Alexandra M. Lord's "Condom Nation"
A former historian for the U.S. Public Health Service, Alexandra M. Lord has written a history of that body's efforts at public sex education, entitled, Condom Nation. The title of the book is cute, but perhaps undermines Lord's point which is that the U.S. has higher teen pregnancy rates than almost any developed nation. While American teens aren't having sex more than their Western European counterparts, they have a much higher rate for abortions and sexually transmitted diseases (STD's). Their rate for contraceptive usage is far lower than is found in European teens, too.
Lord explains that government-initiated sex education programs in schools have downplayed the importance of birth control, or excluded it as a topic altogether. Bill Clinton's first choice for surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, was labeled by her detractors as the "condom queen" for insisting that birth control was an important part of sex education. Elders was ousted from her position because she dared to call masturbation a "part of human sexuality." Even earlier, Ronald Reagan's surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, was attacked by right-wing Christian fundamentalists during the 1980's for telling teens that their best protection against HIV was the condom.
Americans have always feared to discuss sexual behavior with their youth. For this reason, teachers have been encouraged to urge abstinence only. The number of teachers giving abstinence-only classes rose between 1988 and 1999 from 2%-25%. Under George W. Bush's administration, these programs were increased, even though one 2007 study funded by federal funds discovered that the teens who enrolled in these programs were having just as much sex as students who were given information about contraceptives.
Millions of American tax dollars have been spent on these abstinence-only programs which reinforce gender stereotypes from days long past. In one truly egregious example, students were taught a story called, Choosing The Best. In this story, a knight slays a dragon using advice he received from a wise princess. After the dragon is slain, the knight feels shame for his reliance on a woman. For this reason, the knight then marries a local village maid, but only after he ascertains she has no knowledge of dragon-slaying. In other words, men prefer women who are ignorant about all issues, up to and including sex.
By the time President Obama had taken office, 25 states had woken up and rejected the idea of federally-funded sex education. They did so not because they don't believe in the need for sex education in schools, but to avoid teaching American children such harmful lessons.