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“We Can't Let Chicago Outdo Us, Can We?” Sex Education and Desegregation in New York City's Public Schools

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Kurt Conklin
Affiliation:
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), New York, NY; e-mail: kconklin@siecus.org
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Extract

Faced with demands for racial desegregation of its public schools, and grasping at half measures to appear responsive, New York City's Board of Education took action in 1967 by ending medical discharges for unwed pregnant students and authorizing the curriculum “Family Living, Including Sex Education.” Approving sex education in part to avoid action on school desegregation, Gotham's school board relied on a resolution written by a parent advocacy group in 1939—a resolution the 1939 school board had rejected following months of debate on the merits of providing instruction on mammalian reproduction for junior high biology students. By the time the Board of Education revisited the issue of sex education in the 1960s, popular understanding of sexuality and sex education had changed considerably. Yet the resolution supporting sex education, submitted by the city's United Parents' Associations (UPA), had not changed at all.

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Copyright © 2013 History of Education Society 

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References

1 Public Education Association (PEA), letter to Lloyd Garrison, President, New York City Board of Education, 29 March 1966, New York City Municipal Archives, Board of Education (NYCMA-BOE), papers of Rose Shapiro (Series 385, Subseries C, Box 4, folder 41).

2 “United Parents’ Associations Resolution on Sex Education Instruction in the Public Schools,” reaffirmed 6 February 1967, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 115, document 16).

3 Flast, Florence, President, United Parents’ Associations (UPA), memorandum to Board of Education members, 1 March 1967, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 117).

4 In 1914, Schools Superintendent Maxwell, William H. dismissed calls for school-based sex instruction on the grounds that it was a parental responsibility and that resource-poor New York City schools lacked teachers adequately prepared to cover the subject. See Maxwell, “On a Certain Arrogance in Educational Theorists,” Educational Review 47 (February 1914): 686–94.

5 On changes in the meaning of “sex education” in America's public schools over the decades, see Jeffrey Moran, P., “'Modernism Gone Mad': Sex Education Comes to Chicago, 1913,” Journal of American History 83, no. 2 (September 1996): 481513; Moran, Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000); Bashford, Alison, “Public Pedagogy: Sex Education and Mass Communication in the Mid-Twentieth Century,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 13, no. 1 (2004): 71–99; Irvine, Janice M., Talk About Sex: The Battles Over Sex Education in the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002); Luker, Kristin, When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sexand Sex Education—Since the Sixties (New York: Norton, W.W., 2006); Natalia Mehlman, “Sex Ed… and the Reds? Reconsidering the Anaheim Battle Over Sex Education, 1962–1969,” History of Education Quarterly 47, no. 2 (2007): 203–32; Penland, Lynn R., “Sex Education in 1900, 1940 and 1980,” Journal of School Health 51, no. 4 (1981): 305–09; Rury, John L., “‘We Teach the Girl Repression, the Boy Expression’: Sexuality, Sex Equity, and Education in Historical Perspective,” Peabody Journal of Education 64, no. 4 (1987): 44–58; Scales, Peter, “Historical Review of Sex Education Efforts and Barriers,” in Facilitating Community Support for Sex Education, Centers for Disease Control, Final Report (Bethesda, MD: U.S. Centers for Disease Control, 1981); Zimmerman, Jonathan, Whose America? Culture Wars in the Public Schools (Cambridge, MA; Harvard University Press, 2002); Maw, Wallace H., “Fifty Years of Sex Education in the Public Schools of the United States (1900–1950): A History of Ideas” (PhD dissertation, University of Cincinnati, 1953); Randell, James, “The Evolution of Sex Education in the Public Schools of the United States, 1900–1970” (PhD dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1972); Shah, Courtney Q., “This Loathsome Subject: Sex Education in Progressive-Era America” (PhD dissertation, University of Houston, 2006); Somerville, Rose M., “Family Life and Sex Education in the Turbulent Sixties,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 33, no. 1 (February 1971): 11–35.

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13 15 Druggists Freed in Geoghan Drive,” New York Times, 25 June 1937, 7.

14 Lindlof, Johanna of Queens had been a kindergarten teacher for over 25 years at the time of her appointment. “Honored, Mrs. Lindlof,” New York Times, 13 June 1943, 47.

15 Buck, Ellsworth of Staten Island made his fortune in the chewing gum business, and would go on to represent his borough in Congress as a Republican in the 1940s.

16 Sex Education Urged in City High Schools: Officials Also Suggest Regular Physical Examinations by Specially Qualified Doctors,” New York Times, 18 May 1937, 25.

17 School Heads Split on Sex Education: Syllabus Skirting. Subject is Rejected by Committee,” New York Times, 4 November 1938, 25; Board of Education Journal (New York: Board of Education, City of New York, 1938), November, 2468.

