Sex ed in Ontario, Part 2

In my previous post, I tried to keep my cool as I explained why I support the curriculum updates. Trying to catch anti-curriculum-changers with honey, rather than vinegar, as it were. To be honest though, my initial reactions upon hearing the reasoning coming from those against the curriculum update were decidedly more vinegary. “Incredulous” would be a better word, and what I wrote below is actually what I wrote first in a fury. I know pieces like this and this have done a great job at countering many of the concerns that have been raised against it, but I just needed to vent!

But now it’s more than a week later and I still haven’t gotten this finished and polished up enough to my standards. Instead of letting it languish in “draft” purgatory and eventually dying a forgotten death, I’m just going to publish it as it is, so I can have a record of the frustration I feel. 

Campaigning based on fact or heresay?

I wonder if they’ve actually read the curriculum, because just the Grade 1-8 curriculum guide is 244 pages of goodness, about many aspects of physical and mental health. That can be a daunting amount of text to read through, especially if English is not your first language. It’s daunting enough for me that I admit I haven’t made it through the Grade 9-12 curriculum yet. I suspect a lot of misinformation is being spread in the non-English media through poorly or incorrectly translated interpretations, either deliberately or not. 

But ok, if you want to get to the sex parts that gives people the rub, I’m guessing these would be the highlights by grade.

GradeSex ed contentComments
Grade 1correct anatomical names for all body parts (including penis, vagina, vulva)Definitely important to empower the kids with proper terminology if they need to report inappropriate touching
Grade 2basic stages of human development (infant, child, adolescent, adult, older adult) and related body changes, discussing consent and inappropriate touching
Grade 3identity factors and how families don't all look the same (single parent, 2 moms or dads, living with grandparents, living with legal guardians)
Grade 4puberty and external physical body changes, online and mobile phone safetyBecause yes, some girls are going through puberty as young as 9 years old
Grade 5reproductive systems, menstration and spermatogenesisAgain, some girls are going through puberty by now, and it is important for both girls AND boys to understand this. How can you expect boys to be empathic if they don’t know about it?
Grade 6physical changes during puberty can include wet dreams and vaginal lubrication, and that it is normal and not harmful to explore your body (masturbation), sexual orientation and gender expression
Grade 7emphasize choosing to delay sexual activity until older (which necessarily includes defining sexual activity including genital contact, and vaginal, anal and oral sex), STIs and prevention, protective value of vaccinations
Grade 8explain factors that can affect an individual's decisions about sexual activity, demonstrate understanding of gender identity and sexual orientation, contraception use for STI and pregnancy prevention

“Parents should be the ones to teach sex ed to their children”

Absolutely, parents should ideally be the ones to teach their children about sex. But so many of these parents do not teach anything beyond the message “Don’t have sex before marriage”, or teach incomplete information, perhaps because they themselves are not educated enough with the vocabulary to be able to tailor the lesson to the age. Or they have an as-needed “I’ll answer any questions they have” philosophy, but avoid the topic otherwise. In all these cases I think it creates an environment where the topic of sex is taboo or extremely uncomfortable for kids to talk to parents, and so these kids try to get their information elsewhere. Would it not be better for this information to be accurate and sensitively delivered in a school, instead of via schoolyard discussions/internet/TV? Or are you saying you agree to let kids have an uneven playing field of knowledge when it comes to their bodies and keeping themselves safe?

“Topics are introduced too early, it is not age appropriate”

“Let kids be kids”. Again, if you actually read the curriculum I think you’d find it quite reasonable, especially when you consider than it is not rare anymore for girls to start puberty at ages 9 and 10. Now obviously there is the need to temper the language and detailed specifics so that the child’s vocabulary is built slowly, brick by brick, but the message should still be there.  Otherwise I feel your aim is to lock your children away in Rapunzel’s tower, trying to shield them from the ravages of the world, with no tools or vocabulary to protect themselves when an unplanned intruder breaks into the tower. Even if no intruder breaks in before your decided timeline, how will you then start to introduce these topics to your Rapunzels? If you’ve been avoiding discussing sex education for 18 years, my guess is you won’t be so well versed on their 18th birthday to have a meaningful discussion that builds rapport and trust in this matter.

“No sex is the safest sex” and “There is no need to teach about anal sex”

True, no sex is the safest, in terms of preventing pregnancy and spread of sexually transmitted diseases. But without including mention of all types of sexual activity, you risk having some children not understanding that oral and anal sex is still sex. These kids might then engage in that activity thinking they are not having sex. That is the context in how anal intercourse is mentioned in the curriculum, mentioned as an example of sexual activity; it is not a graphic instructional lesson by any means.

There’s not enough emphasis on love in sex

And I am all for parents to further the discussion on this at home to provide their opinions and convey their morals to their children. I certainly will be stressing that I believe sex is best done in love. Provide them with further points of view and arguments, and encourage them to use their own critical thinking skills to come to the right decision.

“Math, not masturbation”

This bugs me because it’s not like the curriculum is planning to replace class time in school devoted to math, science, and English. It’s part of the health and social studies lesson time, where kids are taught things like how to brush their teeth properly, or what foods are good for their bodies, what bullying is, how to dribble a basketball or how to be good citizen in your community. All of these things would be removed from the curriculum if the same logic applies to everything outside the “core” subjects. Our children would be poorer for not having education towards being well-rounded individuals.

“Kathleen Wynne has an agenda”

Yes, her agenda is to have children that are educated in the safe conduct of their bodies, enable them with the knowledge to identify risky situations and tools to deal with them, and to build a society where we are of inclusive and tolerant of everyone’s differences. Oh wait, you think her agenda is gay recruitment to make more kids choose a gay lifestyle? Then you and I have a fundamental disagreement in whether being LGBT is a choice, and we won’t be able to get past that.

~Jen