Extremely Scientific Sexual Education Material?

Extremely Scientific Sexual Education Material?

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I'm trying to prepare material for 'the talk' about sex and reproduction. I know there's plenty of great books and resources out there for young readers, which I'll use to start with, but I'm also looking for something overbearingly scientific.

Essentially, I'm looking for an academic-level resource that is as close as possible to a literal play-by-play second-by-second explanation of puberty and the entire reproductive cycle. This is partly to polish my understanding, and to prepare myself for unexpected questions.

For example, it should explain the mechanics that sperm/egg cell(s) use to get around, how sperm penetrates the ovum, the process of breast development, and how they become lactation-ready, how the milk is made, what controls where adult body hair grows, the chemical process leading to feelings of lust, etc.

I was mentally reviewing my knowledge of this the other day and realized I know a lot of 'what' but not 'how' or 'why', so here I am.

Multiple books/resources is fine.

Sex education

Sex education is the instruction of issues relating to human sexuality, including emotional relations and responsibilities, human sexual anatomy, sexual activity, sexual reproduction, age of consent, reproductive health, reproductive rights, safe sex, birth control and sexual abstinence. Sex education that covers all of these aspects is known as comprehensive sex education. [1] Sex education may be provided by parents or caregivers, or as part at school programs and public health campaigns.

Traditionally, the discussion of all sexual issues was considered taboo, and adolescents in many cultures were not given any information on sexual matters. Such instruction, as was given, was traditionally left to a child's parents, and often this was put off until just before their marriage. However, in the late 19th century, the progressive education movement led to the introduction of sex education as "social hygiene" in North American school curricula and the introduction of school-based sex education. [2]

Despite early inroads of school-based sex education, most of the information on sexual matters in the mid-20th century was obtained informally from friends and the media, and much of this information was deficient or of dubious value, especially during the period following puberty, when curiosity about sexual matters was the most acute. This deficiency was heightened by the increasing incidence of teenage pregnancies, particularly in Western countries after the 1960s. As part of each country's efforts to reduce such pregnancies, programs of sex education were introduced, initially over strong opposition from parent and religious groups.

The outbreak of AIDS has given a new sense of urgency to sex education. In many African countries, where AIDS is at epidemic levels (see HIV/AIDS in Africa), sex education is seen by most scientists as a vital public health strategy. [3] Some international organizations such as Planned Parenthood consider that broad sex education programs have global benefits, such as controlling the risk of overpopulation and the advancement of women's rights (see also reproductive rights). The use of mass media campaigns has sometimes resulted in high levels of "awareness" coupled with essentially superficial knowledge of HIV transmission. [4]

According to SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, 93% of adults they surveyed support sexuality education in high school and 84% support it in junior high school. [5] In fact, 88% of the parents of junior high school students and 80% of parents of secondary school students believe that sex education in school makes it easier for them to talk to their adolescents about sex. [6] Also, 92% of adolescents report that they want both to talk to their parents about sex and to have comprehensive in-school sex education. [7] Furthermore, a "study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research on behalf of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, found that abstinence-only-until-marriage programs are ineffective." [8]

State-by-State Sex Education Policies

The chart below compares the legislative policies of all 50 states, including how they mandate specific aspects of sex education like contraception, abstinence and sexual orientation.

While only roughly half of states in the U.S. require sex education, even fewer states have legislation requiring medical accuracy, inclusive language, and information about contraception. Go to a tabular version of Sex Ed Legislation in the United States.

Sex Education: The Vatican's Guidelines

The teaching document issued by the Pontifical Council on the Family, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family, in 1996, is yet another one of the growing list of outstanding teaching documents produced by the modern papacy.

What the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us about faith and belief what Veritatis Splendor teaches us about today's insidious and dishonest moral relativism what Evangelium Vitae teaches us about today's appalling culture of death what Centesimus Annus teaches us about our economic and political dilemmas what Ut Unum Sint teaches us about relations with those who do not share with us the fullness of our Catholic faith The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality teaches about the vexed contemporary question of sex education: it is nothing else but the definitive treatment.

Sex education, while generally understood to be controversial, has not normally been too high on the list of most well-informed people as among the most critical moral and spiritual issues we face today. For one thing, almost everybody agrees that we do have to have some kind of sex education.

In this climate of opinion, people who come forward as opponents of sex education, if they are not instantly dismissed or at least condescended to on all sides, are almost invariably seen at best as impractical, unrealistic, head-in-the-sand types who have to be brought back into the real world. Or, if that is impossible, perhaps just humored while society goes on to do what is obviously necessary today.

Nobody likes this kind of treatment, and so even many who are uneasy about the current vogue of sex education tend to resolve whatever doubts they may have about it in favor of letting it go on anyway: maybe it will do some good.

The Catholic Church's traditional teaching about sex education, especially as formulated by Popes Pius XI and Pius XII, is that it should not be primarily a matter of giving explicit information at all, but rather it should be a matter of inculcating modesty, purity, chastity, and morality, a matter of teaching the sixth and ninth commandments. Moreover, it should also be primarily a matter for the parents to impart privately in the home, not something to be purveyed and discussed in mixed classrooms of boys and girls at impressionable ages.

The Vatican II Declaration on Education calling for positive and prudent sexual education, when it gets around to discussing where education should be performed, speaks of the Catholic school as performing its services as partners of the parents . . . [with] due regard in every educational activity to sexual differences (emphasis added).

And in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II takes up the same theme again, stipulating that especially in the heart of their own families, young people should be aptly and seasonably instructed about the dignity, duty, and expression of married love. Trained thus in the cultivation of chastity, they will be able at a suitable age to enter a marriage of their own after an honorable courtship (emphasis added). Thus, if there is anything than can rightly be called Catholic sex education, it cannot be anything else but an education in chastity imparted by the parents or in close collaboration with and in support of the parents.

By contrast, modern classroom sex education programs deliberately aim to let it all hang out, leaving nothing to the imagination this is considered openness and honesty, in contrast to the hypocrisy with which matters pertaining to sex were formerly thought to have been dealt. Far from being an antidote to today's sexual revolution, most of today's existing modern classroom sex education programs are a typical and integral part of it. More often than not, these school programs are designed to continue for years on end. Not infrequently they are K- through-12 programs, keeping the growing child's mind constantly focused on his developing sexuality throughout his entire school career.

Much more important than the question of whether or not we need to have sex education, then, is the question: What kind of sex education are we talking about? Most people have not bothered to look into this question. They think they already know what sex education is, perhaps remembering their own school classes in health or hygiene and imagining that today's sex education is something like that: if not talking up abstinence then at least sensibly informing and warning the kids against the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. What could be more needed than that kind of instruction in the middle of today's twin epidemics of both of these things?

Few think to ask themselves why K-through-12 comprehensive school programs are necessary to accomplish such aims. Fewer think to ask themselves how it is that today's twin epidemics of both sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies have come upon us in the very same years that comprehensive sex education has been so widely introduced into school classrooms — not to speak of the actual distribution of condoms in the schools.

Some of those who have looked more carefully into the modern phenomenon of classroom sex education, however, have discovered that today's typical programs are not designed to warn the kids away from permissive and harmful sex experiences at all. Rather, what they really aim at is breaking down traditional morality and sexual inhibitions in favor of actually encouraging sexual experience — but safe sex through the use of modern prophylactic and contraceptive devices. Their real aim is to train the kids to get with today's sexual revolution — times have changed! — not to warn them against it. These sex education programs are in no way any solution, but rather are a significant part of the problem of today's sexual permissiveness — for when new attitudes about sex are purveyed in the classroom and under the authority of the school, the kids can be affected even more decisively than they are affected by the sexual permissiveness they regularly encounter in the media.

Almost all of today's formal classroom programs in sex education include minute descriptions of every type of modern contraceptive. Modern contraception, of course, along with the availability of abortion, makes the very idea of sex without consequences possible — which thus lies at the heart of the modern sexual revolution the sexual revolution would have been impossible without contraception and legalized abortion. Typical classroom sex education programs thus stress them tirelessly they are also heavily into descriptions of today's alternative lifestyles those shocked by the discovery of such school books as Heather has two Mommies, justifying the lesbian lifestyle, are simply unaware of what virtually all programs in school sex education consist of generally.

The open sponsorship of such programs by Planned Parenthood and allied organizations should long since have provided clues to alert citizens as to the real nature of these programs, but this does not always seem to have happened. Instead classroom sex education has widely continued to be considered necessary and also to enjoy a fairly strong measure of public support to attempt to oppose it almost automatically marks one as a troglodyte.

Catholic schools too, often forgetting the Church's traditional strictures against imparting explicit sexual information, and — with the typical Catholic-school inferiority complex of always wanting to be up to date with whatever is going on in the field of education — have tended to ape what their secular counterparts are doing by buying into the sex education craze in a big way. A number of publishers catering to the Catholic-school textbook market have produced their own comprehensive family-life programs — a standard euphemism for sex education programs, even in the secular schools. These programs seem to be in fairly wide use in the Catholic schools.

Often these Catholic sex education programs claim to have added in values and morality, and indeed a veneer of both usually is found in them — but they are not essentially different from the secular programs in that their aim remains sustained indoctrination in a new and modern understanding of sexuality by purveying supposedly objective or scientific information about sex and sexual functioning.

Even the official Church has not been unaffected by the widespread incidence and promotion of classroom sex education. In 1981, a USCC-sponsored committee of typical educational experts issued guidelines for Catholic programs that unfortunately bought heavily into the whole mistaken trend and helped validate it. These guidelines, although never approved by the bishops, were nevertheless widely accepted in the Catholic education and family-life establishments as permission to go on promoting Catholic classroom sex education.

Nor was Rome of much practical assistance at this point. In 1983, the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome issued a document entitled Educational Guidance in Human Love that, while strongly reiterating the Church's constant emphasis on privacy and on the teaching of modesty, purity, chastity, and morality, nevertheless conceded that the Catholic school . . . [was] called to collaborate with the family.

Pope John Paul II himself, in his fine 1981 apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio on the Christian family, while re-affirming that sex education . . . is a basic right and duty of parents, had conceded that it could also be carried out in educational centers chosen and controlled by them, provided it was carried out under their attentive guidance.

