In Ontario, there is a massive parental uprising against the new sex education curriculum being imposed on all publicly-funded schools. Many parents feel so strongly about the revamped curriculum that they are keeping their children home from school, attending rallies, phoning radio talk shows, writing letters to the editor, and meeting with their members of parliament.
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 social studies curriculum is all about research skills and historical processes -- instead of teaching students where things are on the map and when and why things happened. The physical education curriculum is inadequate, and children aren't being taught how to draw. Science instruction is heavily biased in favour of knee-jerk environmentalism and other trendy notions. Correct spelling and grammar are distant memories. And the list goes on.
Really, the problems with the new sex education curriculum are probably about #20 on my list of grumbles about the Ontario curriculum.
Having said this, I do acknowledge that the new sex education curriculum has its problems as well.
For one thing, it is being imposed on ALL parents, even though polling suggests that only about 42 per cent of respondents approve of it. Clearly, the Ontario government cannot justify its imposition on the grounds that it is the will of the majority. Instead, the government's high-handedness seems to reflect a culture, a way of thinking, whereby the province's leaders feel they are more enlightened than ordinary people and know what's best for them. This is a bit worrisome.
Another problem, one that will be presented by all but the most insipid of sex education curricula, is the difficulty of delivering age-appropriate instruction to a class of 25. Children's physical and mental development varies enormously. For example, some girls have their first period at the age of 10, while others don't start to menstruate until they're 15 or 16. A one-size-fits-all curriculum must therefore teach menstruation and intercourse and pregnancy to 9-year-olds -- just in time for some of the girls and ridiculously early for others.
Lastly, there is the question of exactly who will be delivering the new sex education curriculum. While most teachers are empathetic and sensitive and caring, among their ranks are inevitably a few jerks and even predators who are decidedly not the people you would willingly choose to broach sensitive subjects with your six-year-old. Unfortunately, these types of teachers tend to have a strong interest in teaching sex education programs themselves, and so they may deliberately seek out these opportunities -- meaning that over the course of 14 years, a child is likely to be learning about sex from at least one of them.
Although in many cases the Ontario parents who oppose the new sex education curriculum are being characterized as knuckle-draggers who don't want their kids to find out where babies come from, many of them have legitimate reasons for their disquiet and they should be listened to.
However, the protesting parents have even more legitimate reasons to oppose the reading and math instruction that is failing almost a third of Ontario students, according to the province's testing body. While a flawed sex education curriculum may damage some kids' psyches a little bit in the future, maybe result in somewhat less healthy sexuality -- who knows? -- there is no doubt that hundreds of thousands of Ontario kids' lives are being greatly diminished every year because they can't read or do math very well.
Now that Ontario parents have finally found their voice, they should use it to speak up about the sections of the Ontario curriculum that REALLY matter!
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