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This history of the U.S. Public Health Service's efforts to educate Americans about sex makes clear why federally funded sex education has been haphazard, ad hoc, and often ineffectual. Since launching its first sex ed program during World War I, the Public Health Service has dominated federal sex education efforts. Alexandra M. Lord draws on medical research, news reports, This history of the U.S. Public Health Service's efforts to educate Americans about sex makes clear why federally funded sex education has been haphazard, ad hoc, and often ineffectual. Since launching its first sex ed program during World War I, the Public Health Service has dominated federal sex education efforts. Alexandra M. Lord draws on medical research, news reports, the expansive records of the Public Health Service, and interviews with former surgeons general to examine these efforts, from early initiatives through the administration of George W. Bush. Giving equal voice to many groups in America -- middle class, working class, black, white, urban, rural, Christian and non-Christian, scientist and theologian -- Lord explores how federal officials struggled to create sex education programs that balanced cultural and public health concerns. She details how the Public Health Service left an indelible mark on federally and privately funded sex education programs through partnerships and initiatives with community organizations, public schools, foundations, corporations, and religious groups. In the process, Lord explains how tensions among these organizations and local, state, and federal officials often exacerbated existing controversies about sexual behavior. She also discusses why the Public Health Service's promotional tactics sometimes inadvertently fueled public fears about the federal government's goals in promoting, or not promoting, sex education. This thoroughly documented and compelling history of the U.S. Public Health Service's involvement in sex education provides new insights into one of the most contested subjects in America.


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This history of the U.S. Public Health Service's efforts to educate Americans about sex makes clear why federally funded sex education has been haphazard, ad hoc, and often ineffectual. Since launching its first sex ed program during World War I, the Public Health Service has dominated federal sex education efforts. Alexandra M. Lord draws on medical research, news reports, This history of the U.S. Public Health Service's efforts to educate Americans about sex makes clear why federally funded sex education has been haphazard, ad hoc, and often ineffectual. Since launching its first sex ed program during World War I, the Public Health Service has dominated federal sex education efforts. Alexandra M. Lord draws on medical research, news reports, the expansive records of the Public Health Service, and interviews with former surgeons general to examine these efforts, from early initiatives through the administration of George W. Bush. Giving equal voice to many groups in America -- middle class, working class, black, white, urban, rural, Christian and non-Christian, scientist and theologian -- Lord explores how federal officials struggled to create sex education programs that balanced cultural and public health concerns. She details how the Public Health Service left an indelible mark on federally and privately funded sex education programs through partnerships and initiatives with community organizations, public schools, foundations, corporations, and religious groups. In the process, Lord explains how tensions among these organizations and local, state, and federal officials often exacerbated existing controversies about sexual behavior. She also discusses why the Public Health Service's promotional tactics sometimes inadvertently fueled public fears about the federal government's goals in promoting, or not promoting, sex education. This thoroughly documented and compelling history of the U.S. Public Health Service's involvement in sex education provides new insights into one of the most contested subjects in America.

30 review for Condom Nation: The U.S. Government's Sex Education Campaign from World War I to the Internet

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mikey B.

    The title is somewhat misleading, as this is more of a history of government sponsored sex education programs in the U.S. since the turn of the century. There were times where I felt this book vague or not explicit enough, particularly on the history before 1970. The author mentions programs sponsored by the Public Health Service, but often with little on the details of these programs. It is too general to state that the Public Health Service sponsored such and such or that the programs had not c The title is somewhat misleading, as this is more of a history of government sponsored sex education programs in the U.S. since the turn of the century. There were times where I felt this book vague or not explicit enough, particularly on the history before 1970. The author mentions programs sponsored by the Public Health Service, but often with little on the details of these programs. It is too general to state that the Public Health Service sponsored such and such or that the programs had not changed in twenty years – but we end up knowing very little of the contents. Also different states would alter the contents (censor) of various programs, but again, little is said as to which parts were being altered or expunged. Religious leaders reacted negatively to a film in 1956 called “Baby Doll”, but we are not told why they were infuriated. It is only with the appointment of Everett Koop as surgeon general that the book becomes more rounded. Even though Koop was a Biblical fundamentalist, he was able to separate science from religion. His reports on the growing AIDS epidemic - sent to all Americans via the postal service – were explicit and to the point. U.S. society does come off as prudish and fanciful with the advent of the “abstinence” programs beginning in the Reagan era – as if teenagers were to suddenly become saints. Surgeon general, Jocelyn Elders, was forced to resign because she spoke positively about masturbation during a speech in 1994. Contrast this with the leader of Thailand who was openly distributing condoms during the 1990’s. One can imagine the controversy if an American President, or for that matter the current Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were to do the same!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lani

