The Atlantic

'Sex Invades the Schoolhouse'

Fifty years ago, panicked parents helped spread sex-ed programs to schools across the country, even as panicked critics mobilized to stop them.
Source: Mike Blake / Reuters

Editor’s Note: This is part of The Atlantic’s ongoing series looking back at 1968. All past articles and reader correspondence are collected here. New material will be added to that page through the end of 2018.

Earlier this month, The New York Times Magazine published “What
Teenagers Are Learning From Online Porn,” a feature that probed the frontier of sex education: a 10-hour course for high schoolers titled, “The Truth About Pornography.”

The course aims to make teens in this age of ubiquitous porn “savvier, more critical consumers of porn by examining how gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, queer sex, relationships and body images are portrayed (or, in the case of consent, not portrayed) in porn,” the Times reports. One of its creators, Emily Rothman, explained that the curriculum “is grounded in the reality that most adolescents do see porn and takes the approach that teaching them to analyze its messages is far more effective than simply wishing our children could live in a porn-free world.”

While the conversation that ensued focused on in , the story struck me as a useful point ran its own feature on the frontiers of the subject, billed as “The Truth About Sex Education” on the cover and “Sex Invades the Schoolhouse” on the page. The story documented a rapid shift in attitudes.

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