thumbnail of Behind the Classroom Door; 14
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
The topic on this week's Behind the classroom door from northern Illinois University's College of Education is sex education at our schools. Here's the moderator Dean Robert after top. I suppose that sex education has been worrying the schools for 30 years. Seems to me that the schools have always felt that there was a need for sex education. Many parents have felt likewise. However it's been an area of extreme controversy largely because of the of the booze of the restrictions and the secrecy about sex education. But I can remember 20 or 30 years ago the state of Oregon developed what was a remarkable teaching film about sex education that could be used in the schools. Dean Fox and Dr Nelson both of you have had a lot of experience in the public schools at various levels and I know that you
have opinions about this. What do you think about sex education as we approach it today it seems to be coming up again for attention. Well again top there are certain statistical aspects of modern day marriages that are most alarming. About 40 percent of the girls and 20 percent of the boys are merely teenagers. There is considerable worry about this because at the same time when you're you know disease is increasing among teenagers tremendously. I would say that this indicates without a doubt that there must be something done about sex education. Pardon me Dr. Nelson but is there any evidence indicating that schools having sex education programs decrease the number of. I know what mothers or decrease the incidence of venereal disease. Well this would seem to me would be hard to determine. Have you any statistics on this.
Dr Nelson Well again Tom No I don't and Dean Fox that the point is that programs that sex education have been so limited in our public schools that I'm sure that would be very difficult to decide this. But what is why there is such a growing and crying need for sex education in the schools would seem to me this would be very difficult to research because you would have to be almost impossible to have controlled groups carrying over a historical period. But it's very obvious that what used to be considered a family responsibility the education of young people with regard to heterosexual relations. Never was done very well and perhaps it is being done less well today. I wonder what is sex education Dr Nelson what what what do we include when we talk about sex education in schools.
Well really it seems like there are two main functions one is the VI the physical one is the physical aspects of sex education and the other one is what fits in with the social mores of the community and the nation. Those two items are can be done best I'm sure in the home and in the school. Unfortunately all the research shows that in most cases the home does not begin to take care of its function and sex education the way it should. There was a time when it was very controversial to even consider giving sex education in the schools I suppose. Some parents who were doing the job well in the home felt that this was something that should be handled by father and mother. And yet the schools provide the only vehicle for a provider giving this kind of education to young people and we recognize that the need is very great. There are some major differences of course between boys and
girls and their rate of maturation. All of us have had the experience of working in junior high schools and noting that the girls are much more mature than the boys tend to be interested in boys and boys tend to be interested in baseball but our culture has made this a very complex subject hasn't secrecy the problems surrounding sex at the adult level as well as at the teenage level. Our research shows that one fourth of the older high school students complained about their parents not only being afraid of discussing sex with them but of not mentioning at all apparently. And the students also stated that their parents gave them information too late or not enough. So it looks like this school at the home even though it's an important part of the program is not carrying out its duties. So it looks like the school will have to do it.
There seems to be no other way that it can be done. They also found out that 90 percent of the teenage boys reported they had received their first information about sex from their peers. You know this would be true of other children right hating children along the way of superstition and false ideas. This is correct. That's back to my original question though Bob I wonder when we talk about sex education are we talking about merely a program of information. Is it to give information about sex. Or are we trying to develop a total program perhaps from kindergarten through the 12th grade. That's what we're trying to do an even before kindergarten Neen Fox they're going to be questions come up in the home that the parents must answer. And fortunately according to several of the authorities there are there is some good material available now that
parents can use. They can find and know how to answer their youngsters. It's one of the things I don't understand is why do we have all this difficulty about a natural function. Seems to me that sex education should be carried it carried on naturally in the home almost daily as questions come up and are answered frankly in a straightforward way by the parents. It's just that we have developed an artificial attitude toward this particular human function and of course it's one of the strongest drives. And surely it's equal to food you remember the old rat studies where they compared the sex drive with the drive for food or water and they found that the sex drive was a stronger stronger in some circumstances. So here we have this tremendous important wonderful drive that gives so much meaning to life and we ignore it or we avoid it or we give misinformation we fail to handle it the way we do other