These two Roman documents were very careful to re-affirm the Church's traditional emphasis on parental rights and responsibilities, as well as her traditional strictures against classroom sex instruction but they also recognized the difficulty for families today to carry out their responsibilities in today's permissive society. What resulted in practice, however, was somewhat different from what Rome had no doubt envisaged: in practice the careful and circumscribed Roman concessions allowing that parents could be assisted in their primary task of sex education quickly became interpreted as near blanket permission, if not encouragement, to go on offering and promoting the existing comprehensive sex-education programs in the schools.

At the time the two Roman documents were issued, of course, many Catholic schools were already doing precisely that — just as Catholic textbook publishers had already produced their own comprehensive programs, sometimes K through 8 or even 12. Thus, while the applicable Church documents presented the role of the school as qualified and limited — indeed, determined — by parental decisions, in practice it was the role of the parents that became qualified, limited, and determined by decisions of the school and the educational bureaucracy.

In 1990, this whole questionable school-based approach to Catholic sex education received a formidable degree of official Church approval when the U.S. bishops voted to approve a new document entitled Human Sexuality: A Catholic Perspective for Education and Lifelong Learning. The very notion expressed in this document's subtitle — that sexuality somehow had to be the subject of lifelong learning — only too quickly signaled some of the aberrant tendencies to be found in this unfortunate document itself. Once again the document had been prepared by another no doubt typical committee of educational experts, whose actual identities, except those of five individual bishops who also were on the committee, have never been officially disclosed.

This bishops' document, Human Sexuality, was quite controversial and was severely criticized on the floor of the bishops' annual meeting in November 1990. It had been brought forward for a vote after a period of less than three weeks in which individual bishops had had an opportunity to examine the text. Nevertheless it succeeded in garnering the necessary votes for NCCB approval, and this in turn meant that the Catholic education and family-life bureaucracies, eager to justify the large investment they had already made in classroom sex education, could now point to an official bishops' document to justify what they had been doing all along. For a Catholic Church document, Human Sexuality was dismayingly positive toward secular sex education programs in general.

The Pontifical Council for the Family's new document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality: Guidelines for Education within the Family (henceforth TMHS), welcome as it is, cannot be said to have arrived on the scene at exactly the right moment. Actually, it is twenty or thirty years overdue. As a practical matter, Rome was not really much help when the battles over classroom sex education began. Those Catholics who perceived that the whole sorry trend was a serious mistake were obliged to try to make their case by quoting the actually very strong strictures of Pius XI and Pius XII against ever trying to teach sex, of all things, in the classroom but in the atmosphere that prevailed, most people had come to believe these popes were very much out of date on this subject.

Now that we finally have it, though, TMHS resoundingly vindicates the critics of classroom sex education in every important respect. This represents quite a turnaround for people who mostly just managed to get themselves labeled kooks and extremists for trying to oppose yet one more of modern society's flawed and ersatz solutions — why can't the conventional, right-thinking people who keep buying into these solutions ever just take a good look at modern society, if they really imagine that some of its characteristic solutions ought to be accepted by the Catholic Church?

TMHS has looked at modern society, as well as at some of its favored solutions and, with customary Roman clarity, it focuses unerringly on what the real sex education situation is:

The guidance that TMHS provides to parents is positive, comprehensive, and entirely in accord with the Catholic tradition, beginning with the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.

The Catholic tradition in this matter is: sexuality has been part of God's plan from the beginning and thus it is very good sexuality is inextricably related to love and life and to lifelong self-giving, whether in marriage or in celibate chastity but owing to sin, sexuality can be willfully and grossly misused, and for this reason every human person is called to purity and chastity no matter what his state of life. Every person knows by experience, TMHS confidently declares, that chastity requires rejecting certain thoughts, words, and sinful actions one cannot always just be positive where this topic is concerned temptation is a reality.

Any education offered in matters related to sexuality is therefore necessarily an education in chastity, according to the Catholic tradition, as beautifully summarized at some length in TMHS. Such an education in chastity is not, and cannot be, confined to, or chiefly characterized by, the imparting of mere information, however true — this is probably the least important aspect of effective education in chastity, in fact.

Moreover, given the delicacy and sensitivity of this particular kind of subject matter, the Church has constantly and consistently held that this kind of education in chastity is best done privately, in the heart of the family, as Vatican II taught. This should take into strict account the individual stage of development of each child thus being educated — TMHS has a long, scientifically accurate, and very useful section on Children's Principal Stages of Development, which, among other things, reaffirms the importance of the child's latency period (although it does not use this particular term). The latency period, of course, is the time in the young person's development when the explicit information about the facts of life should precisely not be given — although most modern school programs are specifically and perversely designed to give it at this very time (usually the fifth grade) in order to break down the child's natural defenses.

TMHS goes on at great length explaining why sex education is primarily and necessarily a matter for parents to carry out in the home. The document declares that its own primary purpose is to give parents back confidence in their own capabilities and help them to carry out their task. Although the school is not entirely excluded, it almost disappears from sight in this perspective except as it might help parents in their task. Where school programs are mentioned, they are assumed to be supplementary and it is immediately added that parents are to keep themselves precisely informed on the content and methodology with which such supplementary education is imparted.

The document's mention of teachers is practically confined to saying what they must not do: they must not (1) interfere with the child's right to modesty and chastity or (2) fail to respect the primary right of the parent. On the other hand, they must freely allow any child or young person to withdraw from any form of sexual instruction imparted outside the home without penalties or discrimination.

One of the strongest features of this papal document is its insistence that parents should remove their children from school programs whenever this education does not correspond to their own principles. We can only speculate concerning the degree to which the document's Roman authors understand that, in this country at least, some of the harmful programs from which children ought to be removed according to their standards are unfortunately to be found in the Catholic schools, not merely in the public schools.

What the private approach taken by TMHS says about the whole system of public classroom sex education currently in vogue in the United States is not hard to understand. The document provides what it calls four working principles, which it says should always be operative whenever matters related to sexuality are taught:

    Human sexuality is a sacred mystery and must be presented according to the doctrinal and moral teaching of the Church, always bearing in mind the effects of original sin.

These working principles are accompanied both by explanatory norms and by a discussion of those teaching methods to be used and those to be avoided. The favored method, which is no surprise by the time we reach this point in the document, is personal dialogue between parents and their children, that is, individual formation within the family. In the end, of course, education in chastity is indistinguishable from religious and moral formation generally.

Discernment, therefore, is necessary concerning what we can, and what we cannot, adopt and adapt for Catholic use from the largely neo-pagan society which now surrounds us. Comprehensive school sex-education programs are clearly among the things we cannot adopt and adapt. Some people have been trying to point this out for a couple of decades, and now the Church has strongly and definitively confirmed it at the highest level.

In short, the Holy See has done it again. The Pontifical Council for the Family's new teaching document on The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality turns out to be a very worthy addition to the now long list of outstanding teaching documents that have not ceased to issue from the living teacher that Christ providentially left in the world for our benefit. K. D. Whitehead is the author of, among other things, Agenda for the Sexual Revolution: Abortion, Contraception, Sex Education, and Related Evils (Franciscan Herald Press, 1981)

— Selected Passages —

    In the framework of educating the young person for self-realization and self-giving, formation for chastity implies the collaboration first and foremost of the parents, as is the case with formation for the other virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and prudence. Chastity cannot exist as a virtue without the capacity to renounce self, to make sacrifices, and to wait.

Whitehead, K.D. Sex Education: Vatican Guidelines. Crisis Vol. 14, no. 5 (May, 1996).

Reprinted by permission of the Morley Institute, a non-profit education organization. To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-800-852-9962.


Whitehead, K.D. Sex Education: Vatican Guidelines. Crisis Vol. 14, no. 5 (May, 1996).

Reprinted by permission of the Morley Institute, a non-profit education organization. To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-800-852-9962.

The Author

Kenneth D. Whitehead is a former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education, and member of the Board of Directors of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, and the author, among other books, of the recent One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic: The Early Church Was the Catholic Church, as well as Affirming Religious Freedom and Agenda for the Sexual Revolution: Abortion, Contraception, Sex Education, and Related Evils.

California Implements Extreme New Sex Ed Curriculum

New pieces of education legislation in California mandate that school districts require sex ed and encourage students to question their parents on sexual topics—topics explored in the kindergarten through 12th grade sex education curricula. (Photo: Muni Yogeshwaran/Getty Images)

The California Board of Education implemented progressive sex and gender education curriculum in public schools across the state, regardless, in some cases, of parental knowledge or consent.

Progressive groups, including Planned Parenthood, collaborated on AB-329 in 2016 and the recently introduced Health Education Framework in May as highlighted by a video created by the conservative group Our Watch.

Both these pieces of education legislation mandate that school districts require sex ed and encourage students to question their parents on sexual topics—topics explored in the kindergarten through 12th grade sex education curricula implemented in California schools.

Lawmakers Create the California Healthy Youth Act, a Bill Mandating K-12 Sex Ed

AB-329, otherwise known as the California Healthy Youth Act, was created in 2016 and has several aimed purposes.

The bill aims to teach K-12 students how to ward off HIV and other STDs to teach “healthy attitudes” toward sexual orientation, gender, and relationships and to “promote understanding of sexuality as a normal part of human development.”

The bill also promises to “provide educators with clear tools and guidance to accomplish that end.”

AB-329 allows for parents to opt their children out of sexual education. However, the bill prohibits parents from opting their children out of materials that discuss gender, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.

The law also prohibits abstinence-only education and prohibits any discussion of religious doctrine, according to an ACLU handout.

The handout adds that beginning in seventh grade, children must be taught “all FDA-approved methods preventing pregnancy and transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (including condoms, contraceptives, and antiretroviral treatment) and abstinence.”

Educators Must ‘Affirmatively Recognize Different Sexual Orientations and Be Inclusive’

The California Board of Education introduced the Health Education Framework in May—a curriculum on sex education that some California parents found troubling, as the Christian Post reported in May.

The Health Education Framework affirms language in AB-329 and included books and supplemental materials such as the Amazon bestseller “S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Sexuality Guide to Get You Through Your Teens and Twenties,” a book that describes sexual activity and gender theory.

The California Board of Education removed this book and several others from the curriculum after outrage from Californian families, as reported by the Christian Post and reflected in the Health Education Framework.

The Health Education Framework notes that as AB-329 orders, teachers must “affirmatively recognize different sexual orientations and be inclusive of same-sex relationships in discussions,” and “teach about gender, gender expression, gender identity, and the harm of negative gender stereotypes.”

Board members for the Health Education Framework included school district representatives, teachers, and academics from across California as well as a school nurse.

