sex ed facts

It is, however, a very serious problem, how to give the needed instruction in sex hygiene in all the schools, public, private, and endowed. No one is competent to-day to lay down a fixed and final program. The programs for this subject must be experimental or tentative for many years to come. All that can be done at present is to indicate the general lines of the promising experiments on this difficult subject. Innumerable experimenters must in time work out the details with insight, patience, and skill. The general lines may, however, be laid down with a reasonable degree of confidence. They are as follows:

It is through the ample and prolonged teaching of natural history that the necessary knowledge is to be conveyed to the children, beginning at tender years with the teaching of botany, and going on to the elements of zoölogy, both subjects being taught in the most concrete manner possible with incessant illustrations indoors and out-of-doors, not during the whole school year, but at those seasons when adequate illustrations and demonstrations are most feasible and convenient. This instruction should be associated in all schools with the teaching of pure and applied geography, and in rural schools with the teaching of agriculture.

Throughout this long course of natural history instruction demonstrations of the various modes of transmitting life should frequently occur, the transmission of life being the highest and ultimate bodily function of every plant and every animal, including man. There is a great body of fresh knowledge on this subject waiting to be given to children and youth, all of it capable of demonstration through the senses, aided or unaided, and all supplying admirable training for eye and hand. Thus, all the various processes of reproducing plant-life by the division of a cell, by the creation of new independent cells, by the shooting or rooting of some part of a plant to create an independent plant, as by bulbs, tubers, or even parts of a stalk or leaf, by the union of two cells, or the fertilization of one cell by another cell,—all these processes can be made intensely interesting to a child; and such instruction can be spread through several years at appropriate seasons without ever leaving the vegetable kingdom. In flowering plants the fertilization of the embryo-sac by pollen may be illustrated in operations which the children themselves can perform. The carrying of pollen from one flower to another by insects or by the wind emphasizes the general fact that plants are fixed while animals have motion. The bi-sexual structure of plants is in itself a fascinating subject of study for children and youths; and through it all runs the thought that Nature provides elaborately and beautifully for the precious transmission of life. In later years of the school course the diverse methods of reproduction in animals will afford a long course of instruction, involving the structure and function of many different sorts of animals, and of many different kinds of reproductive organs. The innumerable devices for effecting fecundation and for feeding the embryo, and the various arrangements for feeding the young and bringing up families, afford an endless variety of interesting subjects for observation and discussion. The nesting habits of birds and their care of offspring are highly instructive and easy to exhibit. Here again the main object of study should be infinite variety and elaboration of nature’s processes for the transmission of life. These subjects, if properly taught with collecting box, scalpel, microscope, and paper and pencil, are just as pure and innocent for children under thirteen as chemistry and physics are. There is nothing sensual or unclean about them, nothing which does not tell of order, purpose, inventiveness, adaptation, coöperation, and achievement. Through much of the botanical instruction and more of the zoölogical runs the thought that the transmission of life requires two individuals of different quality. Children should be made thoroughly acquainted with this principle before any sexual emotions begin to stir in them.

Avoid venereal diseases by frankness. If strong foundations have been laid through these botanical and zoölogical studies before the age of puberty, it will not be difficult to take up in secondary schools the study of the normal functions of the human body in health, of the perturbations caused by some of the common diseases, of the sources or causes of disease, including the recognized contagions and the modes of infection, of the means of resisting disease and producing immunity, and finally of the functions of government in regard to preventive medicine and the means of promoting the public health.

Among the contagions which ought to be described and illustrated should be included the contagions of syphilis and gonorrhea, from which proceed some of the most horrible evils which afflict modern society, evils not fully known except to physicians, and by many ordinary people, particularly women, quite unsuspected. All young men and women should be well informed on these subjects before they leave their secondary schools; but from the time of entrance to secondary schools all such instruction should be given separately to girls by women and to boys by men.

Since the great majority of American children never enter the secondary schools, the general rules concerning cleanliness, diet, fresh air, and the elementary facts on sex hygiene should be stated concisely and frankly to all children just before they reach the age-limit of compulsory education.

Emphasize bodily and mental purity. All schools should teach explicitly in due season those elements of good manners and customs which have to do with health and the preservations of bodily and mental purity. They should teach habitual cleanliness of the body and particularly of the hands and face, point out the importance of this cleanliness as regards clothes, furniture and utensils, and the reasons for keeping the dwelling free from dust, dirt, insects and vermin. They should show the reasons for avoiding contact with, or close approach to, persons who are unclean or who are suffering from colds, sores, coughs, fevers, or any other illness. They should point out the dangers of losing self-control through the use, even the rare use, of alcohol or of drugs which take strong effect on the nervous system. They should discountenance rough or boisterous play between boys and girls or young men and young women, and teach each sex to avoid, in general, bodily contact with persons of the opposite sex. Delicacy and reserve are parts of good manners; but they are also highly protective qualities. On the other hand, a coarse familiarity between the sexes is not only bad manners, but a real provocation to wrong-doing, particularly when it is accompanied by an ignorance which leaves young people without protection against the love of excitement and reckless adventure. All these are elements of good manners and right habits which should be universally taught in the schools of a democracy to promote morality as well as courtesy. Some of them, but rarely all, are taught in many good homes, but for the great mass of the people the public schools inculcate them by direct teaching, and by the indirect influence of good example. To a high degree, good manners spring from and express morals. Such instruction would naturally be associated with the teaching of natural history and general hygiene.

Finally, all young people should have been taught in home, school and Sunday school, before they are liable to fall into sexual sins, that chastity in men is just as necessary as chastity in women for the security, honor and happiness of family life, that continence is absolutely healthy for both sexes, that men’s profligacy is the cause or source of women’s prostitution with all its awful consequences to the guilty parties and to the innocent human beings who are infected by the guilty, and that the most precious joys and most durable satisfactions of life are put at fearful risk by sexual immorality. Does anyone protest that this educational process will abolish innocence in young manhood and womanhood, and make matter of common talk the tenderest and most intimate concerns in human life, let him consider that virtue, not innocence, is manifestly God’s object and end for humanity, and that the only alternative for education in sex hygiene is the prolongation of the present awful wrongs and woes in the very vitals of civilization