Straight talk about sex

October 22, 1991|By New York Times

MORE THAN a million teen-agers get pregnant every year. Sexually transmitted diseases are commonplace.

And the majority of Americans between 20 and 29 who have AIDS now were almost certainly infected in adolescence.

Educating children about sexuality and its implications is, quite literally, vital to their future.

Most parents support sex education. But the gap between what they want and what schools deliver is wide, mainly because there's no agreement on what the curriculum should contain.

The Sex Information and Education Council of the United States has now published guidelines that could lead to a consensus.

The work of a task force that includes representatives from the Federal Centers for Disease Control, the American Medical Association and the National Education Association, it involves six key concepts: human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behavior, sexual health, and society and culture.

Aspects of each concept would be discussed at each of four stages of development, starting at age 5 and ending at 18.

A 5-year-old, for instance, would be told that everyone is born a boy or a girl; a 16-year-old, that sexual orientation is determined by a person's attractions, fantasies and behavior.

People will differ about the right ages to introduce some subjects. But even noisy differences are preferable to no dialogue at all.

What kids plainly need is straight talk about sex.

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