An informative, occasionally dry account of the attempts to educate the world about human sexual relations.



A chronological narrative of sex education around the world.

Using extensive research backed by an impressive notes section, Zimmerman (Innocents Abroad: American Teachers in the American Century, 2009, etc.) untangles the complex history of how and why sex education was first introduced as a specific subject to be taught in schools and its subsequent rise and fall as a teachable course over the past 100 years. First proposed in the 1920s as an attempt to stem prostitution and venereal disease, sex education in Western schools used "models and metaphors from the animal world" to "communicate the ‘facts of life’ while simultaneously discouraging human sexual activity outside of marriage." Globally, however, this taboo subject was rejected by those with Catholic backgrounds and those who felt such a personal subject could be taught only within the family. Over time, the inflexibility of various nations receded, allowing students to receive sex education worldwide, although it was often disguised under "new euphemisms: social hygiene, human relations, character education, marriage and family education, or—most commonly—family life education.” Zimmerman elaborates on the push and pull of legislators, parents, religious leaders and students; most wanted basic sexual information to be disseminated without actually encouraging sexual activity or promiscuity. The narrative covers the time frame of the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s, the discovery of HIV/AIDS, which prompted renewed efforts to explain the sexual activities of humans, and the problems teachers faced as they juggled the need to teach this controversial subject with their own lack of knowledge and the desires of parents who did or did not want their children to learn the details from someone outside the family. Zimmerman's coverage includes the tactics of the United States, European countries, New Zealand, China and Japan, as they've all tried to maintain a delicate balance of providing just enough information without revealing too much.

An informative, occasionally dry account of the attempts to educate the world about human sexual relations.

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-691-14310-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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