Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century.

Author:Hall, David S.
Position:Book review

Teaching Sex: The Shaping of Adolescence in the 20th Century By Jeffrey P. Moran Published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 2000 ISBN: 0-674-00227-X, 281 Pages US$ 27.95

The Author

Jeffrey P. Moran is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Kansas. As a young historian, his research leading to this book should serve him well in the "publish or perish" academic environment. It is a comprehensive summary of a vast and complex subject.

The Contents

Moran looks at the 20th century, wherein adolescence is invented by the renowned G. Stanley Hall, a psychologist and college president. Hall was 60 when his 1904 book Adolescence was published. It was the result of years of research and much creative interpretation. This was a time in the cultural development of the U.S. where the period between puberty and marriage was increasing and youth were becoming aware of their "separateness as a group from adult culture". Hall, a product of the Victorian era, built his ideas of adolescence on a solid foundation of 19th century morality, i.e. chastity, self-denial, and especially avoidance of "self-pollution".

The end of the 19th century also saw well over half of school age American children enrolled in public or private schools, thus their separation from the adult world was becoming more complete. While puberty was occurring earlier, marriage was occurring later, as late as 29-31 for college graduates. Chastity during this time of life was seen as the great evolutionary factor that led to a higher civilization. The racial and class superiority this proclaimed was not overlooked in this era of high immigration. Moran's description of this interpretation of Darwinism is enlightening. Broadly stated, "repression was...

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