18 Minutes of the Board of Superintendents (New York: Board of Education, City of New York, 1938), May, 412; Board of Education Journal, 1938, November, 2468; Minutes of the Board of Superintendents, 1938, October, 721–22 and 760–61; “School Heads Split…”, New York Times.

19 Board of Education Journal, 1938, November, 2469–70.

20 Sex Study Taboo in Junior High Schools: School Board Votes 5 to 2 to Accept Syllabus that Stops with Bees and Birds,” New York Times, 10 November 1938, 29.

21 Buck even took his case to a national readership of at least 50,000. See Buck, Ellsworth B., “Our Public Schools and Sex,” American Mercury Magazine 47 (May 1939): 3036.

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24 Catholics Urged to Shun Sex Talks,” New York Times, 25 December 1942.

25 Ibid.

26 Shapiro was vice president of the PEA at the time of her appointment to the Board of Education in February 1963. See “Heads Parents’ Group,” New York Times, 6 May 1941, 44; “Nominated by Parents Group,” New York Times, 23 March 1948, 28; “Education and Welfare,” New York Times, 1 April 1963, 33.

27 Shapiro, , “The First Twenty-Five Years of U.P.A.”

28 Komarovsky, Mirra, “What Do Young People Want in a Marriage Partner?” Journal of Social Hygiene 32, no. 9 (December 1946): 686–94; Calderone, Mary S., “Opening Session,” in Sex Education and the Schools, ed. Hilu, Virginia (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 5.

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35 Ibid.

36 Rev. Unsworth, Richard P., “Fifth Session,” in Sex Education and the Schools, 88. The seminal analysis of Playboy magazine in relation to American society probably remains Barbara Ehrenreich's, The Hearts of Men: American Dreams and the Flight from Commitment (Garden City, NY: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1983). For a recent reassessment of the Playboy philosophy and gender politics, see Carrie Pitzulo, “The Battle in Every Man's Bed: Playboy and the Fiery Feminists,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 17, no. 2 (May 2008): 686–94.

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39 Morals: The Second Sexual Revolution,” Time, 24 January 1964, 57; “The Morals Revolution on the U.S. Campus,” Newsweek, 6 April 1964, 52–53.

40 Early-Age Courses on Sex Are Favored,” New York Times, 11 October 1964, 41.

41 See Moran, , Teaching Sex, 160–67.

42 The Family Coordinator: Journal of Education, Counseling, and Services, 1968, vol. 17, no. 1,155.

43 Schools Are Chided by Priest on Lags in Sex Education,” New York Times, 15 February 1966.

44 Rosenwaike, , Population History of New York City. Also see Freeman, , Working Class New York: “Freedom Now” (chapter 6) gives a detailed description of the black and Puerto Rican influx and its impact on working class politics and organized labor in New York City.

45 See Woods, Clyde A., “The Enclosure Movement” (chapter 6) and “The Green Revolution” (chapter 7) in Development Arrested: The Blues and Plantation Power in the Mississippi Delta (London: Verso, 1998); Morales, Julio, Puerto Rican Poverty and Migration: We Just Had to Try Elsewhere (New York: Praeger, 1986).

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46 See Ravitch, , The Great School Wars. “The Discovery of Segregation and Scandals” (chapter 23) provides more on the Board response to desegregation demands. The Teachers’ Union, although banned from the school system since 1951 for its Communist affiliations, vocalized teacher demands for administrative action to desegregate.

47 Biondi, Martha, To Stand and Fight: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Postwar New York City (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), 112.

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48 Ibid., 242–47.

49 Ibid., 248.

50 Ibid., 165.

51 For more on the Black Power movement and it origins in postwar America, see Peniel, E. Joseph's Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2006). Mobilization for Youth, a fierce critic of the schools, was said by the New York Times to be “supported by the Ford Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the President's Committee on Delinquency and Youth Crime and the City Government.” “Hearing is Planned on Youth Program,” New York Times, 3 February 1964, 17. See also Rogers, 110 Livingston Street, 386–88.

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52 For more on Great Society programs affecting the schools, see Spring, Joel, “The War on Poverty” (chapter 5) in The Sorting Machine Revisited: National Education Policy Since 1945 (New York: Longman, 1989).

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53 Powledge, Fred, “City's Antipoverty Drive Approaches Action Stage,” New York Times, 11 May 1965, 1.

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54 Rogers, , 110 Livingston Street, 370–71.

55 For additional examples of Galamison's role as a community organizer see Taylor, Knocking at Our Own Door, Freeman, , Working Class New York, 186, 281; Ravitch, , The Great School Wars, 261–79; Cannato, , The Ungovernable City, 281 and 320–33.

56 Galamison Group Pickets 9 Homes,” New York Times, 11 January 1965, 28.

57 Rogers, , 110 Livingston Street, 227.

58 The sustained agitation of the Public Education Association was echoed in letters and calls from the American Social Health Association, the Community Service Society of New York, the Maternity Center Association, the Women's City Club of New York, and neighborhood-based settlement-house programs such as Inwood House.

