When the Right Helps to Write the Sex Education Curriculum


Under the standard stereotype, liberals produce the sex ed curriculum and conservatives get alarmed at the things their kids are learning. But in many states today it's the right that's dictating much of the contents of those classes and it's the left that's getting unnerved. Salon staffer Tracy Clark-Flory, for example, is distressed at

a Tennessee bill that has the usual aim of abstinence initiatives—to "exclusively and emphatically" promote abstinence until marriage. But the bill ultimately goes above and beyond the usual. It allows parents to seek damages in court if a teacher "promotes gateway sexual activity" to their child. It's unclear what exactly "gateway sexual activity" is because the measure defines it vaguely as "sexual contact encouraging an individual to engage in a non-abstinent behavior." Critics of the bill have suggested that this could include everything from hand holding to french kissing. The bill also proscribes "implicitly" promoting or "condoning" gateway sexual activity…

Utah and Wisconsin bills share a focus on STIs and unwanted pregnancy as the inevitable result of premarital sex. The Utah measure requires that human sexuality classes underscore "the importance of abstinence from all sexual activity before marriage and fidelity after marriage as the only sure methods for preventing certain communicable diseases." The Wisconsin initiative mandates that human sexuality classes "promote abstinence and marriage over contraception" and "emphasize that abstinence is the only reliable way to prevent pregnancy and avoid sexually transmitted infections" (which is patently false).

Apparently, public institutions created with one set of values in mind can be captured by people with a different set of values. You may want to bear this in mind the next time you find yourself creating a public institution.

Elsewhere in Reason: Ralph Raico predicted way back in 1974 that sex education would take a turn to the right.