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The Anaheim Debate of ’68: Part III

Part III: Implications

Opponents, however, gathered a great deal of support. Much of the public support was garnered through the Anaheim Bulletin, which clearly supported opponents to sex education. This support was seen in articles, editorials, and additional efforts by Bulletin employees. The California Citizens Committee was also a strong supporter of opponents, having earlier been formed to support Barry Goldwater’s bid for the presidency.

The debate in Anaheim continued to rage on for two years, until the end of 1969. At that time, a California law supporting sex education was repealed by the state legislature, and local elections replaced three school board seats with conservative members who opposed FLSE. These developments, coupled with the retirement of Paul Cook, spelled the end for FLSE in Anaheim. However, the memory and fallout of the controversy continues to be felt in the debate over sex education today.

Although the controversy in Anaheim was not the first such example of objection to sex education, and certainly not the last, it did mark a turning point in the depth and organization of sex education. With the increased funding for abstinence-only education, despite overwhelming evidence of it’s ineffectiveness, Anaheim continues to be relevant because it set a baseline for the expressed need for some form of sex education. Debates continue to pop up all over the country, in places as varied as Montgomery County, Maryland, to Collier County, Florida, to Park County, Wyoming.

In many ways, the struggles in Anaheim demonstrated, for the first time, the power and influence right-wing, conservative Christian groups could have in effecting policy and education. No longer were these groups seen as fringe organizations with minimal power, but they were now taken seriously as a sizable force in the debate over sex education, and beyond.

Further, the curriculum in Anaheim laid the groundwork for sex education curricula to follow, and the precursors to present-day comprehensive sex education. Progress for it’s time, the FLSE curriculum was aided in large part by the support of SIECUS, and the PTA, both organizations which to this day advocate on behalf of comprehensive sex education. Once relegated to a secondary additional subject, sex education was brought to the forefront of American education as a necessary and important part of the curriculum.

According to an NPR/Kaiser/Kennedy School poll, “the debate over whether to have sex education in American schools is over. A new poll…finds that only 7% of Americans say sex education should not be taught in schools”(Kaiser Family Foundation, 2004, p.1). As certain as this statement may be, the reality of sex education remains much more of a gray area. Sex education has evolved over the past 40 years, as advocates proposed both abstinence-only and comprehensive sex education as the appropriate answer to what both camps have identified as a crisis in American youth. However, despite the barrage of polls, curricula, demonstrations, legislation, and testimonials, the United States seems no closer to resolving the questions of what and how our children should be educated about sex and sexuality. In 1970, Mary Breasted chronicled the Anaheim debate in a brilliant ethnography entitled Oh! Sex Education. Time Magazine (Monday, August 31, 1970) concluded their assessment of Breasted’s work with a statement that, ironically enough, still rings true today. “For better or for worse, Author Breasted suggests, sex is simply no longer what the young think of when they think of morality: ‘They have other things to worry about, like the draft and the people who are ruining our water and air”.