Touchy subject: the history and philosophy of sex education

London: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Lisa M. F. Andersen (2022)
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In the United States, sex education is more than just an uncomfortable rite of passage, it's an amorphous curriculum that varies widely based on the politics, experience, resources, and biases of the people teaching it. Most often, it's a train wreck, overemphasizing or underemphasizing STIs, teen pregnancy, abstinence, and consent. In Touchy Subject, philosopher Lauren Bialystok and historian Lisa M. F. Andersen make the case for thoughtful sex education, explaining why it's worth fighting for and which kind most deserves our fight, despite all the inconveniences and compromises along the way. They argue that democratic and humanistic aims can be used to provide the tools to reason about the content and form of sex education. In practice, this amounts to a curriculum that meets what are currently considered highly comprehensive standards, incorporates ethics and civics education, and substantially modifies some aspects of teacher training and school design; it also assigns different responsibilities to different actors inside and outside schools, and it responds to the salient features of young people's evolving worlds, including the inequities that put some students at much higher risk of sexual harm than others. Throughout their inquiry, the authors show the reader how sex education has progressed and how the very concept of "progress" remains contestable.



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Lauren Bialystok
University of Toronto, St. George Campus (PhD)

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