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What once seemed easy now seems out of control. : Sex, Mom, School and Apple Pie

The Los Angeles school board, in an effort to discourage teen-age pregnancy, wants to establish a kind of model high school birth-control cafeteria where one might, if one wishes, obtain contraceptives with the ease of buying a tuna salad sandwich and a cup of chicken soup.

The board’s vote was 6 to 1 and has instantly divided just about everyone into two categories: those who believe in God and those who do not believe in God. Those who believe in God are naturally opposed to the clinic and those who do not believe in God support it. That may seem like a simplification, but then that’s what I do, simplify.

Barely 2 days old, the idea of establishing what some are calling a campus sex clinic already has transcended secular debate into that loftier arena where the futures of humanity and morality are determined.

What the school board wants to do basically is stop teen-age pregnancy. One way to stop it, as everyone knows, is to keep the kids from engaging in that activity most likely to result in the female of the pair becoming great with child.

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But, short of beating them with a broom or drenching them with a hose at the height of their sexual acrobatics, that’s not an easy task. Young boys who will not lift a finger to rake the lawn will swim nine miles through alligator-infested swamps to reach a girl with a willing way.

So the school board decided that, since kids are going to do it anyhow, they might as well learn how to do it right. By right I mean how to do it without becoming pregnant, not how to do it better.

Sex education, into which category a clinic would probably fall, started becoming a question of prime importance sometime in the 1950s, when sex was discovered in a small laboratory near the Berkeley campus of the University of California.

I remember thinking at the time that, although sex seemed like a fine new pastime, it probably ought to be discussed in a clinical environment rather than over cocktails in order to establish some sort of control over its potential for abuse. Sex education seemed the answer.

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But I never dreamed it would reach the point where condoms were being handed out like Mickey Mouse balloons in a clinic meant only for high school students. We weren’t even allowed to say rubbers in East Oakland, much less get them for nothing.

I realize, however, that times have changed, so in order to renew my thinking I discussed the birth-control clinic with school board members Roberta Weintraub, who was co-sponsor of the idea, and David Armor, the sole dissenting vote. Both represent the San Fernando Valley.

Armor is of the opinion, to paraphrase, that sex has gotten completely out of hand and that it is time for everyone to pull up his pants and go home. Her pants too.

He believes we have become “soft on sex” and that the school board majority, by approving a clinic, is addressing not the problem but the result of the problem. Sexual promiscuity, which Armor calls the Hollywood Morality, is the problem, pregnancy the result.

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Weintraub, on the other hand, while observing in passing that Armor doesn’t know what he’s talking about, says she doesn’t care what the response to her stand is; she knows she’s right.

“People are upset about it,” she said, “because they don’t understand the issue. It’s emotional. They’re saying ‘When I was in high school we didn’t have. . . .’ Complete in 50 words or less.”

Well, when I was in high school, we didn’t need clinics or special education. We knew that sex was dirty, but we knew also that it was great fun. Hardly anyone got pregnant because hardly anyone got lucky.

Weintraub says she doesn’t understand why everyone is so upset at the proposal to establish a high school birth-control clinic that will hand out contraceptive devices, both oral and . . . well . . . non-oral.

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I do.

Not that the clinic is a bad idea, given the circumstances of a society wallowing in self-indulgence. It’s just that it introduces a new element of confusion into an arena of mixed moralities that has already left everyone a little dizzy.

I mean, wasn’t it just yesterday we were arguing over whether high school kids ought to eat junk food? The dichotomy is dazzling.

We live in a world of excesses. There are too many missiles, too many lawyers, too many dopers, too much sex, too many murders, too many cars, too much pollution, too many preachers, too much protest and too many experts.

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What once seemed easy now seems out of control. We can’t supply answers because we’re still working on the questions.

I don’t know what’s right. I hear much of value in what Roberta Weintraub proposes and much to heed in what David Armor warns us about.

A friend of mine, in addressing the cyclical nature of human events, used to dismiss the deja vu by saying, “Same old circus, different clowns.”

The difference today, I suppose, is that now even the clowns seem excessive, and never as funny.

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