I had to accept that my children will get exposed to information about sex much earlier then I might want them to. If related words were being flashed and chanted around in the presence of young children by even these parents -- who were arguing that the curriculum is age-inappropriate -- then what were the chances that my child won't be introduced to these subjects sooner than later?
The backlash against Ontario's new health curriculum has left many people confused. Is it radical? Are fundamental parental and religious rights being undermined? All parents want to protect their children, but opponents of sex education are inadvertently doing the opposite. Denying children accurate and inclusive information about their bodies, human relationships and sexuality is not protective; it is irresponsible. Without such information, children are unable to care for themselves and grow into healthy and responsible adults.
I need you to raise boys who know what real women look like. Boys who know that women have body hair and curvy thighs or small breasts. Boys who understand the difference between actual consent and inebriated/coerced consent. Boys who value strength of mind, body and spirit over physical appearance. Boys who look for a partnership, not a hook up.
The curriculum is aimed at preparing kids to navigate the complicated interpersonal and sexual situations in today's hyper-sexualized world. But opponents have latched on to a number of provisions. It should be clearly understood that the new curriculum is not a "How to Manual" and that the state is not promoting a particular relationship structure. Ultimately, the government must do a better job of convincing some parents that it is responding to the changing realities. All stakeholders must feel that at least some of their concerns are heard and validated.
The new, modernized Physical Education and Health curriculum is supported by the overwhelming majority of Ontario parents. However, there remains a small, yet vocal few, who strongly oppose any changes. Although I currently serve as a School Board Trustee, it's as a parent that I wish to engage in this debate. There is rarely a week at home when my kids don't speak of things I never would have touched at their age. As a father, raising my children in these times, I'm happy to be able to count on the support of professional educators who can complement what my kids learn and discuss at home.
Ten-year-old Hannah used to love going to school but now the Ontario fourth grader is too scared to return and her mother Nicola can't blame her. On Monday, Hannah experienced the second of two incidents of bullying with a disturbingly sexual tone. Hannah's mother spoke to the school principal, and although the boy admitted to the incident, as far as she knows no further action was taken by the school. As of Wednesday, Nicola's calls to the superintendent and her school trustee had not been returned, and the principal did not respond to a request for comment for this post.
While I have some reservations about the fairness and wisdom of ramming the new sex education curriculum down the throats of unwilling parents, I am still scratching my head over the strength of this parental protest. Why are parents more upset about the somewhat-flawed new sex education curriculum than the known-to-be-very-flawed math and language arts curriculum already in place? Nor do the problems with the Ontario curriculum end with math and language arts. What about its music curriculum that doesn't teach kids how to sight read or sing in tune? Why aren't students taught cursive writing?
The new Ontario health and physical education curriculum, which has been the topic of much anger and debate, has the health and safety of all of our children as one of its primary goals. While I agree that children are in need of protection, I would like someone to explain how refusing to educate children could in any way protect them. Certain adults are keeping their children home to protest the new curriculum that will be introduced this coming fall. What will happen if we divide our students into two groups -- those who receive sex education and those who are being "protected" from it?
Ontario Premier Wynne ascended to power by winning over the small clique of Liberal Party members who can afford leadership conference fees and travel expenses. Both Ontario women and LGBT communities rejoiced at this opportunity to have, for the first time, one their own at the seat of power. People of colour and hijab-wearing Muslim-Canadian women face acute harassment that falls outside the sort explicitly described in Wynne's plan. As a candidate, Wynne reached out to visible minorities on her way to the mountain top. Then she forgot about them.
Under the new curriculum, nay-saying parents have the option of pulling their kids out of sex-ed class. But should they? As a fellow parent of three children in the Ontario public education system, I say no. You can pull your kids out of sex-ed. And maybe one day you will also pull them out of classes that teach about climate change and evolution. Perhaps you don't trust the teacher who might be gay and so you find a way to pull your kids out of his or her class. You are teaching your kids to run from what they fear and instill in them hatred of others. Isn't it better to arm them with knowledge, teach them to respect differences and then trust them?
Survivors of sexual assault experience a great deal of shame and guilt, particularly young women, as they internalize the victim-blaming messages conveyed by the media. This often keeps them from seeking the support they so desperately need. This International Women's Day, we need to encourage more initiatives that are centred on girls and young women. We need to commit to eliminating barriers to accessing support for survivors of sexual violence. And we need to support projects that deconstruct and challenge rape culture. But most importantly, we must listen and believe young women when they speak.
Whenever the topic of sex education and children comes up, there's an inevitable outcry from parents, politicians, and religious figures, who either think that (a) this should be taught at home, (b) the topics being taught are "inappropriate," or (c) teachers will do it wrong. All of which, frankly, don't speak to the realities of what's happening with kids right now. There's a reason people joke about kids playing "doctor" -- it's because kids are curious about their bodies, and the feelings they get from them, as much as adults are. They just don't have the knowledge to help them along the way. So hey, wouldn't it be great if they could get that someplace safe and educational, like say, school?
Unfortunately, misconceptions and misinformation about this curriculum are continuing to make their way around the Internet, mostly because people seem bound and determined to willfully ignore the actual facts before forming an opinion. So today I'm going to address the most common myths about the new curriculum.