The Ontario government revealed a new sex ed curriculum last month, its first update since 1998. Deemed controversial by some, others say the changes are much needed in light of the access our children now have to technology.
Amidst controversy Liz Sandals, Minister of Education, emphasized that one of the biggest changes is about introducing kids to the issue of consent. She said "on having a very explicit conversation about consent -- what does consent mean and what do healthy relationships look like -- I think in that piece we (Ontario) may become the leader."
Ensuring kids understand consent means arming them with the most critical part of making decisions about sex. Consent is what gives them choice -- including the choice to abstain. It protects them from abuse by giving them the power to say no. And by relaying where issues of consent lie, they may more easily avoid overstepping boundaries of their own and/or the boundaries of others.
Practically speaking, by ensuring lessons on consent, this next generation of young men will finish high school understanding, at an age before their fathers likely did, that drunk means "no." And it will examine the consequences, including the legal implications, of many other situations that we never faced as kids, including posting online comments and/or photos, that may be harmful to themselves or others.
Yet there are parents condemning Premier Kathleen Wynne -- who also happens to be Canada's first openly gay premier -- worried their children will be taught the wrong "values" and lose their "innocence" too soon.
Those parents criticize the new curriculum saying it's inappropriate for kids to know the correct names of their own anatomy at Grade 1, (notwithstanding that this has been in the curriculum since 1998).
The same parents also say kids shouldn't learn about masturbation at Grade 6. But kids are maturing at a younger age now than in previous years. Further, telling kids masturbation is normal doesn't imply that they should be touching themselves in public. A discussion on boundaries and consent will ensure that such a ludicrous message would never be relayed.
What's most telling is that the parents angry at sex-ed don't want anyone letting their children know that there exist individuals who are transgender or queer. And more importantly, they don't want anyone teaching them that these differences must be respected.
Really? Do we want a society in which gay bashing continues? Should the subject of LGBTQ instead be raised only at the dinner table where it can be intolerantly explained to kids that it's "not normal" so the torch may be passed from one generation to the next to hatefully harass sexual minorities for eternity?
Finally, what seems to be most offensive to parents, bent on condemning the new curriculum, are lessons discussing oral and anal sex.
Here's a question: 12 year olds have been taught lessons in schools describing heterosexual intercourse since the 1950s in classes on reproduction. How can limiting information to one activity be appropriate when more than one activity exists in reality?
Critical parents are under the ignorant notion that by including discussion on oral and anal sex in the lesson plan these activities are "promoted" as alternatives. Yet, according to the World Health Organization, studies show that kids, who are informed, actually postpone sexual activity, have lower rates of teen pregnancy and a lower incidence of STIs. Postponing knowledge, on the other hand, does not guarantee "innocence."
Finally, under the new curriculum, the nay-saying parents have the option of pulling their kids out of sex-ed class. In fact one Mississauga council candidate is running on a platform that promotes opting out of sex-ed.
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. And perhaps you don't want your kids in that school which now also has all those new immigrants. So you find a way to bypass the school boundary or alternatively pull them out of school altogether. After all, home schooling is your right.
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?
What kind of society are we creating if we are filled with fear?
I know, actually. This kind.
Sex-ed is the least of our problems. Wake up.
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