The director of community education and outreach at Planned Parenthood, Amy Streavel, was also on the board, according to the California Department of Education.

A spokeswoman for the California Department of Education referred The Daily Caller News Foundation to the sections of the California Education code on a parents’ right to opt their child out of sex ed and the primary purposes of the California Healthy Youth Act when asked to comment. She did not respond when pressed for further comment.

Planned Parenthood did not respond to requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Parents React to Positive Prevention Plus

California parent John Andrews of the Murrieta School District said that schools in his district are using Positive Prevention Plus Sex Ed Curriculum, a curriculum that contains explicit photos and drawings of sexual activity.

“They talk about anal and oral sex as an alternative to regular sex because you can’t get pregnant,” Andrews said in a June video posted June 26 by the conservative group Our Watch. The video generated no local or national media coverage until a tipster alerted The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“They talk about mutual masturbation,” he added.

“They discuss gender roles, the gender spectrum, and in the support materials … they take it even further. They discuss everything, topics like roleplaying for different genders, blood play, dental dams … fisting is mentioned. I mean, they mention it all.”

Screenshot of fifth grade materials included in Positive Prevention Plus provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation by Pastor Tim Thompson. Screenshot of fifth grade materials included in Positive Prevention Plus provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation by Pastor Tim Thompson.

“If I were to show that material to a child, I would be brought up on charges,” Andrew said. “But somehow our public schools are allowed to teach this to junior high and high school kids.”

Screenshot of fifth grade materials included in Positive Prevention Plus provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation by Pastor Tim Thompson.

The curriculum describes itself as “California’s best source for evidence-based instruction in Comprehensive Sexual Health Education and Teen Pregnancy Prevention.”

It also boasts full compliance with California and National Health Education Standards and California Education Code, including the “California Healthy Youth Act.”

Positive Prevention Plus was begun as early as 1993, according to the curriculum’s website, in order to develop an HIV and AIDS prevention curriculum.

But California Education codes instituted in 2004 began specifying “the content of teen pregnancy prevention education.”

Research findings included in the curriculum show that use of Positive Prevention Plus results in students’ higher use of “reproductive health care services,” more use of contraceptive services, and significant improvements in “the delay in the onset of sexual activity.”

Screenshot of Table of Contents for Teacher’s Use in Positive Prevention Plus curriculum.

The ACLU Trains Teachers to Bypass Parental Authority

The June Our Watch video shows a variety of factors involved in California’s progressive sex ed programs.

Pastor Tim Thompson told The Daily Caller News Foundation that he published the video through Our Watch to help make parents more aware of how progressive the California sex educational programs are.

“We knew parents had to see for themselves or else they weren’t going to believe it,” Thompson told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

The video depicts ACLU staff attorney Ruth Dawson instructing teachers on how to help students obtain abortions without parental knowledge or consent.

“Regardless of how old a student is, they can walk into a doctor’s office and consent to these services without parental consent,” says Dawson, according to footage from the video, referring to abortion when she said “these services.” She was initially misidentified in the video.

The ACLU attorney notes that these services include pregnancy and prenatal care, contraception, emergency contraception, and abortion.

“And for these there is no parental notification.”

“I think a good way to think about all these services that California has decided are so important that we are going to allow minors to go into a doctor’s office and consent to these services,” Dawson added. “Because they are just that important and students need to be able to access them.”

The ACLU said in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation that all statements made by ACLU representatives during the meeting are “in accord with California law” and claims the video was doctored.

However, when pressed on the matter, the ACLU did not comment on what aspects of the video were doctored.

Activists and Experts Weigh In

“Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late” author, attorney, and Director of the Catholic Women’s Forum Mary Rice Hasson believes that most parents do not understand what their children are being exposed to—and often being exposed to without parental permission.

“The California sex and gender “health” curriculum shows kids explicit images, normalizes kinky and perverse sexual activity, and teaches kids that their basic identity—as male or female—is something fluid or changeable,” Hasson told The Daily Caller News Foundation, saying that schools see parents as “obstacles or barriers to their efforts to indoctrinate an entire generation.”

“Parents—especially religious parents—are portrayed as ignorant or untrustworthy when it comes to issues of sexual identity or activity—as if only the schools can be trusted to ‘protect’ kids and teach them all about,” Hasson said.

Parental Rights in Education Executive Director Suzanne Gallagher told The Daily Caller News Foundation that public schools in America are facilitating a national cultural crisis.

Gallagher’s organization seeks to keep families up to date on infringements of parental rights in public schools across the nation.

“There is a clear political agenda to destroy the traditional family in America,” Gallagher told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Until now, the American family was considered to be the foundation of civic life the smallest form of government, where children are taught responsibility, respect for authority, and national pride.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities for this original content, email [email protected] .

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The Importance of Science in Early Education

Governmental guidelines and tests often focus on middle and high school-level STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Yet, many educators believe science education should begin much earlier. Not only does science education teach young learners problem-solving skills that will help them throughout their schooling, it also engages them in science from the start.

Kids usually form a basic opinion about the sciences shortly after beginning school. If this is a negative opinion, it can be hard to engage those students in science as they grow older. Engaging young students with exciting material and experiences motivates them to learn and pursue the sciences throughout school.

Science education is one of the most important subjects in school due to its relevance to students’ lives and the universally applicable problem-solving and critical thinking skills it uses and develops. These are lifelong skills that allow students to generate ideas, weigh decisions intelligently and even understand the evidence behind public policy-making. Teaching technological literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving through science education gives students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school and beyond.

Have a question or concern about this article? Please contact us.

Also available in [PDF] format.

Building an evidence- and rights-based approach to healthy decision-making

As they grow up, young people face important decisions about relationships, sexuality, and sexual behavior. The decisions they make can impact their health and well-being for the rest of their lives. Young people have the right to lead healthy lives, and society has the responsibility to prepare youth by providing them with comprehensive sexual health education that gives them the tools they need to make healthy decisions. But it is not enough for programs to include discussions of abstinence and contraception to help young people avoid unintended pregnancy or disease. Comprehensive sexual health education must do more. It must provide young people with honest, age-appropriate information and skills necessary to help them take personal responsibility for their health and overall well being. This paper provides an overview of research on effective sex education, laws and policies that shape it, and how it can impact young people’s lives.

What is sexual health education?

Sex education is the provision of information about bodily development, sex, sexuality, and relationships, along with skills-building to help young people communicate about and make informed decisions regarding sex and their sexual health. Sex education should occur throughout a student’s grade levels, with information appropriate to students’ development and cultural background. It should include information about puberty and reproduction, abstinence, contraception and condoms, relationships, sexual violence prevention, body image, gender identity and sexual orientation. It should be taught by trained teachers. Sex education should be informed by evidence of what works best to prevent unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, but it should also respect young people’s right to complete and honest information. Sex education should treat sexual development as a normal, natural part of human development.

Why is sexual health education important to young people’s health and well-being?

Comprehensive sexual health education covers a range of topics throughout the student’s grade levels. Along with parental and community support, it can help young people:

  • Avoid negative health consequences. Each year in the United States, about 750,000 teens become pregnant, with up to 82 percent of those pregnancies being unintended.[1,2] Young people ages 15-24 account for 25 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S.[3] and make up almost one-half of the over 19 million new STD infections Americans acquire each year.4 Sex education teaches young people the skills they need to protect themselves.
  • Communicate about sexuality and sexual health. Throughout their lives, people communicate with parents, friends and intimate partners about sexuality. Learning to freely discuss contraception and condoms, as well as activities they are not ready for, protects young people’s health throughout their lives. Delay sexual initiation until they are ready. Comprehensive sexual health education teaches abstinence as the only 100 percent effective method of preventing HIV, STIs, and unintended pregnancy – and as a valid choice which everyone has the right to make. Dozens of sex education programs have been proven effective at helping young people delay sex or have sex less often.[5]
  • Understand healthy and unhealthy relationships. Maintaining a healthy relationship requires skills many young people are never taught – like positive communication, conflict management, and negotiating decisions around sexual activity. A lack of these skills can lead to unhealthy and even violent relationships among youth: one in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year.[6] Sex education should include understanding and identifying healthy and unhealthy relationship patterns effective ways to communicate relationship needs and manage conflict and strategies to avoid or end an unhealthy relationship.[7]
  • Understand, value, and feel autonomy over their bodies. Comprehensive sexual health education teaches not only the basics of puberty and development, but also instills in young people that they have the right to decide what behaviors they engage in and to say no to unwanted sexual activity. Furthermore, sex education helps young people to examine the forces that contribute to a positive or negative body image.
  • Respect others’ right to bodily autonomy. Eight percent of high school students have been forced to have intercourse[8], while one in ten students say they have committed sexual violence.[9] Good sex education teaches young people what constitutes sexual violence, that sexual violence is wrong, and how to find help if they have been assaulted.
  • Show dignity and respect for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.The past few decades have seen huge steps toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Yet LGBT youth still face discrimination and harassment. Among LGBT students, 82 percent have experienced harassment due to the sexual orientation, and 38 percent have experienced physical harassment.[10]
  • Protect their academic success. Student sexual health can affect academic success. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that students who do not engage in health risk behaviors receive higher grades than students who do engage in health risk behaviors. Health-related problems and unintended pregnancy can both contribute to absenteeism and dropout.[11]

What does the research say about effective sex education?

  • Comprehensive sexual health education works.Research has repeatedly found that sex education which provides accurate, complete, and developmentally appropriate information on human sexuality, including risk-reduction strategies and contraception helps young people take steps to protect their health, including delaying sex, using condoms or contraception, and being monogamous.[5]
    • A 2012 study that examined 66 comprehensive sexual risk reduction programs found them to be an effective public health strategy to reduce adolescent pregnancy, HIV, and STIs.[12]
    • Research from the National Survey of Family Growth assessed the impact of sexuality education on youth sexual risk-taking for young people ages 15-19 and found that teens who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who received abstinence-only-until-marriage programs.[13]
    • Even accounting for differences in household income and education, states which teach sex education and/or HIV education that covers abstinence as well as contraception, tend to have the lowest pregnancy rates.[14]
    • Science and Success:Programs that Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV, and Sexually Transmitted Infections (Advocates for Youth, 2012): Advocates for Youth undertook exhaustive reviews of existing programs that work to prevent teen pregnancy, HIV, and STIs and compiled a list of programs that have been proven effective by rigorous evaluation. Thirty-six effective programs were identified.[5]
      • 16 programs demonstrated a statistically significant delay in the timing of first sex.
      • 21 programs showed statistically significant declines in teen pregnancy, HIV or other STIs.
      • 16 programs helped sexually active youth to increase their use of condoms.
      • 9 programs demonstrated success at increasing use of contraception other than condoms.
      • 40 percent delayed sexual initiation, reduced number of sexual partners, or increased condom or contraceptive use
      • 30 percent reduced the frequency of sex, including return to abstinence and
      • 60 percent reduced unprotected sex.[17]

      What’s wrong with abstinence-only-until-marriage programs?

