Today morning, education minister, Liz Sandals released the details of the first update since 1998, to Ontario’s Sex Education curriculum. Our premier, Kathleen Wynne believes the changes to the curriculum will help teach elementary school students about healthy relationships and sexual consent. After seeing some of the changes that are going to be implemented starting September 2015, I cannot say that I am happy about it but I can understand why it is necessary. As a parent I want to preserve the innocence of my children for as long as I can but I also realize that we live in a hyper-sexual culture and that our children will be exposed to sex in one way or another. If my children are going to learn about sex and sex-related topics, I would prefer them learn about it in a safe and educational environment.
The following is a few of the things that will be taught to Ontario students as part of the new health and physical education curriculum:
- anatomically correct names for body parts
- recognizing facial expressions and tone of voice
- understanding body language
- stages of development along with changes that occur in the body
- concept of no means no
- verbal and physical violence
- same-sex marriages
- healthy relationships
- Puberty (emotional, physical, social changes)
- Personal hygiene and care
- Safe use of technology
- the reproductive system
- gender expression
- puberty changes
- healthy relationships
Grade 7 & 8
- transmission of STIs through oral and anal sex
- consent to sex
After careful deliberation, I have made up my mind in regards to how I feel about this new curriculum. At first I thought it was too early to be teaching children about sex education and I had mixed feelings about my children being taught about sex-related matters so early on. Then reality hit me. We live in a world where the media is obsessed about sex and sexuality and no matter how much we try to shield our children from it, they will inevitably pick up on the subject through television, the internet, media, overheard conversations, and their peers. We live in an technological age where sexting is on the rise and where there is easy access to pornography. So why not properly inform our kids? I would rather my children learn the proper terminology in regards to genitals than pick up slang and derogatory words in the playground. I would want my children to learn about the nature of sexual consent. Today where child abuse, especially sexual abuse is on the rise, children should be taught what constitutes as appropriate and inappropriate behaviour. I think that it is a wonderful thing that children will be taught from early on that they alone have control over their bodies.
My husband however, is very upset with the new curriculum, as are most other parents and people that I have spoken to. As a father, he believes that elementary school aged children should not be overexposed to explicit information about sex, and rightly so. Like my husband, I also fear that teaching children about sex will peak their curiosity and maybe even encourage children to experiment with their sexuality earlier than they would have, had they not been educated about sex. However, I also strongly believe having discussions about topics relevant to society today, will help our children make smarter and well-informed decisions.
A lot of people believe that it is up to the parents, and not the school system, to teach their children about sex. Although I agree that parents should teach their children about sex, not many parents feel comfortable discussing the topic. I know that when I was growing up, many mothers didn’t even tell their daughters about menstruation. One of my friends thought she was dying when she got her first period at school. The subject of menstruation and sex is still considered taboo today and it isn’t going to get any easier to discuss every single thing with our children. Our children are not always going to feel comfortable asking their parents questions either. This is why I believe that sex and health education is so important. Note that sex education is not just about educating children on the concept of sexual intercourse; it is so much more. They will be learning about what it means to consent, the dangers of sexting, healthy relationships, safe sex and more.
I hope the new curriculum also addresses self-control, morals, commitment, and the consequences of casual and love-less sex. I hope the new curriculum teaches children the importance of waiting until they are ready and how to protect themselves from being coerced or pressured into doing something that they are not comfortable doing. Whether the new curriculum teaches these things or not, I will be sure to teach my children at home, as it is also my responsibility as a parent to do so. I hope schools refer to the Gomeshi cases to teach both girls and boys about consent and I hope the tragic death of Rehtaeh Parsons who took her own life in 2013, is discussed to prevent future incidents as such.
If you strongly disagree with the new curriculum and find that the content is inappropriate, you can always exercise your right to withdraw your child from health class at your school.
To learn more about Ontario’s revised Health and Physical Education Curriculum and read the curriculum in detail, click here. I highly recommend you read the actual curriculum before rejecting the curriculum altogether.