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In short, most sex education tries to perpetuate by enlightened sweet reasonableness the same morality that was once enforceable by social or religious canon and parental fiat. It does not necessarily work. Family Life Professor Lester Allen Kirkendall of Oregon State, who has been working on sex education since 1928, decries the tendency of parents to look on sex education as "disaster insurance." The old threats of pregnancy, venereal disease and community disapproval no longer carry the weight they once did, according to Kirkendall. "Many parents still think we can revitalize these threats," he says, "but the kids don't scare any more." It would be more practical, Kirkendall thinks, to teach them contraception. The solution may not be that simple. Some psychiatrists hold that premarital pregnancy, at least, is often due to factors other than ignorance. Psychologist Dr. Rhoda Lorand cites such causes as "the desire to spite the parents, a need for a baby all her own, a desperately lonely girl seeking signs of affection."


There is a growing suspicion that too much may be expected of sex education and that the programs, no matter how sound, are asked to provide solutions to moral problems that are really part of the society. Today's adolescents, Dr. Calderone points out, are without the defenses that once shielded the young. "The adults," she says, "have allowed all the protective barriers to go down. We have done away with chaperons, supervision, rules, close family relations, and privacy from the intrusion of the communications media. We have left our children totally vulnerable to the onslaughts of the commercial exploitation of sex, tabloid reporting of sordid sexual occurrences, wholly unsupervised after-school occupations. To fill the void left by the old safeguards, youngsters must be given a bulwark of factual knowledge and orientation."

The problem of also giving them a sense of morality is either relatively uncomplicated or well-nigh impossible, depending on what one means by morality. What many designers of sex-education courses have in mind is "situation ethics." Its tenets are well expressed by Dr. Alan Guttmacher, veteran fighter for planned parenthood. "I think all we ask of our young generation," he recently told a Manhattan audience of 10th-and 12th-graders, "is a feeling of sexual responsibility. Don't enter premarital sex lightly. Enter it after deep and searching thought. If in doubt—don't. You have to make a decision on the basis of your own values. If you feel it is wrong, it would be bad for you to try it. And you must not exploit a sexual partner. This is gross immorality. Premarital sex should be entered into as a faithful episode. You choose your mate carefully and remain faithful at the time. But please, you must use effective controls. There is too much trauma in a premarital pregnancy to the girl, the boy, the parents, the unborn child."

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