Why we can be excited about Ontario's new "sex ed" curriculum

8:33 AM

When I originally sat down to write this, my tone was much different. I have felt a wide range of emotions when viewing the arguments for and against Ontario's new Health and Physical Education curriculum, particularly for grades 1 to 8. At times I was decidedly angry that so many parents are opposed to their children receiving information about their bodies at a young age. At times I was genuinely confused why understanding basic concepts like this would be seen as disgusting and perverse. But overall I was hopeful, that our province could be a better place if everyone would take a step back and listen to each other. If both sides of this dispute would lay down their weapons and hear the other out, I think we'd see valid concerns from all parties, as well as benefits from each other's point of views.

If you are frustrated about the current situation I encourage you to read the entire document through and notice the differences between the actual revisions and the information being spread by angry people online. There are massive differences. I'd also love if you could read my thoughts below with an open mind.

I want to come at this from a more positive place. I want everyone to pause and consider what good can come from this curriculum. Information is power! I want my children to learn as much as they can, before they encounter a situation in which a lack of that information would put them in danger. If that means it's learning something earlier than most parents are comfortable, I'd risk it. Here is what we have to be excited about:

Increasing accurate reporting of inappropriate behaviour
When children in grade one learn proper names for body parts, including reproductive ones, this is, first of all, a safety net. Children should know these words by the age of six, or long before. Adding it to a grade one lesson is simply making sure that no child is left behind. Children will be able to tell someone if they are hurt or needing help. I don't see a good reason to hold off teaching proper words. If children, of all ages, can accurately explain things that have happened to them, threats that have been made, or situations that made them feel uncomfortable, it means it can be dealt with. This is also helpful for hygiene.

Decrease feelings of confusion
I think we all can thank the sexual education system for easing the weirdness of puberty when we were growing up. Whether the information we were given was just a reiteration of something we had already learned at home or on the playground, it is undeniably helpful to have a teacher explain what changes a body goes through from infancy to old age. Children will be taught at age nine that the body goes through changes during puberty: this seems like a pretty reasonable age to me. The following year they begin to cover the other changes like thinking you might "like" someone else, as well as dealing with stress and mental health issues. When I read this I just want to yell THANK YOU for helping our children with these huge issues. Receiving mental health information beyond the home, by someone who is equipped with research to deal with the topic is extremely helpful. Having this information can save lives.

Reducing non-consensual activities
I have been teaching my children consent from the moment they were born. This doesn't have to be sexual. If Oliver wants to wrestle with his dad, he asks permission first. If Cal then starts a tickle war with Ollie and he doesn't seem to be appreciating it, it stops. We say "my body, my choice." Oliver even knows to ask before he throws a ball at someone while playing catch. This is of utmost importance in this day and age. This shelters both the person who escapes a situation that they did not whole-heartedly want to be a part of, as well the person who would have otherwise been the culprit of peer pressuring. I want to know that my teaching Dakota that she needs to consider whether she truly wants to do something, and to communicate that verbal "yes", will save her from making regrettable decisions in her future. I want this for Oliver too, but beyond that I want Oliver to be able to save someone from a future regret by knowing to LISTEN for a yes. Being the coercive one can be just as harmful as being the one who wasn't ready. I think children will actually get involved in sexual activities later in life if they're taught that they need to truly think about if they're ready. They're literally taught, word for word: It’s best to wait until you are older to have sex because you need to be emotionally ready.
Tackling social media safety
I love that there is material on keeping yourself safe on the internet. It really shows that they've taken into account modern issues that affect our children today. Unless we outright ban our children from the web, they are going to be in situations where they have to make good choices. Telling them about how photos they take can last forever, and be seen by people they weren't intended for, could prevent many embarrassing events. They also teach about the danger of "sexting" and please remember that teaching about the safety concerns of a certain topic does not encourage a child to experiment with it: if that was the case we'd need to remove the current teachings about being safe with electricity. And crossing roads. And running with scissors.

Correcting misconceptions about pregnancy and STIs
In recent studies it shows that teenage pregnancy rates are actually dropping, however rates of sexually transmitted infections is increasing. One reason for this can be lack of information leading to the use of safety measures that only affects pregnancy (i.e. using a condom, or choosing oral and anal sex.)  To clarify, the teacher has no prompt to explain what these acts are, how to do them, nothing. They are simply asked to teach that engaging in different kinds of sexual acts doesn't protect you from STIs. I feel like this deserves another collective: thank you! Modern, relevant information that will help our children avoid tough issues.

Avoiding harmful bullying
I am personally very happy that gender identity is being taught in school. I'm aware that some parents believe that this causes unnecessary questioning from children about what they identify as, but keep in mind that explaining that boys can still do stereotypically "feminine" things and girls can do stereotypically "masculine" things would actually reduce the frequency of children having confusion about what they identify as. If we stick to our conventional beliefs of gender roles, my son Oliver may see his love for makeup and Strawberry Shortcake cartoons as evidence that he is truly a female. This curriculum would show him that he can like whatever he wants! It also opens his friends up to the idea that it's okay for Oliver to like these things, and reduces bullying against him.

I understand that the conservative and religious community, specifically are outraged by all of this. I would consider myself part of both of those communities but if you look at the curriculum yourself you will see that it will benefit our children by providing them with information that they need. I know that these topics are the responsibility of the parents, but we can all agree that not all parents take this responsibility seriously enough. I am excited that my children will be surrounded by peers who also understand all of these fundamental concepts, and who will be less prone to bullying, or being a perpetrator or victim of peer pressure.

I'd love for you to weigh in with your thoughts below!

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  1. Studies suggest that early exposure (per-puberty) to sexuality leads to an increase in sexual behaviors and sexual promiscuity.. The introduction and explosion of the porn industry, the internet and the glorification of adultery, sexual promiscuity in Hollywood have contributed to early exposures.. I would say - why do we have to be so sexually aware at all.. Why can we not dress conservative, get rid of porn and films that glorify adultery and allow kids to be kids.. I am willing to suggest that this increase in sexuality at early ages is only going to increase the number of sexual deviant behavior against children, when these children who are now improperly exposed to the information are deviant later in life.. We can teach children to say NO to all kids of improper behaviors against them by teaching them what is right .. this includes violent, bullying, and sexual mis-behaviors against them.. NOT by describing the wrong behaviors, but rather by describing the right behaviors only..

  2. I think the open access to information is essential. Helping kids understand the details of the natural processes of their bodies in time avoids massive amounts of confusion and incorrect information seeking among equally ignorant peers.

    There is a core part of human nature that speaks to sexual deviance and I think that is engrained in us or it isn’t. Helping kids identify and understand these feelings and why they might be having them can only be a positive thing in my mind. I don’t see the proposed content steering children towards sexual misconduct.

    With increased risk of online predation this information is key for kids to be able to have. Not to mention the access to content kids have compared to previous generations, and if you think they’re not finding ways around the parental controls on you tablets you’re only kidding yourselves.

    Having this information given to them in a controlled and timely manner only reduces the urges they have to seek misinformation elsewhere.

    Understanding the risks they face in our current technological society is a massive piece. To with hold this from kids is a dangerous as telling them they can cross the road with out looking both ways first. They need to understand what the dangers are to be able to avoid them.

    I think this cariculum fills many gaps and is a very reasonable, much needed updated to the content previously taught.


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