Too Hot to Handle? Jonathan Zimmerman Q&A on the problem with sex education

A product in part of the Progressive Era’s efforts to eradicate prostitution, sex education today is more likely to take its cues from the hazards of sexting. But while sex education has always been emotionally fraught, according to Jonathan Zimmerman, author of Too Hot To Handle: A Global History of Sex Education, its opponents are not limited to the realm of evangelical ministers and Conservative pundits. What exactly is the world’s problem with sex education? Zimmerman has a terrific op-ed in today’s New York Times arguing that globalization, contrary to popular belief, has limited rather than expanded such instruction. He was recently interviewed for a piece by Jessica Lahey on the Atlantic.com, and spoke to the History News Network as well.

This week, Zimmerman took the time to sit down with Princeton University Press to shed some light on the fascinating social history of sex education, as well as his personal motivations for writing the book:

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Why did you write this book?

Jonathan Zimmerman (JZ): My mother spent her career in international family planning and sex education. So she imbued me with the standard liberal American view of the subject: the United States was “behind” other Western democracies, which provide much more extensive, honest, and effective sex education than we do. And that’s why their teen pregnancy and STD rates are so much lower, or so the story goes.

So was your Mom correct?

JZ: Not exactly. First of all, it turns out that the USA was the global pioneer of sex education rather than a laggard. Eventually, countries like Sweden and the Netherlands did develop more detailed sex education than the USA, especially on the subject of contraception. But sex education is limited in those countries by citizen and teacher resistance, just as it is here. And, more interestingly, it has a different set of goals.

How so?

JZ: In Scandinavia and Continental Europe, the stated goal of sex education is not to limit negative social consequences, but rather to help each individual determine and develop her or his own sexuality. I didn’t understand the difference until I found an exchange in the Swedish archives between an educator in Ireland (where sex education was much more like the American version) and the leader of the RFSU, Sweden’s national sex education organization. The Irish educator wanted to know how Swedish sex educators kept teen pregnancy and STD rates so low. The RFSU guy replies with a kind note that says he doesn’t know whether sex education actually influences those outcomes, because there are so many other factors that affect young people’s behavior. And then he says, that’s not the point anyway! It’s to help them lead healthy and pleasurable sexual lives.

So the Americans emphasize social consequences, and the Europeans emphasize individual rights? That sounds like a very different story than the trans-Atlantic comparative tale we usually tell, in which the Americans stress the rights of individuals and the Europeans attend to the common good.

JZ: Exactly!

And I don’t imagine you could get elected to an American school board if you were pushing for a sex-education curriculum aiming to assist each teenager in developing sexual identity and pleasure.

JZ: Probably not. But there’s plenty of resistance to that perspective in Europe now, too, especially among new immigrants Countries like Sweden and the Netherlands have witnessed an enormous burst of immigration over the past two decades, mainly from Muslim and Hindu societies in North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. And many of these newcomers are angered and offended by a sex education stressing the “right” of each adolescent individual to engage in sex, which violates their communal or religious prescriptions on the subject. They also think that school-based sex education inhibits their own right to raise their children as they see fit.

What about their countries of origin, in the developing world? What does sex education look like there?

JZ: Until the 1980s, it barely existed. But the HIV/AIDS crisis changed all of that, especially in Africa. The question became not “Should we have sex education?” but “What kind of sex education should we have?” And in Africa and Asia, not surprisingly, it more closely resembled the abstinence-only or danger-centered approach that we see in many parts of the USA.

So would it be fair to say that an American-style sex education is more “culturally appropriate”—in many parts of the developing world—than, say, the Swedish version?

JZ: Yes, and that’s one of the central ironies of my book. Many people in the West who support so-called “comprehensive” sex education also fashion themselves “multiculturalists,” stressing the importance of diversity and the need for educators to respect it. It’s hard to square that perspective with a commitment to adolescent sexual rights, which are simply anathema in many cultures. I realized that, too, when I was in the archives in Sweden, and I came across a comment by a frustrated educator who had been trying—without a lot of success–to promote his approach in the so-called Third-World. As he acknowledged, many people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America did not share his premises on the value of the individual, at least not when it came to sex. “It is hard for people to be autonomous in cultures where autonomy seems to be of such little use,” he wrote.

