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Most authorities agree that sex education should start early. The superintendent of schools in the New York City suburb of Glen Cove, where sex education begins in kindergarten, reports that he has received 800 requests from other school systems and church groups for a pamphlet describing the program. Glen Cove kindergartners discuss the coming of a new baby into the family group. "We make it clear that the baby was not 'got' at the hospital, but grew inside the mother until the doctor helped it get out," says Glen Cove's Mrs. Rose Daniels, sex-education consultant to the classroom instructors. Mrs. Daniels' kindergartens also incubate hen's eggsthe use of such animals as hamsters and gerbils can be unfortunate, since they sometimes eat their young. To brief her five-year-olds on the principal anatomical discrepancy between boys and girls, Mrs. Daniels conducts a bisexual expedition into the school men's room to give them a clue from the urinalsthough purists in sex education frown on any association of elimination with sex.
Some experts would start sex instruction even before kindergarten. This view is shared by Dr. Mary S. Calderone, executive director of the Sex Information and Education Council of the U.S. and a pioneer of sex education. At the age of three, she thinks, children should begin learning in simple, direct language about the sperm uniting with the egg in the uterus, carried there by the father's penis entering the mother's vagina. She has no patience with talk about the father's "placing" the seed in the mother. "This is a passive description and in fact is not what happens," she complains. "The sexual relationship has a tremendous emotional content; it is ongoing and lasts through marriage, and once in a while a particular act results in a baby. If you tell five-year-olds that this is the way fathers and mothers affirm their love for each other and that they can choose when they will have a baby, you are teaching responsible parenthood, responsible sexuality."
In some respects, Dr. Calderone is far ahead of the field. There is almost complete professional agreement that straight, frank answers should be given even to very young children, but many psychologists believe that too much detail too soon only produces confusion and anxiety. Most courses are programmed to give information gradually.