizing with Advocates for Youth, a sex education advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek, “Sex education in this country is governed by a patchwork of laws and policies at the state, district and even individual school level.”
Rhodes added, "Sex ed isn't required everywhere, and from school to school, what students may learn can vary greatly. We're seeing a concerted effort in communities across the country by anti-sex-ed activists to limit or even remove comprehensive, effective sex education from schools and replace it with abstinence-only programs.”
The real issue is that students do need to learn about sex and gender, and clearly, so do Republicans.
Last year, Nebraska MAGA donor and agribusiness executive Charles Herbster was accused of groping several women. But that didn’t stop him from holding forth on the topic. “We’re going to take sex education out of the schools and put it back in the homes where it belongs,” the failed gubernatorial candidate said at a rally with former President Donald Trump.
Herbster’s opponent, Jim Pillen, echoed the anti-sex-ed comments in a Facebook post in 2021. “The State Board of Education’s proposed sex education standards were inappropriate and unscientific left-wing ideology disguised as health standards,” he wrote, adding, “Nebraska should have no state sex education standards—these are decisions that should be made by parents, not bureaucrats.”
Sex ed in American schools has, like most American history, a rocky foundation. The courses were launched in the early 20th century in an effort to end staunch the outbreak of venereal diseases in growing urban cities.
“First they describe romantically the mating of the calla lilies and the June bugs, then they plunge furiously into their revolting treatises [on] kissing games, necking, and the dance,” H. L. Mencken wrote in 1925, clearly taking jabs at the textbooks used to teach sex education at the time. “There is, on the one hand, the chaste, automatic philandering of the rose and the honeybee, and there is, on the other hand, the appalling pathological fate of sinful Homo sapiens.”
By the 1960s and 1970s, the sexual revolution altered the curriculum, and conservatives lost their collective minds.
Politico reports that at the center of the culture war at the time was physician Mary Steichen Calderone, a former executive at Planned Parenthood. She worked to expand birth control services in an effort to educate people although she was a vocal proponent of committed sexual relationships and denounced casual sex and LGBTQ people. Regardless, she became a target for conservatives.
The battle over sex ed has been waged ever since, and now, despite the overturn of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Republicans are unrelenting in their hopes to remove the course from public schools.
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