      Many students receive abstinence-only-until marriage programs instead of or in addition to more comprehensive programs. These programs:

      • Depict abstinence until heterosexual marriage as the only moral choice for young people
      • Mention contraception only in terms of failure rates
      • Focus on heterosexual youth, ignoring the needs of LGBTQ youth
      • Often use outdated gender roles, urging “modesty” for all girls while painting all boys as sexual aggressors.
      • Have been found to contain false information
      • Are not supported by the majority of Americans.[19]

      Only one abstinence-only program has ever been proven effective at helping young people delay sex yet in withholding information about contraception, it leaves those who do have sex completely at risk. Studies show that 99 percent of people will use contraception in their lifetimes,[20] and that the provision of information about contraception does not hasten the onset of sexual debut or increase sexual activity.[10] Meanwhile, thirty years of public health research clearly demonstrate that comprehensive sex education can help young people delay sexual initiation while also assisting them to use protection when they do become sexually active. We want young people to behave responsibly when it comes to decisions about sexual health, and that means society has the responsibility to provide them with honest, age-appropriate comprehensive sexual health education access to services to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections and the resources to help them lead healthy lives.

      All young people need comprehensive sexual health education, while others also need sexual health services. Youth at disproportionate risk for sexual health disparities may also need targeted interventions designed specifically to build self efficacy and agency. Further, administrators and other policy makers must recognize that structural determinants, socio-cultural factors and cultural norms have been shown to have a strong impact on youth sexual health and must be tackled to truly redress sexual health disparity fueled by social inequity.

      How is the content of a student’s sex education decided?

      Many factors help shape the content of a student’s sex education. These include:

      • State and federal funding the school district receives
      • State laws and standards regarding sex education
      • School district level policies and/or standards regarding curricula and content
      • The program or curriculum a district or individual school selects
      • The individual(s) who delivers the program.

      With thousands of school districts around the nation, students’ experiences can vary drastically from district to district and school to school.

      What are federal, state, and local structures that affect sex education?

      In the United States, education is largely a state and local responsibility, as dictated by the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This amendment states that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”[3] Because the Constitution doesn’t specifically mention education, the federal government does not have any direct authority regarding curriculum, instruction, administration, personnel, etc. In 1980, the U.S. Department of Education was created. While this move centralized federal efforts and responsibilities into one office, it did not come with an increase in federal jurisdiction over the educational system.

      The U.S. Department of Education currently has no authority over sexual health education. However, there have been federal funds allocated, primarily through the Department of Health and Human Services that school systems and community-based agencies have used throughout the last three decades to provide various forms of sex education.[21]

      • Federal funding:Until FY2010, there was no designated funding for a comprehensive approach to sex education. In 1982, federal support of abstinence-only programs began, and in 1996, expanded drastically. From 1996-2010, over $1.5 billion in federal funding went to abstinence-only programs, which were conducted with little oversight and were proven ineffective. While one large stream of funding for abstinence-only programs was cancelled in 2010, at publication one still exists (as authorized by Congress through Title V funding) and is funded at $50 million per year.[22]

      In 2010, two streams of funding became available for evidence-based sex education interventions.[22]

        • PREP: The Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) was authorized by Congress as a part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. PREP provides grants ($75 million over five years) for programs which teach about both abstinence and contraception in order to help young people reduce their risk for unintended pregnancy, HIV, and STIs. In Fiscal Year 2012, 45 states applied for PREP. PREP grants are issued to states, typically the state health departments. All programs implemented with PREP funding are to educate adolescents about both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and STIs, including HIV/AIDS, and must cover at least three adulthood preparation subjects such as healthy relationships, adolescent development, financial literacy, educational and career success, and healthy life skills.
        • The President’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI) funds medically-accurate and age-appropriate programs to reduce teen pregnancy. Seventy-five grantees in 32 states received TPPI funds in FY 2012. TPPI grants are distributed by the Office of Adolescent Health to local public and private entities. Grantees must implement an evidence-based program which has been proven effective at preventing teen pregnancy. According to OAH, 31 programs meet these criteria, including one abstinence-only-until-marriage program.
        • States may accept PREP, TPPI, or Title V funds. Many states accept funds for both abstinence-only programs and evidence-based interventions. In 2013, 19 SEAs and 17 LEA received five year cooperative agreements from CDC/DASH to implement ESHE within their school systems.

        In addition, in 2013, CDC/Division of School Health issued a request for proposals to fund State Education Agencies (SEAs) and Large Municipal Education Agencies (LEAs) to implement Exemplary Sexual Health Education (ESHE). ESHE is defined as a systematic, evidence-informed approach to sexual health education that includes the use of grade-specific, evidence-based interventions, but also emphasizes sequential learning across elementary, middle, and high school grade levels.[23]

        States may accept PREP, TPPI, or Title V funds. Many states accept funds for both abstinence-only programs and evidence-based interventions. In 2013, 19 SEAs and 17 LEAs received five year cooperative agreements from CDC/DASH to implement ESHE within their school systems.[22]

        • The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act: While there is as yet no law that supports comprehensive sexual health education, there is pending legislation. The Real Education for Healthy Youth Act (S. 372/H.R. 725), introduced in February 2013 by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA), would ensure that federal funding is allocated to comprehensive sexual health education programs that provide young people with the skills and information they need to make informed, responsible, and healthy decisions. This legislation sets forth a vision for comprehensive sexual health education programs in the United States.
        • State policy:State sex education policy may be governed by a state law as passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the state’s governor and/or the State Department of Education may have established state sex education standards. State policy on sex education can vary widely. As of 2012,
          • 30 states have no law that governs sex education, and schools are not required to provide it
          • 25 states mandate that sex education, if taught, must include abstinence, but do not require it to include contraception.
          • Six states mandate that sex education include either a ban on discussing homosexuality, or material about homosexuality that is overtly discriminatory.[22]

          Each state has a department of education headed by a chief state school officer, more commonly known as the Superintendent of Public Instruction or the Commissioner of Education (titles vary by state). State departments of education are generally responsible for disbursing state and federal funds to local school districts, setting parameters for the length of school day and year, teacher certification, testing requirements, graduation requirements, developing learning standards and promoting professional development. Generally, the chief state school officer is appointed by the Governor, though in a few states they are elected.[23]

          State departments of education may also have Standards which provide benchmark measures that define what students should know and be able to do at specified grade levels. These sometimes, but not always, address sexual health education. For instance, Connecticut and New Jersey have standards similar to the National Sexuality Education Standards in place and which address reproduction, prevention of STIs and pregnancy, and healthy relationships. A number of other states have general health education standards which do not directly address sexual health, while others make mention of HIV/STI prevention and abstinence but don’t demand the most thorough instruction in sexual health.[24]

          • Local Policy: At the school district level, Pre-K-12 public schools are generally governed by local school boards (with the exception of Hawaii which does not have any local school board system). Local school boards are typically comprised of 5 to 7 members who are either elected by the public or appointed by other government officials.[21]

          Local school boards are responsible for ensuring that each school in their district is in compliance with the laws and policies set by the state and federal government. Local school board also have broad decision and rule-making authority with regards to the operations of their local school district, including determining the school district budget and priorities curriculum decisions such as the scope and sequence of classroom content in all subject areas and textbook approval authority. [21]

          Typically, school boards set the sex education policy for a school district. They must follow state law. Some school boards provide guidelines or standards, while others select specific curricula for schools to deliver. Most school boards are advised by School Health Advisory Councils (SHACs). SHAC members are individuals who represent the community and who provide advice about health education.[21]

          How can I work for comprehensive sexual health education for students in my community?

          There are a number of ways to help ensure that students get the information they need to live healthy lives, build healthy relationships, and take personal responsibility for their health and well being.

          • Urge your Members of Congress to support the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act, in person, by phone, or online.
          • Contact your school board and urge them to adopt the National Sexuality Education Standards and require comprehensive sexual health programs.
          • Join a School Health Advisory Council in your area – both young people and adults are eligible to serve on most.
          • Organize within your community – a group of individuals, or a coalition of like-minded organizations – to do one or all of the above.


          Young people have the right to lead healthy lives. As they develop, we want them to take more and more control of their lives so that as they get older, they can make important life decisions on their own. The balance between responsibility and rights is critical because it sets behavioral expectations and builds trust while providing young people with the knowledge, ability, and comfort to manage their sexual health throughout life in a thoughtful, empowered and responsible way. But responsibility is a two-way street. Society needs to provide young people with honest, age-appropriate information they need to live healthy lives, and build healthy relationships, and young people need to take personal responsibility for their health and well being. Advocates must also work to dismantle barriers to sexual health, including poverty and lack of access to health care.

          Emily Bridges, MLS, and Debra Hauser, MPH

          Advocates for Youth © May 2014


          1. CDC. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2011. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2012.

          2. Finer LB et al., Disparities in rates of unintended pregnancy in the United States, 1994 and 2001, Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 2006, 38(2):90–96.

          3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2011. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2012.

          4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2012. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2013.

          5. Alford S, et al. Science and Success: Sex Education and Other Programs that Work to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, HIV & Sexually Transmitted Infections. 2nd ed. Washington, DC: Advocates for Youth, 2008

          6. Dating Matters: Strategies to Promote Health Teen Relationships. Atlanta: Center for Disease Control and Prevention 2013.

          7. National Sexual Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K-12. A Special Publication of the Journal of School Health. 2012: 6-9. Accessed October 2, 2013.

          8. Davis A. Interpersonal and Physical Dating Violence among Teens. National Council on Crime and Delinquency, 2008. Retrieved November 15, 2013 from

          9. Ybarra ML and Mitchell KJ. “Prevalence Rates of Male and Female Sexual Violence Perpetrators in a National Sample of Adolescents.” JAMA Pediatrics, December 2013.