natural functions. I think it should start early in life. But don't parents relate. Sex education or sex talk with children to their own moral backgrounds and their own emotional concepts about it for house and I think it. That's why I asked originally when Dr Nelson indicated the number of unwed mothers increasing the amount of venereal disease increasing if perhaps the approach isn't negative. And the same way that you may actually tune out a child by giving a negative response. I sometimes think that when you hear parents request that we include sex education in the schools they're doing it for the wrong purposes. We take a negative approach. We want sex education because there are a number of junior high school girls or girls in senior high school who have become pregnant or venereal disease among adolescents is on
the increase. And that to me would not be solved by sex education. I don't have the statistics but I doubt very much that schools including information about sex education actually do much to solve negative problems. Course in the broadest sense being foxed sex is is something that undergirds all of our efforts. It is fundamental to the family. It is fundamental really to ones seeking to earn a living. It is fundamental to the enjoyment of life. And your point that we should not be viewing this as being approached only from the negative aspect of prevention is a good one. I think that children ought to learn very early that sex and its impact on the marriage and family and society and one's human endeavors is
wonderful and motivational. And yet we're all so tied up with all of our emotional concepts about sex particularly parents I believe that's why I like Dr. Ruth called erroneous approach. She's an M.D. and serving as chairman of what is called seek as or sex information counsel. And her approach is that sex education is an emotional and mental development. It continues from the moment of birth until the end of life and through which the school has as its function to develop sexuality as a part of a student's total personality. Now there is as sex role the proper role of the boy in our society the proper role of the girl in our society. And I know where it's what she's interested in is the heterosexual relationship. Well you know Dean Fox the reason that parents don't like to talk about sex
with their youngsters. The reasons are varied. One of them is they don't know what to say. The second thing is they don't know when to start saying it. They don't know what age and you should do it the minute the child asks the question. That's the time. How much should you tell him then. Just answer the question don't go into an elaborate explanation of it. Parents think that young people talk too much about sex or as a result they feel that we don't want to talk about it. They are unable to break down their own inhibitions and reserves as you as you have said Dean Dobbs. But I like to make this point very strongly that when parents are capable of discussing sex openly with their children and willing to do so. It contributes directly to the emotional maturity of these children and eventually to their marital happiness. Well I think that parents really demonstrate by their relationships with each
other a real association of love and respect and basically sex is involved in this and thereby teach children that marriage is great and that sex is fundamental and that it is clean and good. And I think some of the concern that has arisen about sex education in the schools has been some individuals have questioned whether teachers in general are capable of teaching and preparing for instruction and discussion in sex how to find this Dr Nelson and in your experience it's very difficult for a teacher to talk about a program on sex education and the adult who is to be successful and teaching sex to the adolescent must meet certain qualifications. He should begin by considering a child's developmental stage and what has gone before. The manner in which he talks is important.
He should be quiet composed objective certainly not humorous or emotional. You should use the correct cabbie Larry and make his explanation clear and relatively objective as though you were discussing any other natural human function I would think and wouldn't a teacher become used to this wouldn't a teacher sooner and later having taught sex education many times come to approach this in an impersonal way without the usual disturbance that a parent might have. Absolutely. He'd be able to do it much easier all the time and he needs good materials which are being prepared in many instances by experts and I believe that this took kind of an arrangement he can help adolescents to accept the idea that sex is normal. And to perceive their individual relationship to it. Isn't every teacher a teacher of sex education now. I
think we tend to talk about the teacher of a class and sex education or the teacher of a unit in sex education. And to me that's a place where you would do very little mainly because some students if you wait until they're adolescents may be past that stage of development in which sex education would be of great value. Others may not have arrived and it seems that every teacher has to be able to handle questions about sex as they come up in literature classes history classes music any any subject that the individual teaches. But I wonder if we end teacher education or doing anything to prepare individuals to handle the elements of sex education. Well I think that we're not we're not doing enough in this regard and actually the change of attitude on the part of adults toward sex matters. And you got to
come gradually and come as a complete change in perhaps our mores and in our in our attitudes toward sex I think this is this is going to be difficult. We made great strides however and I think there's a kind of rebellion you know of the so-called sexual freedom movement that we read about where adolescents that are rebelling so to speak from the standards of conduct that are usually acceptable in our society are saying no well sex we should indulge in at will and at any whim. And I think this this rebellion is something that is caused really by our inability to face up to the sex problem sex matters from early childhood and of course I mean FOX your point is well taken that any teacher or any parent who is approached about a question or an incident presents itself which enables some explanation to be given
