Once having made up our minds to concentrate the teaching of sex hygiene upon sex health rather than upon sex immorality, upon sex functions rather than upon sex diseases, the chief objection to school instruction and to instruction in class will disappear. Our school text-books in history, literature, and biology abound in references to sex distinctions, sex functions, and sex health. In enumerating the daily routine of health habits I mentioned daily bathing of the armpits and crotch. There is nothing in this injunction to offend or injure a boy or girl. If studies and physical training are to be adapted to physiological age, and if children are to know why they are graded according to physiological age as well as mental brightness, we shall soon be talking of mature, maturing and not-yet-maturing girls and boys, so that everybody will be instructed in sex hygiene without offense. Any teacher who can explain the family troubles of King Henry VIII without becoming self-conscious can easily learn to look a class of girls and boys in the face and explain how a mother's health will injure her baby before its birth, why breast-fed babies are more apt to live than bottle-fed babies, why it is as important for the mother to keep a nursing breast absolutely clean as to clean the nipple of a nursing bottle. Words whispered by children, or marked in dictionaries, to be stealthily and repeatedly looked upon and talked over with other children, lose all their glamour when pronounced by a teacher.
In these days of state subsidy of school libraries the child is hard to find who has not free access to books of fiction full of voluptuous allusions that make undesirable impressions which only blunt, candid discussion of sex facts can make harmless. Children now learn, whether in fashionable private schools or crowded slums, practically all that is lascivious and unwholesome about sex. For teachers to explain that which is wholesome and pure will disinfect the minds of most children and protect them against miseducation.
Class instruction in hygiene is practicable for all matters pertaining to normal sex health. Girls of thirteen should be taught in classes the fact and meaning of menstruation, and its grave importance to the health, in order that they may care for themselves not only before, during, and immediately after the menstrual period, but throughout the month, in order that menstruation itself shall not be unnecessarily painful, enervating, and harmful to efficiency. It is not yet advisable to discuss dangers peculiar to girls or dangers peculiar to boys in mixed classes. Generally speaking, it is undesirable that men teachers discuss girls' troubles with girl pupils. But why should it not become possible for women teachers to explain health dangers peculiar to girls to classes of boys?
Individual instruction in sex matters should be reserved for the diseased mind, for the boy or girl who has already been morbidly instructed. Discussion of immoral sex diseases should be confined to individual talk. This field teachers have already entered. Repeated physical examination of children will detect symptoms of sex abnormality. When detected, the fact and the meaning should be explained to the individual by school physician, school nurse, or school-teacher. While much can be done through mothers' meetings and through individual instruction of parents, the most effective means of improving the general attitude towards sex health is to give the simple truth to the millions of children who have not yet left school. Armed with the A B C's of sex hygiene at school, boys and girls will be prepared to select employment, associates, and newspapers that will permit normal, healthy sex development. Men and women who are leading normal lives, who have plenty of work, sleep, fresh air, nourishing food, amusement, and exercise are unlikely to be sexually abnormal.
After all, the question of instruction in sex hygiene will quickly settle itself when it is made a condition of a teacher's certificate that the applicant shall himself or herself know the personal and social reasons for sex health. The woman who does not know how to take care of her own sex health, the man who is ignorant of a woman's special needs, cannot do justice to the requirements of arithmetic, language, and discipline. Whether men and women teachers are mentally, physically, and morally equipped to be sexually normal and to teach the law of sex health will be disclosed as soon as trustees and superintendent dare to ask the necessary questions. Whether an instructor's personality will enable him to fill the minds of children with interests more wholesome, more absorbing than obscene stories or morbid sex curiosity can also be learned. When school-teachers are prepared to teach the social and economic aspects of general health they will quickly solve the problem of instruction in sex health.
Just one word about country morality. It is customary to deplore the influence of large cities on the young. Of late, however, there has been a tendency to question whether, after all, sex morality is apt to be higher in the country than in the city. Parents and teachers in small towns and in rural districts will do well to take an inventory of the influences surrounding their children. It will always be impossible to give country children city diversions. One great disadvantage of country children frequently counter-acts the beneficial influence of out-of-door living; namely, isolation. The city child is practically always in or about to be in the sight of, if not in the presence of, other people. Numbers and close contact with people, though they be strangers, mean restraint and pervading social conscience. City children find it difficult to have good times in pairs. No amount of instruction of rural pupils in sex hygiene will take the place of amusements and entertainments for groups of children, forming thus a special antidote for "two's company, three's a crowd." Liberating and standardizing normal intersex relations and discouraging cramped social intersex relations are more urgent needs than instruction in sex diseases. A working environment that permits pure-mindedness will do more to inculcate a reverence for sex cleanliness and for parenthood than lectures and essays on moral prophylaxis.