          10. Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network. The 20011 National School Climate Survey: The School Related Experiences of Our Nation’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth. New York, NY: GLSEN, 2012.

          11. CDC. Sexual Risk Behaviors and Academic Achievement. Atlanta, GA: CDC, (2010) health_and_academics/pdf/sexual_risk_behaviors.pdf last accessed 5/23/2010. 12. Chin B et al. “The effectiveness of group-based comprehensive risk-reduction and abstinence education interventions to prevent or reduce the risk of adolescent pregnancy, human immunodeficiency virus, and sexually transmitted infections: two systematic reviews for the Guide to Community Preventive Services.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, March 2012.

          13. Kohler PK, Manhart LE, Lafferty WE. Abstinence-Only and Comprehensive Sex Education and the Initiation of Sexual Activity and Teen Pregnancy. Journal of Adolescent Health. 2007 42(4): 344-351.

          15 of the Most EXTREME College Degrees

          Students who want to get the absolute most out of the major, should peruse this list of the 15 most EXTREME college majors to find some programs that are physically and mentally intensive. “Extreme” in this case applies to work load, mental fortitude, physical endurance, focus, discipline, and/or a desire to travel, and in some cases, social taboo. This list is meant to introduce curious students to academic areas that they might not have considered (or even knew existed!). Individuals with an adventurous spirit and hard workers should highly consider majoring in one of these 15 extreme college majors.

          The criteria of this list was compiled according to lists of the strangest college majors, most exciting college majors, and most rewarding college majors. We chose the majors according to the relative difficulty of the program, strangeness of the major, and physical and mental challenge.


          The Major:
          Students who are interested in both challenging outdoor experiences and the inner-workings of the human mind and emotions, should consider a degree in Adventure or Wilderness Therapy. This major combines therapeutic and counseling skills with challenging experiences in nature to promote wellness, build communities, and establish healthy relationships between people and their environment. Students will also develop discipline and self-knowledge through therapy and contemplative practice, preparing themselves to help others transform through the beauty and personal challenges encountered in nature.

          Examples of Adventure Therapy Courses:

          • Technical Winter Mountaineering
          • Adventure Leadership and Programming
          • Abnormal Psychology

          At UNITY COLLEGE:
          At this small, environmentally focused college in Unity, Maine, the adventure therapy major focuses on cultivating well-rounded, entry-level mental health professionals who are able to work competently in the field as well as develop a solid foundation of understanding related to treatment programs, fundamental clinical skills, counseling theory, and evidence-based practices beneficial to future graduate level studies. Students will take coursework in psychology and human development as well as canoeing, mountaineering, sea kayaking, and much more!

          Students should continue their Adventure Therapy degree with a Master of Arts degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology, Wilderness Therapy Concentration from Naropa University, a small liberal arts school located in Boulder, Colorado, named after an eleventh-century Buddhist monk. This intensely experiential degree program gives students ten weeks direct experience in the wilderness, 700 hours internship experience in an outdoor therapy/educational setting, a four-day/three-night fast/vision quest while soloing in the backcountry, and integrates the necessary theoretical and clinical course work for licensure, contemplative practice, wilderness skills training, meditation skills, and ways to use such training therapeutically, the MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology empowers students to practice psychotherapy in the wild places of the mind and nature.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Field instructor
          • Behavioral health professional
          • Direct care staff
          • Outdoor behavioral healthcare specialist
          • Adventure specialist
          • Youth counselor
          • Wilderness therapy guide


          The Major:
          Adventure education students develop skills to evoke personal change in future participants and clientele. To employ the tools of adventure, students graduate with the human, outdoor and educational skills required to make immediate professional contributions in a quickly growing industry. This major will develop visionary outdoor educational leaders who are prepared to be agents of change in the world, whether in a wilderness context or a context where these transferable skills are implemented. Through an innovative, intensive, and experiential curriculum, you’ll learn the technical, teaching, and management skills necessary to help others appreciate, respect, and enjoy the natural environment.

          Examples of Adventure Education Courses:

          • Social and Psychological Dimensions of Leisure
          • Human Dimensions of Leadership
          • Essentials of International Mountaineering

          At ITHACA COLLEGE:
          At this gorgeous liberal arts college in Ithaca, New York, this program emphasizes outdoor program administration, problem solving, leadership, wilderness literacy, and recreational land use. In the spring semester of junior year, students head to the Pacific Northwest to participate in the immersion semester program. While exploring the coast and islands by kayak, studying and hiking in Washington’s North Cascades, and rafting the rivers of the west, you’ll get a firsthand look at expedition planning and risk management, examine environmental ethics and land management issues, and develop leadership, judgment, and decision-making abilities in a wilderness environment.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Outdoor leadership
          • Outdoor specialization areas
          • Ecotourism
          • Outdoor education
          • Camp management
          • Natural resource management
          • Environmental interpretation
          • Youth-at-risk programs
          • Adventure education
          • Travel industry


          The Major:
          Those who major in Aerospace Engineering apply knowledge from many fields of science and mathematics to the design of aircrafts, spacecrafts, missiles, and satellites. Students then go on to intern and work at institutions such as NASA or in national defense. While many engineering fields may fix an individual in a specific field, aerospace engineering utilizes skills from areas such as computer science and the design and construction of engines. Students in this field must be dedicated, focused, and prepared to take on a very hefty course load, but the reward is great, allowing students to get closer and closer to the final frontier, sending their vessels and satellites of their own design into orbit!

          Examples of Aerospace Engineering Courses:

          • Thermodynamics and Fluids Fundamentals
          • Rotor and Propeller Theory
          • Aerospace Vehicle Performance

          The Aero/Astro Space and Systems Development Lab provides education and research in space system design, technology, and operation. Students gets hands-on experience in developing micro-satellites that are launched into orbit and controlled at Stanford. Stanford was one of the leaders in the development of CubeSats, a modular satellite payload system that allows researchers at universities around the world to design experiments that can be launched into space relatively easily. Work continues on the application of systems engineering to the life-cycle of spacecraft including design, testing, launching, and operation of subsystems.

          Our undergraduates gain a fundamental understanding of aerodynamics, structures, vehicle dynamics and control, propulsion, and interdisciplinary design and are well prepared for careers in aerospace and related engineering fields. They are well-trained to function as professionals who can formulate, analyze and solve problems that may include economic, social and environmental constraints. And, finally, they are prepared to communicate well, function well in the global environment and in teams, and contribute substantially by doing research, developing, and implementing future systems and applications.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Pilot astronaut
          • Mission specialist
          • Aerospace engineer
          • Electrical engineer
          • Mechanical engineer
          • Automotive engineer
          • Energy engineer
          • Structural engineer

          12. ROBOTICS

          The Major:
          While it may sound like science fiction, there is a fast growing need for robotics and robotics engineers in many different fields, from oceanographic research to health science and surgery. There is no specific discipline behind robotic engineering, so students must posses skill and capability in computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, as well as a solid understanding of science and mathematics, which places them in high demand in the job market. Whether the goal is to relieve human workers of exhausting and repetitive tasks, increase productivity and efficiency, or take people out of harm’s way, robotics today plays an integral role in all aspects of manufacturing, medicine, and more. And it will take on even greater importance in the future.

          Examples of Robotics Courses:

          • Modeling and Analysis of Mechatronic Systems
          • Unified Robotics
          • Industrial Robotics

          Ongoing research keeps Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, at the forefront of robotics engineering advances. Focus areas include human-robot interaction, artificial intelligence, medical robotics, kinematics and control systems, sensors, manipulation and navigation, and more.Leading the way and covering all the bases are descriptions that only begin to tell the story of this unique department. WPI is renowned for being first in the nation to offer a BS program in Robotics Engineering, first to offer BS, MS, and PhD programs at the same time, and first (and only) with a five-year combined BS/MS.

          The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is an international leader in robotics education and was established in 1979 to conduct basic and applied research in robotics technologies relevant to industrial and societal tasks. Seeking to combine the practical and the theoretical, the Robotics Institute has diversified its efforts and approaches to robotics science while retaining its original goal of realizing the potential of the robotics field. The Robotics Institute is well-funded (over $65 million per year) and very broad in its variety of course offerings and programs research volume has doubled every 7 years since its founding.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Robotics engineering
          • Electronic engineering
          • Robotics technician
          • Machine automation
          • Medical robotics engineering
          • Cybernetics
          • Air traffic management


          The Major:
          Kinesiology and exercise science is the study of health and human movement. Specifically, it is the study of how people move, why some people are able to move faster or for a longer period of time than others (i.e. endurance) and why they fatigue. The use of physiological, biochemical, biomechanical, neurological and psychological principles are at the crux of the course of study. Students in this major study the effects of exercise on the human body and the science behind what makes a healthy, high performing system. Kinesiology is an ideal course for students wishing to enter health professions, such as medicine, personal training, physical therapy, and nutrition/dietetics, and leads to many other areas of health science and wellness.

          Examples of Kinesiology and Exercise Science Courses:

          Rice University in Houston, Texas offers two concentrations with its Department of Kinesiology, Health Science and Sports Medicine, that focus and guide each individual student toward their specific interest and career goals. A specific intention of the sports medicine curriculum is to provide a strong natural science foundation and to interface this foundation with application to human physical function and students receive a solid foundation in nutrition, biomechanics, performance psychology, motor learning, statistics, research methods, and exercise physiology. The purpose and goal of the Health Sciences program is to provide students with a fundamental and broad background in health promotion and education that will enable them to understand and appreciate the complexities of maintaining optimal level personal health, the role that health promotion plays in society, and the mechanisms that affect community health.

          Students attending the University of South California in Los Angeles who are interested in the general area of corporate fitness-wellness will find kinesiology an ideal major. Coursework is incredibly broad and will give every student a solid foundation in biochemistry, biomechanics, and mathematics. In addition to specific coursework, students are encouraged to participate in ongoing faculty and graduate student research efforts in the many departmental laboratories. Students work closely with peers and faculty to increase the knowledge and foundation of understanding the realm of health science.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Athletic trainer
          • Personal trainer
          • Physical therapy
          • Physician’s assistant
          • Sports medicine
          • Strength and conditioning trainer
          • Occupational therapy


          The Major:
          While it may not come across as extreme at first, tourism management majors lead to careers in one of the largest industries and employers in the world. This degree prepares students for positions of responsibility in hotels, resorts, food service operations, cruise ships, clubs, cultural and recreational attractions, convention and visitor bureaus, and tourism development agencies. Most excitingly, and what qualifies this as an EXTREME major, this field gives students the opportunity for a life in travel, working in one of these many industries across the globe.

