Larry Elkin is the parent of a student in J. Michael Bailey's course on Human Sexuality:

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So now I am weighing in, as the tuition-paying parent of a student in Bailey’s class—and I am not complaining, either. The way I see it, Bailey turned an educational triple play for my daughter’s benefit.

First, there was the session itself, which offered her (had she stayed) a chance to hear live people explain why they would use such machinery in their sex lives, as well as why they would do so in public. Part of the in-class discussion, my daughter has since been told, focused on exhibitionism. This seems a perfectly reasonable topic for a human sexuality class. For that matter, so does an exploration of the variety of ways in which people engage in sex.

Should it matter that this was a live person in front of the room? Videos of such devices are readily available on the internet. Had Bailey or his guests merely shown such a video and talked about it, there would almost certainly be no controversy. But there would have been no chance for students to talk directly to the participants. I can see a benefit to the in-person approach.

Second, there was the journalistic aspect of this experience. My daughter has held all sorts of jobs at the Daily Northwestern, which broke the story of the demonstration. But was it a story worth breaking? Was it news, on the campus of a leading research university, that there was sex in a human sexuality class? And if it was news, did graphic details including the device’s crude name belong in the paper and on the paper’s website? These are the sorts of questions journalists must address. The only way to learn how to handle them is to do it....

Third, there is an important life lesson in the Realpolitik that followed the news coverage. The university supported the professor while the story was restricted to the campus. Dean of Students Burgwell Howard told the student newspaper that the event probably “falls within the broad range of academic freedoms — whether one approves or disapproves.”

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Things changed when the story went national.

Read the whole thing here.

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