59 PEA, letter to Garrison, Lloyd, President, New York City Board of Education, 29 March 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Series 385, Subseries C, Box 4, folder 41).

60 PEA, letter to Shapiro, Rose, 2 February 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 4, folder 41).

61 Ibid.

62 Lloyd, Helene M., Acting Deputy Superintendent of Schools, Memorandum: “Project: Services to School-Age Unwed Mothers,” 5 January 1967, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 4, folder 41).

63 Lindsay, John took office in January 1966. Cannato says, “In contrast to Mayor Wagner (Lindsay) wanted to break up the power of the Board of Education and its bureaucracy and bring more control to local groups.” The Ungovernable City, 275.

64 Memorandum, “Minutes of Informal Meeting of Board of Education,” 10 May 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 4, folder 41).

65 Loretan, J. O. Dies; Schools Official,” New York Times, 2 August 1966, 26.

66 According to Ravitch, , the trend started in 1961 with a system-wide drop in third-grade reading scores. By 1966, one in five students had fallen two years behind grade-level reading standards. The Great School Wars, 263 and 309.

67 Buder, Leonard, “Schools Will End Group I.Q. Testing,” New York Times, 3 March 1964, 37; “J. O. Loretan Dies.”

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69 Loretan, Joseph, letter to Rose Shapiro, 29 April 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 4, folder 41). In 1948, the film was said by its maker, Albert, Eddie Productions, to be “doing nicely all around the country.” See “Random Notes about People and Pictures,” New York Times, 7 November 1948, x5.

70 Shapiro, Rose, Memo to all Board of Education members, Superintendent Bernard Donovan, and Deputy Superintendent Joseph Loretan, 29 June 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 4, folder 41). The clipping was “Schools Helping Unwed Mothers with Education,” Chicago Tribune, 3 June 1966, page unknown.

71 Shapiro, Rose, Memo to all Board of Education members and Superintendent Bernard Donovan, 8 June 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 116).

72 Ibid.

73 “Summary Report: Lenox Hill Hospital/Teachers College Sex Education Program for Grammar School and 7th Graders,” NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 117).

74 Home Living: Intermediate Schools Task Force Report, Preliminary Curriculum Guide,” September 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 116).

75 Manhattan schools 44, 70, 88, 117, and 201; Brooklyn schools 49, 218, 246; Bronx school 49; Queens schools 8, 59, 61, 126, 145. No Staten Island schools were included for the pilot plan.

76 “Home Living: Intermediate Schools Task Force Report, Preliminary Curriculum Guide.”

77 Emphasis added. Excerpt from Mead, Mary, “The Changing American Family,” Children, September–October 1963, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 116).

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78 Lloyd, Helene M., Acting Deputy Superintendent of Schools (in place of Joseph Loretan), Memorandum to Cyesis meeting participants, from 30 December 1966, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 4, folder 41).

79 Currivan, Gene, “Catholics Weigh Education in Sex,” New York Times, 10 February 1967, 39.

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80 McLaughlin, John, “Education in Human Sexuality—Two Catholic Programs,” America 121, no. 17 (22 November 1969).

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81 “Pregnant Girls Earn Diplomas,” New York Times, 18 December 1966, 67.

82 Display Ad 249, “Is She Ready for the Birds and Bees?”, New York Times, 21 February 1967, 94.

83 Roland, Charles, “Parents Ask for Sex Education in Schools,” New York World Journal Tribune, 3 March 1967, 39. NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 115). The newspaper cited here was the final and short-lived incarnation of the New York Herald Tribune, which had merged with the Journal-American and the World Telegram and Sun.

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84 Currivan, Gene, “Schools to Offer Education on Sex,” New York Times, 15 April 1967, 33.

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86 Buder, Leonard, “Earlier Courses on Sex Suggested,” New York Times, 21 April 1967, 50.

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87 19 April 1967 Statement from the PEA to the NYC Board of Education, NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 115).

88 Roster, , “Family Living Project” advisory committee invitation list, n.d., NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 115). Of the 87 people to be invited, nearly half were employees of the public school system such as Edward Bernard, Director of the Bureau of Audio-Visual Instruction. Outsiders included Shanker, Albert, president of the United Federation of Teachers and representatives of the Puerto Rican Forum and the NAACP. Absent from the list are professionals affiliated with the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or the local Planned Parenthood affiliate, all of which were based in New York City.

89 Ultimately 166 of the city's 700–plus public schools signed on to pilot the sex education curriculum. Training began in Fall 1967 with a planned rollout in Fall 1968, but the storied teacher strikes of 1967–1968 delayed implementation further. The first evaluations of the curriculum's impact appeared in 1969. See “Family Living, Including Sex Education: Interim Report” (The Public Schools of New York City Staff Bulletin, 7 April 1969), NYCMA-BOE, papers of Rose Shapiro (Box 7, folder 119).

90 Moran, , Teaching Sex, 35.

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