What about conservatives? Wasn’t there also an irony in the way they invoked their “cultural” rights and prerogatives?

JZ: Definitely! In the USA and the UK, especially, white conservatives since the 1960s have often resisted “multiculturalism” as a divisive threat to the body politic. But on sex education, they invoked their own cultural and religious rights and—increasingly—they united with ethnic and religious minorities who shared their point of view. So in the UK, for example, you see white Tories joining hands with Muslim immigrant organizations against sex education.

And these conservatives make common cause across borders, right, as more and more people move across them?

JZ: Exactly. I think many people on the Left like to imagine that “globalization”—the rapid circulation of people and ideas around the world—as a force for liberal-ization. But in the story that I tell, globalization actually inhibits the spread of sex education by allowing critics to share ideas and strategies. Sex education has been a global movement, to be sure. But the same goes for its opposition.

In the USA and elsewhere, some conservatives have resisted or rejected scientific claims regarding evolution and climate change. Isn’t the opposition to sex education an example of similar behavior?

JZ: No. We simply don’t have the same kind of scientific knowledge or consensus about sex education as we do in the realms of evolution or climatology. And part of the reason is that there is so little sex education in the first place! It’s incredibly hard to show that something so brief and haphazard affects something as complicated as sexual behavior.

So maybe it’s really a story about what schools can do, and what they can’t?

JZ: I think so. The 20th century witnessed an enormous boom in formal schooling around the world, as well as new norms of sexual expression and behavior. Sex education brought these two trends together, but the marriage never really worked out. Kids get their messages and values about sex from other institutions, especially in the mass media. Schools just don’t factor into the equation very often, or very well.

Celebrate National Grammar Day with Frank Cioffi’s One Day in the Life of the English Language

Grammar: It’s the difference between knowing your stuff and knowing you’re stuff. Some even say it saves lives (see below). If you haven’t noticed, today is National Grammar Day (March 4), so here at Princeton University Press we are celebrating good grammar, proper punctuation, and clear communication with Frank L. Cioffi’s anti-textbook handbook, One Day in the Life of the English Language: A Microcosmic Usage Handbook.

Cioffi’s chatty and charming reference doesn’t just lay out the “rules,” but also makes a convincing case for why good grammar and usage matter. Cioffi argues that Standard Written English (also known as “formal English”) is vital for success in professions where exactness and clarity carry great importance, and he also proposes that correct English can foster a more honest, ethical, and functional culture of communication.

The book draws on some three hundred real-world sentences printed in eleven newspapers and six weekly magazines and published on a single, typical day (December 29, 2008). Cioffi emphasizes that English usage is continually evolving and he debunks some of the most popular grammar “rules.” Is it acceptable to end a sentence with a preposition? It is. Can you start a sentence with a conjunction? You can. Is it “correct” to use split infinitives. Sure.

What do you think? Does “formal” English still matter in the post-Twitter world?

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Check out the introduction and let us know.

We’ve also been tweeting out #NationalGrammarDay #protips from the book today.

Happy National Grammar Day!

Photo via Brett Jordan / Flickr

Is a “starvation diet” the cure for the crisis of the humanities?

Turner_PhilologyIt may seem strange, but as James Turner argues on the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Conversations blog, the modern humanities may not be at “death’s door,” as so many commentators imply. He says that a longer view–one that extends back to ancient times–tells us that what we are seeing is a reemergence of a generalist, philological approach to the humanities. Back to Philology indeed!

Turner details the “forgotten origins of the modern humanities,” in much greater detail in his new intellectual history, Philology. You can read a free chapter here [PDF].

Listen to the dire talk around colleges and universities, read op-eds and magazines, and you might think the humanities were in greater danger than the earth’s climate. In fact, despite the overheated rhetoric, the humanities are not at death’s door. Contemporary pressures will more likely push them into a new shape, even ultimately a healthier one.