          Examples of Tourism Management Courses:

          • Sustainable Tourism
          • Leadership and Professional Development
          • Heritage and Cultural Tourism

          Upon completion of this degree at Arizona State University in Tempe, students will possess a sound theoretical understanding of the comprehensive study of tourism. This will include knowledge related to the growth and development of tourism throughout the world in historical, spatial and economic terms the economic, ecological, and socio-cultural impacts of tourism in both the developing and developed world and the system of tourism production, product development, service delivery, and consumption by diverse domestic and international market segments. The program encompasses local, regional and global perspectives in the study of tourism.

          The tourism program at Brigham Young University-Hawaii in Laie, applies the general principles of the business, management, and advanced management cores to a specific industry. Close ties with the Polynesian Cultural Center (PCC) provide students in this program with a unique opportunity to study and analyze one of the most successful tourist destinations in the world. To earn a bachelors degree, students complete a departmental mini-core, then pursue a program track in either Hospitality Management or Tourism Management. The program applies general business principles to a specific industry and students choose a functional area of specialization: Operations, Finance, Marketing, or Human Resources.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Tourism agency management
          • Tourism development agencies
          • Resorts
          • Casinos
          • Hotels
          • Travel agent
          • Marketing


          The Major:
          Designed to prepare and educate students in the science and art of fermenting foods and beverages, a degree in Fermentation Science includes the development of practical research and outreach initiatives to answer questions facing the growing fermentation-related industries. Understanding the processes and learning the method involved with employing microorganisms in the commercial production of fermented food products and marketing these products requires a unique set of knowledge and skills students are educated in a a wide variety of disciplines from biochemistry to marketing and entrepreneurship. The availability and diversity of fermented products, including cheese, bread, yogurt, kefir, pickles, sauerkraut, meat, soy products, beer, and wine has increased in recent years and consumer interest in this area continues to grow. It is increasingly clear that fermented food products can favorably alter the microbiota within the human gut, which can impact the risk of developing chronic and inflammatory diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.

          Examples of Fermentation Sciences Courses:

          • Social Implications of Fermented Beverages
          • Sensory Analysis of Wine and Beer
          • Viticulture: Vine Physiology and Vineyard Establishment

          Students at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, have the opportunity to gain practical experience in the operation and management of the Ramskeller pilot brewery (a campus based brewery), conduct laboratory research, and complete an internship with one of the local or national industries. Students will be exposed to multiple components of the disciplines ranging from production and management to basic and applied research. The Fermentation Science and Technology major blends a strong interdisciplinary science background with selected courses focused on the science, safety, culinary, and nutritional attributes of fermented foods and beverages. Industry plays a unique, active and vital role in the education of our students. Whether it is guest lecturers in the classroom, hands-on fermentation work in the laboratory, or off-campus field trips or internships at one of the CSU industry sites, learning is much more than a textbook and exams in the FST program.

          The Fermentation Sciences program at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina is an inter-disciplinary degree within the College of Arts and Sciences intended to provide students with a strong background in chemistry and biology and a considerable focus in business, marketing and entrepreneurial principles. Students are required to fulfill rigorous core requirements in sciences and humanities while gaining exposure to principles of fermentation sciences, systems design and engineering, and understanding the social and cultural implications of food and beverage production. Throughout the process of program development, Fermentation Sciences faculties have developed industry collaborations with local vineyards, wineries, breweries, distilleries, and biotechnology businesses to provide students with a “real-world” classroom for practical experience.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Federal employment with the USDA, FDA, CDC, NREL
          • Brewing production
          • Wine production
          • Distillation technologies
          • Food and Beverage Processing
          • Bio-manufacturing / Bio-pharmaceuticals
          • Applied Chemistry / Analytical Chemistry
          • Applied Microbiology and Systems Biology


          The Major:
          Both metalsmithing and blacksmithing programs emphasize the development of hand skills and work to enhance the student’s aesthetic values, critical thinking and dialogue abilities, as well as their technical skills. Students learn a broad spectrum of skills and techniques using traditional forms and materials to more modern experiential approaches. Learning these skills produces artists and craftspeople with a highly developed understanding of their craft and creativity.

          Examples of Blacksmithing/Metalsmithing Courses:

          This legendary program at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, is one of diversity, seeking students with a range of interests, backgrounds and goals for achievement. The metals program at SIUC has developed links in Europe, Pacific Rim and Mexico and attracts students from all over the world. Campus art facilities and workshops are located in close proximity to one another to encourage interdisciplinary coursework and broaden students interests in art and design. Graduates of the program have gone on to highly successful careers in academia and museum work, as well as that of a self-sustaining independent artist.

          At the UNIVERSITY OF AKRON:
          The metals program at the Mary Schiller Myers School of Art in the University of Akron in Ohio, combines art theory, craft history, contemporary issues and personal influences with the many techniques used in the metals studio. Students refine their skills as they study and create utilitarian objects, nonfunctional objects, jewelry and metal sculpture. Metalsmithing majors work with ferrous and nonferrous metals using tools such as: electroformers, centrifuge and vacuum for casting, enameling kilns, and sandblasters. Students are encouraged to participate in co-op programs and internships. In recent years, students have participated in co-op and internship programs at such diverse sites as: design studios, the CIA, and Disney World.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Metalsmith
          • Blacksmith
          • Metal fabrication/factories
          • Jeweler
          • Farrier
          • Welding
          • Automotive industries


          The Major:
          Nautical archaeology is the study of the remains of boats and ships and the cultures that created and used them. The program, therefore, focuses on the history of wooden ship construction seafaring through the ages maritime commerce, cargoes, and ports and the techniques used to record, analyze and conserve the remains of these activities. Students in this major spend as much time in the field compiling hands-on research as they do in the classroom. Because there is so much involved in nautical/maritime archaeology, students are schooled in many different fields of ocean travel, diving, archaeology, and anthropology.

          Examples of Nautical/Maritime Archaeology Courses:

          • Post-Medieval Seafaring
          • Archaeological Artifact Conservation
          • Deep Submergence Archaeology

          The Nautical Archaeology Program is a part of the Department of Anthropology at Texas A&M University in College Station. The program was established in 1976. Students and faculty conduct underwater archaeological research in conjunction with the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in various regions of the world, delving into time periods from prehistory to the recent past, and working with a plethora of societies and cultures. Students attending the program work in the classroom as well as in the field, and are encouraged to pursue individual projects that will help direct nautical archaeology’s future.

          Of the handful of existing Maritime Studies programs in the United States, none is as diverse and widely appealing as the University of West Florida’s in Pensacola. The Maritime Studies program at UWF prepares students for a variety of occupations through the integration of diverse maritime themes. Students tailor their degree program to their individual interests and will also gain structured field experiences in sampling, recording, and other practical aspects of professional work in the field environment. Field study and internships in underwater archaeology and overseas history are available, and other field experiences can be designed.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Coastal zone management
          • Coast Guard
          • Navigation
          • Maritime law
          • Underwater archaeology
          • Anthropology


          The Major:
          Maybe the most EXTREME college major, as it is only offered at one university as a major, and at most other colleges and universities as a concentration and/or minor. Sexuality Studies is an interdisciplinary field devoted to the analysis of human sexuality. It explores the historical, political, biological, cultural, sociological, educational, legal, health, aesthetic, and psychological contexts of human sexuality. The next closest department, Gender and Sexuality Studies, is an interdisciplinary concentration and/or minor that examines the construction of gender and sexuality in social, cultural, political, economic, or scientific contexts.

          Examples of Sexuality Studies Courses:

          • Gender, Sexuality, and Science
          • Love, Sex, and Relationships
          • Feminist Utopias and Dystopias

          Students in Swarthmore’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Program study the social relations of power in a variety of cultural, historical, and national contexts. The objective of the program is to bring feminist and queer theory in conversation with new research methodologies in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. The program emphasizes complex interrelationships among gender and sexuality, race and class, and local and global politics. Students have the opportunity to pursue an academic minor in gender and sexuality studies or to design their own special major in the field.

          Career Opportunities:

          • LGBTQ counseling and organizing
          • Social work
          • Therapy centers
          • Hospitals
          • Victim and human rights advocacy
          • Reproductive rights advocacy
          • Education


          All Viticulture and Enology students learn about the science and practices of growing grapes and making wines. The major increases student interest in and understanding of science by supplying a real world application. Students have the opportunity to learn the processes and chemistry behind wine fermentation and use specialized equipment in campus labs and wineries to create their own student wines. Viticulture and enology graduates frequently take advantage of their research and internship positions to find work in vineyards and wineries. They may enter careers such as production management, quality control and research.

          Examples of Viticulture and Enology Courses:

          • Soil and Crop Management for Sustainability
          • Wines and Grapes: Composition and Analysis
          • Wine Microbiology

          Viticulture and enology majors at UC Davis benefit not only from the outstanding faculty and laboratory resources but also from the campus’s location. The Napa and Sonoma Valley regions, the nerve centers of California’s thriving, innovative wine industry, are easily accessible from campus. Students may complete internships with some of the area’s world-class wineries and research grape cultivation and winemaking at the renowned Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science located right on campus. Many students go on to graduate-level study in related fields such as food science, horticulture or agricultural and environmental chemistry.

          Located in luscious Ithaca, New York, the Viticulture and Enology major at Cornell University increases student interest in and understanding of science by supplying a real world application. Cornell students don’t just hear about science, they practice it every day. Students complete coursework in either the enology or viticulture concentration. The concentration in enology provides students with a foundation in biology and chemistry, demonstrating principles with specialized coursework in wine chemistry, production methods, and sensory evaluation. Students concentrating in viticulture apply concepts learned in biology and chemistry to coursework in vineyard management, grapevine biology, and grape pest management.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Cellar workers
          • Lab technicians
          • Winemakers
          • Wine consultants
          • Wine critics
          • Sommeliers
          • Vineyard managers
          • Pest control advisors
          • Crop/fermentation researchers


          The Major:
          Electrical engineering and computer science majors can do practically anything. Students improve the stability and security of computers and communications networks, and they increase the efficiency of solar panels. They create unique algorithms to analyze financial markets and design robots capable of thinking like human beings. Typically, electrical engineers focus on products that generate or transmit electricity or that use electricity as a power source. They might design, assemble or test new devices anywhere from the semiconductor to the aerospace industries. Computer scientists also use technology to solve problems. They might write software to achieve new things or do them faster. They create applications for mobile devices, develop websites or program software.