should seize the opportunity. And then within the limits of his own embarrassment and surely we adults should start to control these things pretty soon explain in and out as objective a manner as possible of the nature of the incident and try to give some wholesome information. Do young people but Bob why. Why did you point out that the sex education teacher should answer these questions and never was out of humor. Seems to me that humor is a part of almost anything you teach or at least it would be for some people. And why would you want sex education comes up here we've got a very serious topic and we can't be humorous about it it seems to me we can be humorous about almost any topic and it might relieve some of the very sensitive feelings that adolescents have about raising questions concerning sex education. I'm a very firm believer in humor Dean Fox and I'm glad you mentioned that because
I wouldn't want to leave that impression at all. I think humor is fine in the classroom and certainly I'm a proponent of that. If you'll visit my glasses. But what I wanted to say was that it shouldn't be considered a funny thing that it's a serious thing that's all I mean I certainly mean that if the if the situation comes up I agree with you let's all have a laugh about it and that will relieve their tension. Well I think sometimes finding out the humor of the misinformation that people have received from the home of the storks Norreys incorrect information given reminds me of. I guess it's rather an old story but the idea where a child is supposed to write a report for class so he goes home he asked his mother where he came from and is told by the mother the stork brought you. So where did your mother come from. And a mother says well the stork brought her too. And where did the grandmother come from.
One of the stork brought her to him. So the kid goes back and writes in the report for his class. We haven't had a natural birth in our family. Yeah I know. Well there is considerable embarrassment attached to this discussion of sex by adolescence or just pre-pubertal individuals and this comes about because of the secrecy in the home and in our society. Plus the strange feelings they're finding within themselves. Any of us who have who have adolescent children know that this is a time when there is this wonderful awakening in this interest in the opposite sex and you start combing your hair and you start brushing your teeth when your peers couldn't get you to do that at all. Before those years I think that. We need to start sex education earlier and I do believe Dr Nelson that we need a formal program of sex education in a school
structured if you will as an important part of health education or social studies it can be anywhere. In addition to the natural response that named Fox has pointed out along the way but I think it ought to be introduced early don't you. What would it be like to introduce sex education and say the fourth grade level. Has anybody tried this. What is the earliest time when they think it's desirable and I think in terms of girls who enter puberty as early as 11 or 12 years of age whereas girl boys follow them a couple of years. But I'm I would like to get sex education approached just like you do digestion or anything else. We prior to the strange feelings that the young people are sensing you say which is the earliest time the authorities generally agree that the minute a youngster asks a question that's the time to answer it and this makes right before school.
So I say at least in the school areas it should be started in kindergarten but where could we try any formal program where we had units and perhaps some good films and things of this nature. I have a feeling we start too late. After after after girls particularly have started to feel leave your earnings. Boys don't understand what it's all about at that stage of the game. Fourth grade seems to be a good place as you suggested and I started in fourth grade and working on up from there especially to be sure before puberty that they're completely aware of these changes and what is going to happen to them. And then of course from there on. Believe me in high school it's nearly always too late. It's been interesting to note that schools have been relatively reluctant to initiate programs in sex education because they were worried of the about the reactions of parents who would say no we don't want this we think it's wrong. I have a feeling that many a school has
initiated sex education of late years at the request of parents. Groups of parents have petitioned and they've even had some votes taken it seems to me and I think almost any time that a community has been asked Do you want sex education provided by the schools the parents indicate that they do. But again I'd have to say that I think in some cases the parents expect too much. They expect that sex education will handle all the negative problems that are arising in the community and solve them and it will be us and I I just don't think that that's possible. But I do think any sex education program should be developed with the help of the parents and that the community will get the type of sex education program that it wants because certainly you have to consider the religious makeup of the community the level of other developments within the community. Some
programs. The one here for example that's working now a lot of the Hinsdale Medical Center through the research institute the doctor dead store really is handling it's bringing in medical physicians clinical psychologist for the children and child to go hear the children. Yes then they're developing films materials that can be used in all grades actually it would be a kindergarten through 12 program. But again incorporated as a definite regular part of the total program rather than emphasizing a single course or single unit. And the reason for it is that they believe that the material has to be developmental and a unit and so may not be developmental. Of course the less formality that's involved in sex education the better it is because as soon as it becomes formal