That claim might seem bizarre. The proportion of college students majoring in the humanities has sunk to an all-time low. Students have turned their backs on art history and literature in favor of studies, like accounting and nursing, that lead directly to jobs. Governors like Florida’s Rick Scott have worked to undercut fields of study not tuned closely to employment. President Obama wants education to stress science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Funds for research in disciplines like history and linguistics are drying up. Congress has already slashed the budget of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and now Rep. Paul Ryan wants to kill it.

Analysts of higher education paint a more ambiguous picture. How many years ago you start counting—either majors or research dollars—determines how gloomy the humanities numbers look. And with more and more Americans going to college only to qualify themselves for work, most time-honored fields of study have taken a hit, not just the humanities. But even at a traditional, elite institution like Stanford, majors in humanities disciplines have fallen so low as to alarm faculty members into unprecedented missionary efforts.

To see how, paradoxically, a starvation diet may rejuvenate the humanities, it helps to take a long view. First of all, the humanities disciplines familiar in American higher education today did not even exist 200 years ago. Sure, in 1814 students learned the Greek and Latin languages, but no discipline called “classics” devoted itself to ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Yes, a college president in that era was likely to lecture on moral philosophy, but the broad range of topics covered by a modern philosophy department had no place in his institution.

Continue reading at The Chronicle of Higher Education web site: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2014/06/09/yes-the-humanities-are-struggling-but-they-will-endure/

Video Lectures – A Mathematics Course for Political and Social Research

Author David A. Siegel recently released a series of video lectures to accompany the textbook A Mathematics Course for Political and Social Research, co-authored with Will H. Moore. This video course is available for free via YouTube.

First watch this introduction:

Then delve into the various lecture playlists, starting with Lecture 1, which covers preliminaries and algebra review:

In case you are looking for a video on a specific topic, these are the subjects covered in the book. The lectures follow the same order.

 

bookjacket A Mathematics Course for Political and Social ResearchWill H. Moore & David A. Siegel

June, summer, and Princeton University Press in the movies

Friends of Princeton University Press,

With June here, and summer finally upon us, our thoughts go to pleasant things—vacations, beaches, baseball, and the summer movie season.

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Princeton University Press has a special movie connection this summer–and beyond.

For starters, the soon-to-be-released documentary Ivory Tower, about the financial crisis in higher education, features prominently one of our authors, Andrew Delbanco, whose widely admired 2012 book, College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be, has been at the center of the debates over the future of higher education. Those who saw Page One, the acclaimed documentary about The New York Times and the challenges besetting newspapers, will be familiar with the work of Andrew Rossi, who made the film, Ivory Tower. Journalist Peter Coy reviews it in the current issue of Bloomberg Business Week, and mentions Andy Delbanco and our book.

Another PUP book forms the basis of the November 2014 release, The Imitation Game, the story of Alan Turing, the cryptologist who cracked the Enigma code during World War II and was later tortured for his homosexuality. The movie is based on our 2012 biography by Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing: The Enigma. The Imitation Game sports an all-star cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightly, and Charles Dance. We will be re-releasing Hodges’ biography under the title, The Imitation Game, in September. A related PUP book is Alan Turing’s Systems of Logic: The Princeton Thesis, edited in 2012 by Andrew Appel of the Princeton School of Engineering.  Our poster for The Imitation Game generated huge interest last week at Book Expo in New York.

Speaking of all-star casts, the third movie with a connection to a forthcoming PUP book is Interstellar, also to be released in November, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, and Michael Caine. The premise of Interstellar is based on the work of PUP author and Caltech theoretical physicist Kip Thorne, who is credited as a consultant and executive producer of the film. His forthcoming book, with Stanford’s Roger Blandford, is Modern Classical Physics. Kip Thorne has another PUP connection, serving as he does on the Executive Committee of the Einstein Papers Project.