          Examples of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Courses:

          • Components & Design Techniques For Digital Systems
          • Computer Architecture & Engineering
          • Microelectronic Devices & Circuits
          • Artificial Intelligence

          At UC Berkeley, the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Sciences offers one of the field’s strongest research and instructional programs anywhere in the world. The program initiates cross-disciplinary team-driven projects, with strong interactions that extend into biological sciences, mechanical and civil engineering, physical sciences, chemistry, mathematics and operations research. The faculty at UC Berkeley have won prestigious awards such as the National Medal of Science work at the cusp of technological possibility in artificial intelligence, robotics, cyber-physical systems, sensor technology, micro and nanoelectromechanical systems, big data, and computer architecture, graphics and engineering.

          World-renowned for both rigor and innovation, EECS is the largest undergraduate program at MIT. Our flexible curriculum and intensive, hands-on coursework gives students a holistic view of the field, an understanding of how to solve problems, and a focus on modeling and abstraction that prepares them for success in a wide range of industries, from software to bioengineering. Taught by world-class faculty, EECS students explore subjects critical to advancement in today’s high-tech society — from mathematical computer theory to circuit design and electronics, control and communication theory, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Electrical engineering
          • Broadcast and communication engineering
          • Communications
          • IT Consultant
          • Multimedia programming


          The Major:
          The process of making the oil and gas available in the huge quantities needed to sustain our industrial economy and maintain our standard of living is quite challenging. Petroleum engineering majors are trained to face these challenges. In petroleum engineering, students learn to evaluate potential oil and gas reservoirs, oversee drilling activities, select and implement recovery schemes, and design surface collection and treatment facilities. As a petroleum engineer, you can expect to work in a variety of the U.S. locations from the East Coast to the West Coast and from the Gulf of Mexico to Alaska. There are also immense opportunities to become an international engineer and work all over the world.

          Examples of Petroleum Engineering Courses:

          • Engineering Evaluation of Oil and Gas Properties
          • Drilling Design and Production Engineering
          • Reservoir Modeling

          This challenging and rewarding field of engineering requires application of a wide range of knowledge­—from the basic sciences of mathematics, physics, geology, and chemistry to the principles of engineering analysis, design, and management. Graduates of the program are expected to understand the fundamental principles of science and engineering behind the technology of petroleum engineering to keep their education current and to give them the capability of self-instruction after graduation. Petroleum engineers must solve the variety of technological, political, and economic problems encountered in these assignments. These exciting technological challenges combine to offer the petroleum engineer a most rewarding career.

          Located in State College, courses at Penn State are structured to serve as a melting pot for theory, application to case studies and engineering project design. This enables the student to appreciate and understand that a successful engineering design project requires a sound theoretical foundation, experimentation and engineering judgment. Design projects are required throughout the curriculum. Execution of these projects requires an amalgamation of problem formulation strategies, testing of alternative design methodologies, feasibility studies, and economic and environmental considerations. Graduates of the program are expected to perform in various facets of the petroleum industry including drilling, production, evaluation, transportation and storage.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Petroleum engineering
          • Natural gas engineering
          • Drilling engineering
          • Reservoir engineering
          • National and international oil and gas companies
          • Government agencies
          • Independent companies

          2. WILDLIFE

          The Major:
          The wildlife major concerns the preservation of all species, the enhancement of wildlife habitat, the control of wildlife problems, and the consumptive use of wildlife. At the same time, wildlife majors are concerned about endangered species wildlife biologists must also deal with locally abundant species that can cause serious ecological damage in an area. Students have the opportunity to work directly in the field for a large majority of their academic/professional career, and students often take field/camping trips to practice additional practices and techniques in more secluded and will areas. Students also work directly with wildlife, whether rehabilitating, tagging, or researching animals, the degree allows direct contact with wildlife.

          Examples of Wildlife Courses:

          • Upland and Wetland Habitat Ecology
          • Management of Mammals
          • Zoology
          • Conservation Biology

          Wildlife students at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, conduct individual and group field projects in most upper division courses. Many lab classes are held outdoors and over weekend camping trips in nearby natural habitats such as the Arcata Community Forest, Arcata Marsh & Wildlife Sanctuary, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Six Rivers National Forest, and many other locations. Students work in close proximity with peers, professors, and graduate students in the many research and lab projects conducted throughout the program. Each student conducts an independent research project under the supervision of a faculty member for their culminating experience.

          The Wildlife major meets the educational requirements for Certified Wildlife Biologists, as stipulated by The Wildlife Society.The course work is broad-based, furnishing an understanding of the interrelationships among the physical and biological elements of the natural environment, an appreciation of the social, political, and economics forces that influence wildlife management, and the ability to analyze natural resource problems to forge realistic solutions. Students learn to determine the biological and ecological conditions required for maintenance of healthy populations of game and non-game species, tend these species, and manage their environments to meet wildlife conservation objectives.

          Career Opportunities:

          • Raptor and migratory breeding bird survey field technician
          • Forester
          • Senior wildlife biologist
          • Botany field technician
          • Monitoring manager
          • Environmental consulting firms
          • Public land management

          1. GEOLOGY

          The Major:
          Geology majors study the science of the Earth—its relationship to the solar system, its origin and developmental history, its structure and composition, its dynamic processes, and its evolution. Geology also relates to human endeavors and needs, including the use of natural resources, the preservation of the environment, global change, and the mitigation of geologic hazards. Geology majors draw data from firsthand field observations and laboratory analyses of minerals, sediments, rocks, fossils, natural fluids and gases, and landforms. Students in this major spend much of their academic lives outdoors, on field trips and camping trips, studying the geological makeup of their surroundings.

          Examples of Geology Courses:

          At the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, students who choose the Earth and Environmental Sciences major build a specialization/concentration area that suits their own interests by taking additional upper-level courses in the Earth and Environmental Sciences department, and the university has one of the best geology programs in the country. The Geological Sciences Concentration trains students to receive a broad foundation in natural and physical sciences related to environmental and Earth sciences. Students are required to learn material from several core areas of the Earth sciences. The program also includes a field requirement that takes students off campus to study and apply their knowledge.

          The Actual Science of James Damore’s Google Memo

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          To revist this article, visit My Profile, then View saved stories.

          In early August, a Google engineer named James Damore posted a document titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” to an internal online discussion group. His memo was a calm attempt to point out all the ways Google has gone wrong in making gender representation among its employees a corporate priority. And then, on August 5, the memo jumped the fence. Nobody else was calm about it.

          It wasn’t a screed or a rant, but, judging by his document, Damore clearly feels that some basic truths are getting ignored—silenced, even—by Google’s bosses. So in response, the engineer adopted a methodology at the core of Google’s culture: He went to look at the data. “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” wants to be a discussion of ideas about diversity through solid, ineluctable science.

          The core arguments run to this tune: Men and women have psychological differences that are a result of their underlying biology. Those differences make them differently suited to and interested in the work that is core to Google. Yet Google as a company is trying to create a technical, engineering, and leadership workforce with greater numbers of women than these differences can sustain, and it’s hurting the company.

          Damore further says that anyone who tries to talk about that paradox gets silenced—which runs counter to Google’s stated goal of valuing and being friendly to difference. And, maybe helping make his point a little, last Monday Google fired him. Damore is now on a media tour, saying he was fired illegally for speaking truth to power. Hashtag Fired4Truth!

          The problem is, the science in Damore’s memo is still very much in play, and his analysis of its implications is at best politically naive and at worst dangerous. The memo is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a preexisting point of view. It’s an exercise not in rational argument but in rhetorical point scoring. And a careful walk through the science proves it.

          Psychology as a field has been trying to figure out the differences between men and women, if any, for more than a century—paging Dr. Freud, as the saying goes. The results of these efforts are ambiguous. And psychologists are still working on it.

          The science of difference is a mushball, and trying to understand differences among populations only makes it messier. Every cognitive or personality trait will have a wide distribution among a given population—sex, ethnicity, nationality, age, whatever—and those distributions may only vary slightly. Which means huge chunks of the population may overlap. For any given trait, men may be more different from each other than from women, let’s say.

          That said, Damore’s assertion that men and women think different is actually pretty uncontroversial, and he cites a paper to back it up, from a team led by David Schmitt, a psychologist at Bradley University in Illinois and director of the International Sexuality Description Project. The 2008 article, “Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? Sex Difference in Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures,” does indeed seem to show that women rate higher than men in neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

          As always, the issue is the extent of the difference (and what causes it—more on that in a bit). Also, as Damore himself notes: Google hires individuals, not populations.

          Damore argues that greater extraversion and agreeableness, on the whole, would make it harder for women to negotiate and stake out leadership positions in an organization, and that higher neuroticism would naturally lead to fewer women in high-stress jobs. The first-order criticism here is easy: Damore oversells the difference cited in the paper. As Schmitt tells WIRED via email, “These sex differences in neuroticism are not very large, with biological sex perhaps accounting for only 10 percent of the variance.” The other 90 percent, in other words, are the result of individual variation, environment, and upbringing.

          It is unclear to me that this sex difference would play a role in success within the Google workplace.

          David Schmitt, Bradley University

          A larger problem, though, is measuring the differences in the first place. Personality traits are nebulous, qualitative things, and psychologists still have a lot of different—often conflicting or contradictory—ways to measure them. In fact, the social sciences are rife with these kinds of disagreements, what sociologist Duncan Watts has called an “incoherency problem.” Very smart people studying the same things collect related, overlapping data and then say that data proves wildly different hypotheses, or fits into divergent theoretical frameworks. The incoherency problem makes it hard to know what social science is valid in a given situation.

          The impulse to apply those theories to explain human behavior is as strong as it is misguided. Women as a group score higher on neuroticism in Schmitt’s meta-analysis, sure, but he doesn’t buy that you can predict the population-level effects of that difference. “It is unclear to me that this sex difference would play a role in success within the Google workplace (in particular, not being able to handle stresses of leadership in the workplace. That’s a huge stretch to me),” writes Schmitt. So, yes, that’s the researcher Damore cites disagreeing with Damore.

          Damore does this over and over again, holding up social science that tries to quantify human variation to support his view of the world. In general, he notes, women prefer to work with people and men prefer to work with things—the implication being that Google is a more thing-oriented workplace, so it just makes sense that fewer women would want to work there. Again, the central assertion here is fairly uncontroversial. “On average—and I emphasize that, on average—men are more interested in thing-oriented occupations and fields, and that difference is actually quite large,” says Richard Lippa, a psychologist at Cal State Fullerton and another of the researchers who Damore cites.

