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Each week at In The Past Lane, the American history podcast, host and Historian-at-Large, Edward T. O’Donnell, brings you news, stories, interviews, and special features on all things U.S. history. His aim is to be both engaging and thought-provoking, inspired by the notion that history explains the world we live in and provides insights into how to achieve a more prosperous, peaceful, and just future. So come along with us as we journey In The Past Lane.  

Sep 11, 2017

It's September, so this history podcast is rolling out its annual back-to-school episode. This go around, we address the question: What do the controversies in the 1960s and 1970s surrounding sex education and bilingual education have to do with each other? Well, quite a bit, as it turns out. And that's why I'll sit down with historian Natalia Petrzela to talk about her book, Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture (Oxford University Press). It's a fascinating examination of the history of education policy and how it both reflected and shaped political discourse about immigration and diversity, as well as attitudes about sex and sexual mores, in the mid-20th century. We also talk about Natalia's role as a co-host of another fabulous history podcast, Past Present ( 

Among the many things discussed in this episode: 

How political conservatives in the 1960s advocated bilingual education and cultural exchange with Mexico.

Why bilingual education became more controversial, in part, due to increased political activism by Latino rights groups like La Raza.

How efforts to promote bilingual education also led to increased acceptance of Latino culture and diversity in public schools.

How and why sex education became politicized in the 1960s.

How some conservatives in the 1960s linked sex education to promoting communism.

Why, despite great opposition, both sex education and bilingual education gained wide acceptance by the 1980s.

What Natalia Petrzela enjoys most about co-hosting the Past Present podcast.

About Natalia Petrzela – website

Further Reading

Natalia Petrzela, Classroom Wars: Language, Sex, and the Making of Modern Political Culture (2016).

Carlos Kevin Blanton, The Strange Career of Bilingual Education in Texas, 1836-1981 (2007).

Jessica Fields, Risky Lessons: Sex Education and Social Inequality (2008).

Janice M. Irvine, Talk About Sex: The Battles over Sex Education in the United States (2004).

Adam Laats, The Other School Reformers: Conservative Activism in American Education (2015).

Guadalupe San Miguel Jr., Contested Policy: The Rise and Fall of Federal Bilingual Education in the United States, 1960-2001 (2004).

Music for This Episode

Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (

Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)

Lee Rosevere, “Going Home” (Free Music Archive)

Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)

The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)

Production Credits

Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer

Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson

Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions

Photographer: John Buckingham

Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci

Website by: ERI Design

Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too

Social Media management: The Pony Express

Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates

Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight

© Snoring Beagle International, 2017