See you at the movies,

Peter J Dougherty
Director

Frank Bruni hails Andrew Delbanco as the “conscience” of the new film Ivory Tower

Ivory Tower, a new documentary produced and directed by Andrew Rossi (Page One: Inside the New York Times), is scheduled for theatrical release next month. In a preview for The New York Times, Frank Bruni calls Princeton University Press author Andrew Delbanco “the conscience” of the film and cites his recent award-winning book College: What it Was, Is, and Should Be. If you are concerned with the burgeoning costs and inequality of college education in America, this book should be required reading, and we invite you to sample the introduction today.

ivory towerTHE word “crisis” pops up frequently in “Ivory Tower,” a compelling new documentary about the state of higher education in America.

It pops up in regard to the mountains of student debt. It pops up in regard to the steep drop in government funding for public universities, which have been forced to charge higher and higher tuition in response. That price increase is also a “crisis” in the estimation of one of many alarmed educators and experts on camera.

And “crisis” isn’t even their direst appellation. Andrew Delbanco, a Columbia University professor of American studies who functions as the movie’s conscience, notes an “apocalyptic dimension” to today’s discussion of college’s failings. The movie is set on verdant campuses. It’s rife with lecterns, books and graduation gowns. And yet it’s a kind of horror story.

Source: Class, Cost and College, The New York Times

Princeton University Press is proud to publish Andrew Delbanco’s book-length rumination on the past, present and future of college in America and hope you are as moved as we are by its arguments.

Watch the trailer for Ivory Tower:

What is the reality behind the race for scientific talent? Watch this EPI event with Michael Teitelbaum to find out

Also, in a related review of Michael Teitelbaum’s book Falling Behind? from Spectrum Magazine, published by the IEEE, they had this fun little quiz:

Okay, here are your choices: 1957, 1982, and 2014. Match each year to when the following statements were made:

a. “It is pretty generally realized that our country faces a serious scientific and engineering manpower shortage. We have at present about half the engineers which we need, and each year we are graduating only about half our annual needs.”

b. “Science, technology, engineering and math form the foundation of the global economy. Yet, … if educational trends continue, fewer qualified candidates will be available to support growth in these areas.”

c. “We appear to be raising a generation of Americans, many of whom lack the understanding and the skills necessary to participate fully in the technological world in which they live and work.”

To see the answers and to read their review, please visit http://spectrum.ieee.org/riskfactor/at-work/tech-careers/exposing-the-roots-of-the-perpetual-stem-crisis-

To learn more about the boom and bust cycles of STEM education, please read Falling Behind?

Congratulations to Howard Wainer for winning the 2014 AERA Division D Significant Contribution to Educational Measurement and Research Methodology Award from the American Educational Research Association

j9529[1]Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies by Howard Wainer is winner of the 2014 AERA Division D Significant Contribution to Educational Measurement and Research Methodology Award, American Educational Research Association. The award “recognizes one publication that represents a significant conceptual advancement in theory and practice of educational measurement and/or research methodology. This year’s award recognizes such a publication in the area of Quantitative Methods and Statistical Theory. The evaluation criteria are quality, originality, and potential impact.”
In their citation for the award, the commitee notes, “In his book, Wainer describes, evaluates, and illustrates complex statistical reasoning embedded in a wide range of important educational policies in ways that are easily accessible and penetrable to non-technical people. This collective work evaluates the relationship between sophisticated statistical and psychometric machinery and challenges the educational policies and practices that have far-reaching impact on our society at large. Wainer’s thought-provoking writing regarding the perils of misusing quantitative measurement outcomes represents a significant contribution that is likely to shape educational research and practice for many generations.”

New documentary Ivory Tower explores the challenges of higher education in the 21st century

Watch this:

Then read this:

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Andrew Delbanco recently attended Sundance Film Festival where he participated in a screening of Ivory Tower, a new documentary on the spiraling costs of higher education and the impact this has on students and their families. The director of the documentary is Andrew Rossi, who rose to prominence thanks to his earlier work Page One: Inside the New York Times. Delbanco is featured quite a bit in the movie which hopefully will have a greater distribution soon. In the meantime, to bone up on the challenges universities and colleges face, please check out College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be.