    When buying a book from a university press, you sort of assume the worst. The topic might be interesting, but the writing will be dry and academic. Fortunately, that was not the case with this one. Alexandra Lord tracks the history of sex ed in the US over the last 100(ish) years. What's most startling is how repetitive the chapters turn out to be. That's not a knock on the writing, Lord keeps it pretty compelling and interesting, but it DOES say something about the way we haven't learned from ou When buying a book from a university press, you sort of assume the worst. The topic might be interesting, but the writing will be dry and academic. Fortunately, that was not the case with this one. Alexandra Lord tracks the history of sex ed in the US over the last 100(ish) years. What's most startling is how repetitive the chapters turn out to be. That's not a knock on the writing, Lord keeps it pretty compelling and interesting, but it DOES say something about the way we haven't learned from our past. The book includes a few illustrations in each chapter - largely 'propaganda' style ads that show the change in attitudes over the years. It's organized essentially by decade/era and I found it surprising how little the statistics changed over the years even as funding ebbed and flowed. I particularly enjoyed the later chapters as they began to address politics I am more familiar with and issues I've encountered myself. However the description of the state of sex ed while I was going through middle school and high school made me VERY grateful for the district I attended. I've never been subjected to abstinence-only sex ed, nor were we ever explicitly given negative impressions of homosexuality. I'm stunned by the way abstinence-only programs have spread and how ignorant that leaves kids.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    This book is informative, but slogging through it made me feel like I was back in law school reading dry government reports. The chronological organization, while easy to follow, makes the book seem repetitive at times and results in some awkward jumps between chapters and “eras” of sex education. There are many social and political issues touched on only briefly, which is to the book’s detriment – I would love to see what a social scientist would do with this material, because I think it would This book is informative, but slogging through it made me feel like I was back in law school reading dry government reports. The chronological organization, while easy to follow, makes the book seem repetitive at times and results in some awkward jumps between chapters and “eras” of sex education. There are many social and political issues touched on only briefly, which is to the book’s detriment – I would love to see what a social scientist would do with this material, because I think it would be a phenomenal read. I’m glad I read this book, but, honestly, I’m even happier to be done with it. Quasi-recommended. Finally, I have to give props to Publishers Weekly for a spot-on review: “By slogging through a chronological account of sex education, she skips over the opportunity to consider why Americans have had such trouble talking not just about sex education, but about sex itself, and how that unease is at the core of this country's ambivalence over aggressive and candid programs promoting sex education for teenagers. The book functions, at best, as a desk reference, a year by year catalogue of government policy, rather than a substantive discussion of the modern history of American sex education.”

  4. 5 out of 5

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  5. 5 out of 5

    Juliana

  6. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Endsley

  7. 4 out of 5

    Melissa Turner

  8. 5 out of 5

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  9. 5 out of 5

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  10. 4 out of 5

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  11. 5 out of 5

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  12. 4 out of 5

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  13. 4 out of 5

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  14. 5 out of 5

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  15. 5 out of 5

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  16. 4 out of 5

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  17. 4 out of 5

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  18. 5 out of 5

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  19. 4 out of 5

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  20. 4 out of 5

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  21. 4 out of 5

    Casey

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie Neilson

  23. 5 out of 5

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  24. 5 out of 5

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  25. 5 out of 5

    Audacia Ray

  26. 4 out of 5

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  27. 5 out of 5

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  28. 5 out of 5

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  29. 5 out of 5

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  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam Foley

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