No Need to Get Hot and Bothered About the New Sex Ed Curriculum – Part I of II
I don't know about you, but I don't like other people speaking for me when it comes to issues involving my kids. So when I heard that some parents were up in arms about the proposed changes to the sex ed curriculum for Ontario schools, I decided that I needed to research those changes for myself.
Getting my hands on the documents wasn't easy. The moment Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty pulled his initial support for the changes and announced that the curriculum changes were being put on hold, pending further review and consultations with parents, the documents were removed from the Ministry of Education website.
It took a bit of detective work, but I managed to track down a copy of the documents via the I Support Sexual Health Education in Ontario Facebook Group. I then proceeded to pour through the document, page by page, zeroing in on the most relevant sections (download copy of chart).
health-oriented curriculum – which covers so much more than sex education, incidentally – has the potential to change (and even save) kids' lives. If we can convince the government to go ahead with the curriculum as is (as opposed to bowing to pressure to water down the content), our kids will learn some very important lessons, starting at a very early age.
They will learn that every person is worthy of respect. This principle is all-inclusive and it permeates the entire curriculum. It applies to what they learn about body image, about physical fitness, about sexual health, and about healthy relationships. Here's a snippet that sets the tone for the rest of the document:
In an environment based on the principles of inclusive education, all students, parents, and other members of the school community – regardless of ancestry, culture, ethnicity, sex, physical or intellectual ability, race, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, or other similar factors – are welcomed, included, treated fairly, and respected. Diversity is valued, and all members of the school community feel safe, comfortable, and accepted. Every student is supported and inspired to succeed in a culture of high expectations for learning. In an inclusive education system, all students see themselves reflected in the curriculum, their physical surroundings, and the broader environment, so that they can feel engaged in and empowered by their learning experiences. (57)
They will learn that they don't have to tolerate bullying or abuse; and what healthy relationships are all about. They will learn that they don't have to tolerate being bullied because of body size or physical abilities or race or sexual orientation (or because they belong to a family that doesn't conform to the 1950s definition of what a Canadian family should look like: an image that continues to be over-reflected in our media); that they have the right to say no to being touched in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable (and what words to use to describe their body parts so that they can make it clear to adults and peers what body parts are off limits); and that healthy relationships at school, at home, and in the community are every child's right.
"Healthy relationships are based on respect, caring, empathy, trust, and dignity, and thrive in an environment in which diversity is honoured and accepted. Healthy relationships do not tolerate abusive, controlling, violent, harassing, or inappropriate behaviours." (55)
They will be given the information they need to make informed choices about their sexual health. In order to make the decision not to be sexually active until they are ready, kids have to have accurate information about what sex means—what it is. This generation of kids may sound like they're in the know (based on the snippets of information that they've culled from the Internet or from a supposedly savvy peer), but that doesn't necessarily mean much. A 2006-2007 study conducted by researchers from Planned Parenthood, York University, the University of Toronto, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Toronto Public Health found that Ontario kids are far less informed about sex than we think they are. "Very surprising to us was that many kids were unsure about whether they had had sex or not," one of the study's authors, Sarah Flicker, a professor of environmental studies at York University, told CBC News at the time "And even among those who were unsure, some reported that they had engaged in oral sex, anal sex or vaginal sex."
That study recommended
sweeping changes to the way sex education is taught in schools, including
kicking off the conversation as early as kindergarten. That's what this curriculum
is attempting to do (although starting at the Grade One level): to give our
kids the information and self-advocacy skills they need to be informed, stay
healthy, and develop loving relationships.
This sounds to me like the recipe for a healthier, happier generation of kids and a much less messed-up world.
I hope that
vote-seeking politicians and special interest groups don't mess this up for our
kids any more than they already have.
There's far too much at stake for the people in charge to lose sight of what really matters here: the health and well-being of the up-and-coming generation of kids.
Facebook: I Support Sexual Health Education in Ontario: A Facebook group for supporters of the new sexual health curriculum in Ontario.
NOTE: Stay tuned for Part II. I'll be interviewing Heather Corinna, founder of Scarleteen: Sex Education for the Real World, one of the most popular sex information web sites for teens, about why sex education matters.