If we look back throughout history, there has always been a time of revolt and upheaval to pave the way to progress and positive change: abolition of segregation, women’s suffrage and the Black Lives Matter movement to name a few.
So the fact that Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum is freaking out parents is completely understandable to me. In a democracy, those who oppose the curriculum have the right to protest, rally, petition, appeal and/or switch school systems. That is why I embrace and promote the democratic process.
In fact, the democratic process was used to develop the curriculum. The Wynne government wisely included the opinion of one parent representative from each school to weigh in.
While the majority of Ontario parents are on board, there seems to be only a few contentious issues among the minority who are opposed.
Let’s look at each individually:
Sex-ed: Okay, let’s face it, people are triggered by the name alone. Sex is simply a dirty word to many and when they hear it, they shut down their ability to think rationally or listen openly. British Columbia refers to their equivalent curriculum as “Body Science.” Maybe we should adopt that language, too?
Same-sex relationships: Same-sex marriages are legal in Canada. As a country, we embrace the equality and normalcy of homosexuality. Public education should reflect public laws that govern society.
Masturbation: Ask any mental health professional and we will all answer unequivocally: masturbation is normal and healthy. People are tormented by guilt over this most human of behaviours. Explaining these sexual sensations are a part of our physiology; it’s like teaching the science of nerve conduction and friction.
Gender expression: Like same sex-marriages, gender non-conforming children are healthy, normal and have rights in our country. Schools are a subsection of our country. School rights should reflect greater societal rights. Schools are already adopting gender-neutral bathrooms as Obama has in the White House.
Prevnet.ca, a world leader in bullying research and school programming, shares stats that including LGBQT committees in schools is an important factor in reducing bullying.
Contraception: My grandmother campaigned to get sex education into the school curriculum in Delaware in the 60s. Those who opposed argued that if schools taught youth about contraception they would be condoning, or worse, inviting youth to engage in sexual intercourse. Research shows the opposite is true. Education always wins out. We have reduced unwanted pregnancy, STDs and the average age of being sexually active is getting older each year.
The truth of the matter is, our kids are being exposed to all sorts of conversations, social media and YouTube videos where they are being forced to make their own assumptions when it comes to “Body Science.” Some parents feel uncomfortable with the curriculum because they aren’t sure they're ready to answer the follow-up questions that might come up at the dinner table. For the majority of us, our own parents never had these conversations with us as children and we turned out just fine. Right?
But think of where you learned the facts, how much of it was incorrect and if that is the same avenue you want for your kids. Trust me, you will survive this!
One last thing to note -- you absolutely have the right to opt-out of the class, but that will only invite further curiosity and playground discussions. Would you rather them hear it from a trained professional or second-hand from the eight year old who was allowed to attend the class and is giving a Coles notes version of what was discussed?
In Grade 1, students should be able to identify body parts, including genitalia like the penis, testicles, vagina, vulva, and use correct terminology.
By Grade 2, students will outline the basic stages of human development, including an infant, child, adolescent, adult, older adult, for example, and related bodily changes. They will also identify factors that are important for healthy growth.
In Grade 3, students will be able to describe how visible differences (like facial features, body size and shape, physical aids or different physical abilities. for example) and invisible differences (like learning abilities, personal or cultural values and beliefs, gender identity, sexual orientation, for example), make each person unique. Students will also learn ways of showing respect for differences in others.
In Grade 4, students will describe the physical changes that happen during puberty for males and females — the growth of body hair, breast development, changes in voice and body size, production of body odour, and skin changes, for example. They will also learn about the potential emotional and social impact of these changes.
In Grade 5, students will identify the parts of the reproductive system, and describe how the human body changes during puberty. They will expand their vocabulary with words like cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, endometrium, and clitoris, as well as scrotum, urethra, testicles, prostate gland, seminal vesicles, and vas deferens.
Students in the sixth grade will assess the effects of stereotypes — including homophobia and assumptions regarding gender roles and expectations, sexual orientation, gender expression, race, ethnicity or culture, mental health, and abilities, among others. They will also propose appropriate ways of responding to and changing some of these stereotypes.
In Grade 7, students will touch on consent and the importance of having a shared understanding with a partner about delaying sexual activity, for example. They will go over genital contact, vaginal or anal intercourse and oral sex (including choosing to abstain from these activities). They will also go over reasons for not engaging in sexual activity and the concept of how consent can be communicated in a relationship. Grade 7 students will also touch on the understanding of physical, emotional, social, and psychological factors that need to be considered when making decisions related to sexual health, including STIs, pregnancy, desire, pleasure, gender identity among others. Students will also delve into areas of cyber-bullying, harassment and behaviours like sexting.
In Grade 8, students learn about all six genders including male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transsexual and intersex. They also cover topics of sexual orientation (heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual). When it comes to sex, students will learn about contraception and condom use for pregnancy, STI prevention, consent, and what it means to be in a healthy sexual relationship. For further development, Grade 8 students will also touch on the benefits or attractions of being in a relationship, along with drawbacks and risks like breaking up.
In Grade 9, students will be able to describe how to prevent unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV/AIDS. A further understanding of gender identities and issues around stigma, culture, religion, media, stereotypes, homophobia, self-image, and others.
Students should be able to describe factors that influence sexual decision making, including personal values, having limits, peer and family expectations, and myths and norms related to sexual activity or safe sex. Students will demonstrate an understanding of how to use decision-making and communication skills effectively to support choices related to sexual health. Discussions on misconceptions about sexuality in our culture, as well as what it means to be in a exclusive relationship.
Understanding a variety of mental illnesses and addictions including: eating disorders; major depression; anxiety disorders; psychotic disorders, and tobacco, alcohol, drug, gambling, gaming, or Internet addictions. Students in Grade 11 will cover proactive health measures like breast and testicular examinations, Pap tests, regular medical check-ups, stress management techniques, among others.
In addition to cyber-bulling, students in Grade 12 will also cover stalking, sexual assault, abuse within a family, extortion, and workplace harassment, for example. Further discussion on healthy relationships, developing healthy sexual relationships with others, and looking at relationships and stereotypes in the media.