the teachers and the children themselves tighten up and are unable to express their feelings the way they should. I have observed some young children entering the sex education program and they approached it with great eagerness. I desired to know more I think the girls were more mature in their acceptance of this instruction than the boys but they approached it with great eagerness and anticipation. Now I also noted that many of them remarked Well that's all stuff to us. I think it was and I thought because we were trying to give information. Again sex and sex education and simply giving information can be handled in science class and I ology classes and so forth. But the area that I feel the schools are falling down in is the area of developing total sexuality of the individual so that the boy
understands what his proper role as a boy in our society is. If he tends to be somewhat smaller than the other children that he learns to accept this. If the girl was a late mature doesn't enter puberty until the other children in the class do that she doesn't develop any undue tensions about this because she realizes that even though she's a late developer that she will develop an if she understands a normal period of development. It may not cause as much anxiety for her as you have to go through to be close to children to be able to talk about these things but how important that is deemed Vioxx. People fail to realize that an individual returns his sex role. In spite of the fact that he is inherited is a male illness or is femaleness to a certain degree. He must learn to assume his sex role in our particular culture and it may be different in our culture than in another culture I think it is but I also think
that in our culture weaknesses that we have too many women teaching in the elementary school and therefore the boy especially the boy who does not have a male parent at home doesn't have the male image to identify with and that perhaps the schools can't but society needs to provide some type of a male image for these boys to identify with in their early ages. Since the elementary schools do seem to be very feminine oriented. Well I think this is true in the home now days particularly with the commuting father and child actually may not see his father because father goes to work before he does and and in the case of a young child may come home after the young child is in bed and then he plays golf on Sundays or hears a child largely in the hands of his mother as far as raring goes. And I am concerned about sexual
inversion or homosexuality as it is commonly called because I think it is increasing its either increasing or as she is coming more out into the open. Seems to me important that we have a heterosexual society and that the boy or the girl know his role and the Sumate naturally. I think this is fundamental to our marriage our family and to society in general. I think that developmental stages that a person would go through in terms of his own sexual development need to be understood and perhaps there is a town in Santa part of Lost teachers too. Dislike discussing any aspect of sex in depth with individuals. But I'd much prefer that we look at sex in a broad sense. I mean after all the three of us here today are relating to each other in terms of
sexuality. For example if a woman were added to this group of four I think the direction the conversation would be quite different. That constantly when you have groups people are relating to other members of the groups as individuals and part of the individual's makeup is a sexuality and it we need to stress the idea that there are differences between sexes. We need to respond differently to members of the opposite sexes things for example that arouse a male may now to rouse a female. And that when you talk about almost any area of sex education you have to separate this in terms of sexuality right. Well I think we can conclude by saying that sex is important and we must face it as a social problem and also an important social enrichment. And the schools should assume their proper role in providing a wholesome Brod sex
education to young people. Behind the classroom door produced by WFIU in cooperation with the College of Education at Northern Illinois University each week focuses its attention on one of the many challenging aspects of public school education. The program is moderated by Dr. Robert F. top dean of the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. Today's guest were Dr. Raymond B Fox associate dean of the College of Education at Northern. And Dr. Robert H Nelson head of the department of secondary education. Next week's topic will be understanding the adolescent. This program is distributed by the national educational radio network.
Behind the Classroom Door
Episode Number
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-wd3q1131).
Series Description
Behind the Classroom Door is a radio series from WNIU-FM about education in the United States. In each episode, faculty from the Northern Illinois University College of Education address specific issues related to public school education and operation. The program is produced in cooperation with Northern Illinois University and distributed by the National Educational Radio Network.
Media type
Embed Code
Copy and paste this HTML to include AAPB content on your blog or webpage.
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-5-14 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:54
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Behind the Classroom Door; 14,” 1969-03-17, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 3, 2024,
MLA: “Behind the Classroom Door; 14.” 1969-03-17. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 3, 2024. <>.
APA: Behind the Classroom Door; 14. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from