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Sex, education experts discuss the ‘when’ and ‘how’ of sex ed




A visitor to the Senior HIV Intervention Project booth gathers condoms and literature May 21, 2004 during a health fair in Plantation, Florida.
A visitor to the Senior HIV Intervention Project booth gathers condoms and literature May 21, 2004 during a health fair in Plantation, Florida.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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Parents often question when the right time or what the right way is to teach their kids about sexuality, and while the reality is that the answer varies based on the individual, there is still the question of when schools should start teaching sex ed, what they’re teaching, and a new question that may arise if a rewrite of No Child Left Behind is signed into law: How much are schools telling us about how they teach our kids?

Last Thursday, the U.S. Senate quietly passed a revamp of the controversial education law, and included in the 600-page rewrite of the bill is a measure that would force high schools to report the way they teach kids about relationships. It would also mean reporting how they teach kids about what consent is and how to avoid being coerced. Sex education has always been a touchy topic for public school systems, and while experts say the K-12 years are the perfect time to begin sex education, parents others worry that teaching about ways to properly condone sex is impossible without implying that casual sex is acceptable.

How early is too early to begin sex education? Should kids also be learning the right way to consent to sex, and what it means have a consensual encounter? Does teaching safe ways to say yes imply that casual sex is OK?

Guests:

Jonathan Zimmerman, professor of history of education and Director of the History of Education Program at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. His latest book is “Too Hot To Handle: A Global History of Sex Education” (Princeton University Press, 2015).

Elizabeth Schroeder, international sex education expert and founder of Elizabeth Schroeder Consulting, which helps adults teach young people about sexuality.