The historic NEA position on sex education
By Michael P. Farris
Sex education is one of the ever - boiling areas of controversy which have engulfed our nation's public schools. Public school efforts to provide what many parents perceive as amoral “how - to - do - it” courses have factored significantly in many families’ decisions to opt for private or home schooling. It would seem indisputable that there is a positive correlation between the number of homeschooling students in a community and the degree of explicitness in public school sex ed lessons.
We have been told in recent years by the NEA and other establishment types that if we have more sex ed, we will have fewer teenage pregnancies, abortions, and venereal disease. Statistics, of course, show that the trend is exactly the reverse of such predictions.
As a homeschooling advocate, I have a certain amount of “reverse joy” when public schools engage in irresponsible conduct such as passing out free condoms in a sex ed class. The certain consequence of such action is to create an atmosphere where more and more parents will choose homeschooling. However, for the good of the students presently in the public schools, I am, of course, saddened by such irresponsibility.
Perhaps we need to look at the historic position of the National Education Association. There was a time when the NEA was a professional society for professional educators, but in time it has grown to be nothing more than a militant lobby for teachers. My father, a public school elementary principal, was expelled from the NEA because he was “management,” and the NEA represented only labor. So much for mere concern by professional educators.
Back in the days of Ozzie and Harriet, when the national sex life was not conducive to the creation of an epidemic like AIDS, the NEA published a book on sex education entitled Parents’ Privilege. This 1960 publication stated its thesis quite succinctly:
Many people think of sex education as a task, and they refer to “the parents’ job,” or the “job of the school.” Actually, sex education is the parents’ privilege.
This NEA booklet not only encourages the parent to be the source of sex education, but it encourages moderation in the revealing of factual material.
Many parents will say, “I want my child to know EVERYTHING!” Facts, like certain foods, are good in moderation and in combination with other needed elements.
The theme of parental control is again emphasized in this regard with the NEA's declaration,
Fathers and mothers are the best judge of how much information to give their own children.
One of the reasons that the NEA apparently believed that sex education belonged at home was that they recognized that there is a “place [for] religion in sex education.” The NEA said,
Many questions that children ask about sex can be answered constructively in a religious framework. Some fathers and mothers preface all explanations of birth with the statement that God made it possible for mothers and fathers to have babies.
The NEA believed in promoting “faithfulness to a marriage partner and to carry responsibility in parenthood.” The professional educators encouraged parents to incorporate their religious views of sex into teaching, saying,
Parents can lay the foundation of a successful marriage for their children only if they interpret sex education as more than factual content about physiology.
The NEA has sure come a long way since 1960—a long way down. The “back to basics” movement in education ought to take up the banner to get the schools out of the sex - ed business and return the job it its rightful place as a Parent”s Privilege, as the NEA so appropriately called it in 1960.
Michael P. Farris