Diane Coyle becomes Manchester Professor

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Princeton author Diane Coyle, one of the UK’s leading economists, is to become a Professor at The University of Manchester. She will teach undergraduates at the university, give a public lecture each year and work with academic colleagues and policy makers. Diane, who is Vice Chair of the BBC Trust and a former Economics Editor of The Independent newspaper, will take on the part-time role in September 2014.

 

A Harvard PhD graduate, she runs the consultancy Enlightenment Economics.

Awarded an OBE in 2009, her books include ‘The Economics of Enoughand ‘The Soulful Science, as well as the forthcoming ‘GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History‘.

She said: “It’s a privilege for me to have this opportunity to teach undergraduates at Manchester, and I hope to offer them a distinctive perspective on economics from somebody who has been involved in the world of public policy as well as research and writing. Economics is particularly exciting and important when it engages with real world events, and I’m looking forward to debates with students as well as my new colleagues.”

Head of the University’s School of Social Sciences Professor Chris Orme said: “We are delighted that Diane has been able to accept this substantive academic appointment in Economics. Apart from the significant and important contribution to research and the wider current economic policy debates, she will also deliver her own research-informed economics teaching to undergraduates and assist us in curriculum innovation.”

 

President Emeritus William G. Bowen To Speak At Princeton University

William BowenPresident Emeritus William G. Bowen will give a talk “Academia Online: Musings” at 8 p.m. Monday Oct. 14, in McCosh Hall, Room 50, as part of the Princeton University Public Lectures Series. Bowen’s most recent book, Higher Education in the Digital Age (Princeton University Press, 2013), which examines two of the most visible and important trends in higher education today: exploding costs and the expansion of online learning, will be a topic of discussion. Bowen believes that technology has the potential to help rein in costs without negatively affecting student learning.


This event is free and open to the public. For more information, click here.

Andrew Delbanco Wins the 2013 O.L. David, Jr. Book Award

Andrew Delbanco – College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be
Winner of the 2013 O.L. Davis, Jr. Book Award, American Association for Teaching and Curriculum

Each year, the American Association for Teaching and Curriculum (AATC) acknowledges an Outstanding Book in Education.  AATC, as a recognized major society in the common fields of curriculum and teaching, selects a book that merits high praise and recognition. The award is given in recognition of scholarship that adds substantively to the body of knowledge about the practices and theories of curriculum and teaching.

“At a time when vast changes in higher education are happening, author Andrew Delbanco of Columbia University calls attention to the purpose of college education (historic origins to the present). It is a very good read.”- Chara Bohan, Committee Chair

 
College: What It Was, Is, and Should BeAs the commercialization of American higher education accelerates, more and more students are coming to college with the narrow aim of obtaining a preprofessional credential. The traditional four-year college experience–an exploratory time for students to discover their passions and test ideas and values with the help of teachers and peers–is in danger of becoming a thing of the past.

In College, prominent cultural critic Andrew Delbanco offers a trenchant defense of such an education, and warns that it is becoming a privilege reserved for the relatively rich. In arguing for what a true college education should be, he demonstrates why making it available to as many young people as possible remains central to America’s democratic promise.

In a brisk and vivid historical narrative, Delbanco explains how the idea of college arose in the colonial period from the Puritan idea of the gathered church, how it struggled to survive in the nineteenth century in the shadow of the new research universities, and how, in the twentieth century, it slowly opened its doors to women, minorities, and students from low-income families. He describes the unique strengths of America’s colleges in our era of globalization and, while recognizing the growing centrality of science, technology, and vocational subjects in the curriculum, he mounts a vigorous defense of a broadly humanistic education for all. Acknowledging the serious financial, intellectual, and ethical challenges that all colleges face today, Delbanco considers what is at stake in the urgent effort to protect these venerable institutions for future generations.

In a new preface, Delbanco addresses recent events that threaten the future of the institution.

Andrew Delbanco is the Mendelson Family Chair of American Studies and the Julian Clarence Levi Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. His many books include Melville: His World and Work (Vintage), which won the Lionel Trilling Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times book prize in biography. He is a recipient of the 2011 National Humanities Medal for his writing that spans the literature of Melville and Emerson to contemporary issues in higher education.