This week I want to talk about sex. Sexual education to be specific. In the beginning of 2015, Ontario implemented revisions to the Health and Physical Education (i.e. sexual education) curriculum; such changes – as you might be aware – were not taken lightly.
Let me make my own views clear: I am in full favor of the implementations made. Students should be more educated on sex, and communicating about sex should be a normalized topic of conversation in our society. The more that students are introduced to sex (i.e. sex and gender identity, sexual positions, sexual conduct, sexual misconduct, and sexual safety), the better.
To best illustrate why I have these views, I would like to respond directly to some of the implementations that people have raised concern over:
- Teaching homosexuality in grade three. Educators are required to:
“Describe how visible differences (e.g., skin, hair, and eye colour, facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities, clothing, possessions) and invisible differences (e.g. learning abilities, skills and talents, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, family background, personal preferences, allergies and sensitivities) make each person unique, and identify ways of showing respect for differences in others (124).”
In “A Christian Parent’s Guide to Ontario’s New Sex Ed Curriculum”, Kevin Seguin uses a Christian perspective to assist parents with accepting the changes made to the Health and Physical Education Curriculum; he aims to guide parents into understanding how this curriculum can serve as effective. Indeed, I wholeheartedly agree Seguin’s solution to Christian parents. While teaching grade threes on the range of sexual interests and sexual identities is admitted as a heavy topic for that age range, Seguin comments on how introducing these differences can promote students to treat each other – to treat EVERYONE – with kindness and respect. I certainly believe that acknowledging differences in identity at a young age will allow children to recognize the fact that everyone is unique, and that no one should be targeted or marginalized as a result of such differences.
2. Introduction of both vaginal and anal intercourse in grade seven. Educators are required to:
“Explain the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about the following: delaying sexual activity until they are older (e.g., choosing to abstain from any genital contact; choosing to abstain from having vaginal or anal intercourse; choosing to abstain from having oral-genital contact); the reasons for not engaging in sexual activity; the concept of consent and how consent is communicated; and, in general, the need to communicate clearly with each other when making decisions about sexual activity in the relationship (195).”
In one blog post on Global News, Alan Carter refers to one of the ministry’s justifications for such curriculum, provided by Liz Sandals (Minister of the Ministry of Education at the time of the curriculum implementation). Carter states: “Sandals stressed the information in grade seven is in the context of avoiding sexually transmitted infections, maintaining the curriculum must be implemented this fall because of a surge in STIs in young people.” Indeed, I agree with Sandals: preventative measures for sexually transmitted infections is aligned with the need to educate students more effectively; more effectively might certainly mean EARLIER.
Based on the discussion that I heard at the time of the implementation (i.e. 2015), it seems as though parents who are frustrated by this new grade seven health curriculum often assume that their children are going take part in those activities simply because they are being introduced to them; their children will take part in vaginal and anal intercourse because their teachers discuss it in class. Think about this folks: NOT introducing these activities or educating children on how to remain SAFE and HEALTHY thus leaves the responsibility in the sole hands of PARENTS, or in the hands of others lacking proper RESOURCES (i.e. their friends, the online world). Are parents ready to tackle the tough questions and ensure that their child is comfortable with their sexuality and with their environment, because the internet and social groups always are; the primitive focus of this curriculum is to ensure that people remain safe, and that is all that should matter.
3. Applying revisions to the curriculum without parental consent.
This video interviews various parents in the midst of their protest to the Premier of Ontario on the 2015 curriculum changes. If you watch the video, you will see that the main argument against the curriculum, at least stemming from these particular responses, is the fact that parents did not consent to these changes.
Prior to administering the changes, the Ministry of Education asked one parent from each elementary school (4000 parents) to complete a survey to provide their input on the changes. Of course, I’m sure each and every parent should have had the opportunity to share their feedback, and I think that collecting more feedback is something that the ministry should consider for future implementations. At the same time, however, I believe that the education system has a responsibility to ensure that each and every student is recognized, treated with respect, and cared for; having this curriculum only serves to evoke those qualities more.
4. And finally, “math, not masturbation, science, not sex”
I saved the best for last. This is a protester’s sign in the above photo. Another parent in the video commented on how education needs to stick to the “facts”.
HEALTH and PHYSICAL EDUCATION are subjects too.
Humans are created through sex; sex is a fact.
Just because some parents value particular subjects less than others does not mean that the school system can ignore them; this argument is completely ridiculous and unjustifiable for that reason alone. If schools were PRIORITIZING these subjects over others by allotting more time or resources into ensuring more creative and dynamic classroom lessons for those subjects, then yes, I could justify this argument. But, that is simply not the case.
I’d like to leave you with a final thought to keep in mind. What age is “too young” to learn about sexual education? Is there an age “too young”? Of course these topics might seem weird or awkward to teach, but this awkwardness stems from the fact that they are not yet topics considered in the norm of social discussion. Sex and identity is what makes us who we are, so why should they ever be awkward to talk about? This change is good change, at least that is how I see it.
Thank you for making it through a tough topic with me!