Indoctrination by Susan K. Freeman

Susan K. Freeman is author of the new book Sex Goes to School: Girls and Sex Education before the 1960s.


Cover for Freeman: Sex Goes to School: Girls and Sex Education before the 1960s . Click for larger imageVirginity pledges and purity balls strike many of us as retro, like some kind of flashback to a bygone era. Yet whenever I learn of contemporary efforts to coerce girls to abstain from sexual activity, I’m struck by how absolutely unthinkable these entreaties would have been to mid-twentieth century sex educators. Although the people instituting sex education in the schools in the 40s and 50s were, generally speaking, believers in abstinence, they also believed in equipping students with knowledge rather than catchphrases, with choices rather than pledges. They believed in teaching young people to think and make responsible decisions, not to regurgitate pre-formulated promises to remain chaste and obedient to some external authority figure. As federally funded, abstinence-based imperatives—largely directed at girls, not boys—extend more deeply into schools and other public arenas, we need to question what’s going on. As long as the abstinence-only agenda denies the legitimacy of girls’ sexual feelings, and as long as it deprives them of their capacity for moral judgment, it bears little resemblance to education and should be called what it is: indoctrination.

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