          But trying to use that data to explain gender disparities in the workplace is irrelevant at best. “I would assume that women in technical positions at Google are more thing-oriented than the average woman,” Lippa says. “But then an interesting question is, are they more thing-oriented than the average male Google employee? I don’t know the answer to that.”

          Semantics aren’t helping here. Is coding a thing- or people-oriented job? What about when you do it in a corporation with 72,000 people? When you’re managing a team of engineers? When you’re trying to marshal support for your proposed expenditure of person-hours versus someone else’s? Which is more thing-oriented, deep neural networks or database optimization?

          And maybe the most important question: How useful are psychological studies of the general population when you’re talking about Googlers?

          Damore essentially forecloses the possibility of changing sex roles and representation at Google—or anywhere, really—by asserting that not only are the differences between men and women significant but that they are at least in part intrinsic. Damore doesn’t assert that biology is the only factor in play, and no scientist does either. But how important biology is to psychology is—again—in heavy dispute.

          Here’s Damore’s take: “On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways.”

          Nothing to argue about here. If men and women didn’t differ biologically, it would make sexual reproduction very difficult indeed. Also, men and women differ in height (on average), bone mass (on average), and fat, muscle, and body hair distribution (on average). No one thinks those differences are socially constructed.

          Damore, though, is saying that differences in cognitive or personality traits—if they exist at all—have both social and biological origins. And those biological origins, he says, are exactly what scientists would predict from an evolutionary perspective.

          Evolutionary psychology and its forebear, sociobiology, are themselves problematic fields. Two decades ago evo-psych was all the rage. It’s essential argument: Males and females across species have faced different kinds of pressures on their ability to successfully reproduce—the mechanism, simplistically, through which evolution operates. Those pressures lead to different mating strategies for males and females, which in turn show up as biological and psychological differences—distinctions present in men and women today.

          The problem with that set of logical inferences is that it provides a convenient excuse to paint a veneer of shaky science onto “me Tarzan, you Jane” stereotypes. It’s the scientific equivalent of a lazy stand-up comedian joking about how all men dance like this—the idea that nature hardwires our differences. In fact, evolutionary biologists today race to point out that the nature-versus-nurture dichotomy is outdated. No serious scientist finds it to be a credible model.

          In 2005, Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, suggested publicly that women might not have as much “innate ability” as men to succeed in academic disciplines that require advanced mathematical abilities. In response, psychologists got together to assess more than 100 years of work and present a consensus statement about whether Summers was right. They concluded that a wide range of sociocultural forces contribute to sex difference in STEM achievement and ability, including family, neighborhood, school influences, training experiences, cultural practices, and, yes, some biological factors.

          When it comes to brain biology in particular, the authors wrote that “experience alters brain structures and functioning, so causal statements about brain differences and success in math and science are circular.” Most researchers today point to data that shows cognitive traits differ slightly on average between the sexes, but they change throughout an individual’s lifetime, influenced by a mix of genetic, epigenetic, and environmental (including social) factors.

          From birth, boys and girls receive different, gender-specific treatment, which can enhance or inhibit any innate differences. That certainly has an effect on the findings of psychology. The gap between girls and boys who say they want to go into the sciences is much more informed by stereotypes—on a survey of half a million people, 70 percent associated math with males—and cultural norms than by intrinsic ability. “From infancy, boys get footballs and girls get dolls, so is it that surprising? We’ve been socializing them. It doesn’t mean there’s anything innate,” says Janet Hyde, director of the Center for Research on Gender and Women at the University of Wisconsin.

          All these things change as culture changes. In 1990, Hyde published a meta-analysis on sex differences in mathematical performance among high school students and found significant deficits in girls’ abilities. When she did the same analysis in 2008, the difference had disappeared. In the 1980s, “girls in high school didn’t take as many years of math as boys did,” Hyde says. “Today that gap in course taking has closed. Girls take as many classes as boys do, and they’re scoring as well. What we once thought was a serious difference has disappeared.”

          There are areas where, on average, women excel and, on average, men excel, but everyone gets better with education.

          Diane Halpern, former president of the American Psychological Association

          And just as culture moves on, so too does biology. “The brain can change a lot in a matter of weeks,” says Diane Halpern, an author on that post-Summers study and of one of the central textbooks on cognitive sex differences. “That’s why we send children to school. There are areas where, on average, women excel and, on average, men excel, but everyone gets better with education. But it means we cannot know the influence of environmental versus biological variables, even at very young ages.”

          In other words, the science on math and science abilities says differences between sexes depend much more on external factors than sex in and of itself. And those external factors and their results can change over time.

          This is critical, because most of Damore’s memo seems to be talking about preferences, which is to say, rather than innate skill he means what women would rather be doing versus what men would rather be doing. In fact, one recurring finding in sex difference research is that in cultures seen as more egalitarian, differences in preferences between men and women become more pronounced. With more opportunity, says one hypothesis, men and women are more likely to follow their respective blisses.

          So when Damore does juke from preferences to abilities, it looks a little sneaky. Here’s what he writes: “I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women may differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t have equal representation of women in tech and leadership,” he writes. Making the leap from personality differences to achievement differences would require citing at least some of the well-studied body of work we’ve mentioned here, which Damore ignored.

          With the next pivot, the memo gets more pernicious. Damore switches—again, subtly—from effects to causes. His interpretation of the science around preference and ability is arguable on causation, though, he’s even rockier. According to Damore (and a lot of research), the biological factor that connects sex to cognitive abilities and personality traits is prenatal exposure to testosterone.

          Of all the high-stakes claims in sex-difference research, none is more important or more popular than the idea that hormones in the womb help give people stereotypically masculine or feminine interests. While they’re developing, males get a bigger dose of testosterone. “Among social psychologists there’s a consensus that prenatal testosterone does affect a lot of personality traits, in particular one’s interest in people versus things,” Damore said in an interview last week with Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. He also said it to pro-Trump YouTuber Stefan Molyneux, adding that hormonal exposure “explains a lot of differences in career choice.”

          Damore is probably wrong about this too. The most consistent findings linking prenatal testosterone to sex-linked behaviors come from about a dozen studies examining toy preferences among girls with a condition known as congenital adrenal hyperplasia, which causes the overproduction of sex hormones, including testosterone. CAH-affected girls tend to be less interested in dolls (substituting for people) and more interested in toys like trucks (things).

          But children with CAH have other variables. They’re often born with ambiguous genitalia and other grave medical conditions, and therefore have unusual rearing experiences. To get around this socialization issue, researchers from Emory University gave toys to young rhesus monkeys. When they saw that females preferred plush dolls and males preferred trucks, they concluded that these tendencies must be hard-wired into each sex.

          Squint hard at this result, because it presumes that juvenile rhesus monkeys see stuffed animals as monkeylike but “wheeled toys” as thinglike. But why would a monkey see a plush turtle as akin to self? And how would it know what a truck was or was not? Also: The male monkeys played with trucks. The females chose between the two about equally. The logic here walks a twisted path across the floor of the uncanny valley.

          Still, most hormone researchers agree that these differences are real. But that they’re directly linked to prenatal testosterone? Not so much. And to differences in career choice? “There’s 100 percent no consensus on that,” says Justin Carré, a psychologist at Nipissing University in Ontario. “The human literature on early androgen exposure is really very messy.”

          Damore needs scientific consensus to make his case—not just because of confirmation bias but because the memo goes on to argue that the left is just as guilty as the right when it comes to science denialism. He equates conservative tendencies to reject climate change and evolution (theories with an overwhelming scientific consensus behind them) with liberal refusals to accept differences in personality traits between the sexes and—in a quiet racist dog whistle—IQ, where the evidence is far, far weaker.

          Climbing to an even higher altitude, though, we might ask another question about Damore’s appeal to science: So what? Which is to say, what are we to do with not just the conclusions of the memo but also its implications? Damore is hardly the first person to use science to justify social norms or political preferences. Science has, too often in human history, been a tool for literal dehumanization as a rationale for oppression. It happened to people of African descent in America to the poor of the Victorian era to women in the years leading up to suffrage and to Jews, people of nonbinary gender, Roma, people with disabilities, and so on in Nazi Germany. Historians try to wall off those ideas now—eugenics, phrenology, social Darwinism—but each, in its day, was just science.

          With hindsight you can see that those pursuits weren’t science, and you can aim those 20/20 lenses at Damore too. What he’s advocating is scientism—using undercooked research as coverage for answering oppression with a shrug.

          Science has, too often in human history, been a tool for literal dehumanization as a rationale for oppression.

          In that context, social science’s incoherency problem becomes disastrous. Throw the most red-state conservative physicist you can find into a room with a pinko-commie physicist and then toss in the latest data from the Large Hadron Collider. Mostly, the physicists will agree on which subatomic particles they can or can’t find. But even if you buy the research on psychological sex differences, the work on their biological or evolutionary basis is far from finished—leaving people free to cherry-pick results ready to mix into a manifesto. Just add outrage.

          Science must inform policy—social, corporate, whatever. The more solid the science, the more it can inform. (Why, hello, climate change data—you are terrifyingly real.) But when it comes to sex differences, Google—or any organization, really—will understandably want to create an environment where people feel secure, safe, and empowered to do their best work. It’s good ethics and good business. That’s what Damore seems to see as an overly politically correct culture that stifles dissent.

          If he’d poked harder at his own hypothesis—as everyone should when the behavioral sciences produce findings that helpfully reify society’s blunt, dumb guide rails—he would have found questions instead of answers. Interesting questions, for sure, but about as helpful as a Magic 8-Ball if you’re looking not for excuses to keep things as they are but mechanisms to make them better.

          Damore’s dissent, stripped of its shaky scientism, isn’t a serious conversation about human difference. It’s an attempt to make permanent a power dynamic that shouldn’t exist in the first place. If Google was, for Damore, an echo chamber, that’s because his was the only voice he was really willing to hear.

          For More Information

          The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has identified additional resources on topics related to this document that may be helpful for ob-gyns, other health care providers, and patients. You may view these resources at

          These resources are for information only and are not meant to be comprehensive. Referral to these resources does not imply the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ endorsement of the organization, the organization’s web site, or the content of the resource. The resources may change without notice.


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