I wrote back in 2010 about Ontario's aborted attempt at updating the sexual education curriculum to better reflect reality. A small but determined cohort of parents raised an outcry because s-e-x and the government caved.
Now they have a majority, and there's no caving this time around. Our new curriculum is mandatory: you are not permitted to remove your children from its pernicious influence.
edit: an update states that parents will have the ability to opt their kids out. If they do that, they should have to opt out of the rest of school, too, as far as I'm concerned...
I will stand by this assertion unto the end of time: any parent who believes he/she is the best, let alone the only, authority to teach a child about sex is in fact the LEAST qualified person to do it.
I've already heard from one outraged friend who says she'll pull her child from school to keep him from being exposed to this curriculum. I'm afraid to ask what she'd substitute in its place. Nothing, most probably.
One of my favourite columnists, Tabatha Southey, wrote a fantastic piece about sex ed and her weird experience with it. My sex ed was pathetic...I got more information out of the Where Did I Come From?" book my mom gave me at a very young age than I did out of that class.
Which isn't saying much...sex, according to that book, is something that happens when a man wants to get "really close" to a woman (no mention about what the woman might want). It's also, unsurprisingly, something that feels really good for the man (no mention of what it feels like for the woman). We're all made of sperm--there's barely any mention of the egg at all. The author's name? Peter Mayle. I am not making this up.
But class wasn't any better. For one thing, both the class and its content were segregated. God forbid boys should ever learn about girl parts, let alone in the presence of actual girls (you never know, some girl might find that dry-as-chalk-dust lecture arousing and strip in front of us or something). I got a clinical diagram of a penis, another clinical diagram of what purported to be a vagina (next to no detail) and an incredibly clinical breakdown of sexually transmitted diseases and how to guard against them. That part was good, as far as it went...but basically sex itself was presented as a disease.
There was no mention of homosexuality, even though most of us had experimented with someone of the same gender by the time we hit high school and statistically, some of us were, in fact, gay. There was no mention of masturbation, even though babies start masturbating in the womb. And consent? Nary a word about it. That overwhelmingly contributed to a forbidden fruit culture in which both boys and girls were judged by the sex they were or weren't having. Boys are supposed to love, want and desire sex; girls aren't. This do we perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes and hangups about what is, after all, a bodily function.
I had to educate myself from other books, and even so, by the time I had sex, just shy of nineteen, I was still completely ignorant of certain truths about it. I believed that it was my sworn duty to give a girl an orgasm, but had no real idea how to do it, and even less of an idea that many women can't orgasm from vaginal stimulation alone. Hey, if you watch porn, women appear to have orgasms from about the third thrust on...no real effort required. Needless to say, actual sex is miles away from porn.
I had a same-sex experience a few years later that went a long way beyond the childhood playing of "doctor" we all do, and was left completely flummoxed by the huge wave of emotional affection I felt versus a total lack of sexual attraction, before, during, or after. Maybe these are lessons we all have to learn ourselves, but it would have been nice to have some sort of framework I could reference. Hell, I'm 43 now and I still don't understand huge and popular sexual arenas, mostly having to do with bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism. I'll freely admit my hatred of Fifty Shades of Grey is at least as much based on my distaste and bewilderment for those modes of sexual expression and their popularity as it is for anything that's actually in the book itself.
Here's a link to the curriculum so you can read it for yourself.
Let's talk about the objections that have been raised.
First: age-appropriateness. There are lots of parents saying they have no problem with Johnny learning about the parts of the body...and that's covered, starting in first grade. This is something child abuse investigators have been demanding for years. It's also something that will hopefully counteract the incredibly harmful "shame complex" that many parents instil in their kids about their bodies.
Grade four: "Sharing private sexual photos or posting sexual comments online is unacceptable and also illegal.”
Because yes, that happens now, starting at yes, that young an age. It's "you show me yours, I'll show you mine" for the modern age...the difference being that "yours" and "mine" can now be shown everywhere, forever, and is that something you want your kid to have any part of?
Parents will rejoice at this: in grade seven, kids will learn all about the choice to abstain from various forms of sexual gratification. They'll also (hip hip hooray!) learn about consent. The addition of consent to the curriculum was insisted upon not by parents, not by teachers, but by the students themselves...which I think reveals a wider truth.
Kids at that age--grade seven would be 12-13--are not only cognizant of sex, some of them are presumably being pressured to have it. Obviously this is something we want to forestall. Pretending it's not happening won't do it. Refusing to confront it won't stop it. Kids need to be fully aware not just of the mechanics but also the risks of sex. And yes, the rewards. Children at that age are not stupid. They see a hypersexualized culture all around them and figure there must be something awfully alluring about sex. Ignoring that will leave us all standing naked, so to speak. If there's anything a kid can spot effortlessly, it's an adult being phoney.
In later grades, kids will learn about oral and anal sex. Hopefully before they actually experience either of those things. More than one in five children have engaged in oral sex by ninth grade. There's a widespread belief that oral sex isn't real sex (I think we can thank Bill Clinton for that)--but thanks to the increase in oral sex, the rates of various sexually transmitted infections have been rising of late.
In short, this curriculum is fantastic, but it's still a little bit behind the times.
Next objection: a pedophile created this curriculum.
It is true that a former deputy minister of education by the name of Ben Levin intends to plead guilty on some of the seven charges related to child pornography that he faces. These are, it goes without saying, disturbing charges: accessing, possessing, writing and distributing child pornography, counselling someone to commit sexual assault, and making an arrangement with a police officer to commit sexual assault. Awful stuff.
But even the Toronto SUN, no friend of this government, has quoted an education ministry spokesperson as saying:
“Ben Levin had no involvement in the development of the content of the curriculum. Curriculum is developed by subject experts and is based on research in addition to consultations with a wide array of people, including teachers, parents, and students.”
(All this while insinuating every chance they get that the ghost of Ben Levin is hard at work corrupting your sons and daughters.) For heaven's sake, teachers can't even hug little kids anymore...I hardly suspect their schools are full of pederasty.
Given that literally thousands of people have had a hand in drafting this thing (some of them, no doubt, with undisclosed dark secrets of their own)...should we abandon it without reading it? Hell, no. That'd be like, oh, I don't know, rejecting the Bible's advice on child-rearing because some priests are kiddy-diddlers.
"Parents should have the choice on how or whether to teach this information to their kids!"
Nobody is saying you can't teach your kids about sex. Do it properly, and they'll get great marks in the sexual education components of their curricula. Nothing wrong with that. Is there?
Well, yes, according to these parents, there is. And it's the same thing that characterizes their worldview on a host of other issues: Beliefs trump facts. You see this on both sides of the political aisle: sex ed is evil and perverse, climate change is a hoax, vaccines cause autism, GMOs are some sort of monolithic world-poisoning machine. You can spout as many facts as you'd like to attempt to counteract any of these delusions and all you're doing is proving yourself to be part of the conspiracy. Would you believe that just today I ran up against "the gay agenda" because homosexuality is part of the curriculum? I haven't heard that old chestnut in years, but apparently it's alive and well, I'm sorry to report. I asked the gentleman who posted that assertion to source it, and this is what he produced: a story saying that nine (NINE!!!!9!!!!) "openly gay, lesbian or bisexual" persons are seeking jobs as school board trustees in Ontario. That's a record, according to the article.
There are 117 school boards in Ontario. I can't seem to locate how many trustees there are, but there are 22 in one Toronto board. Saints preserve us from the gay agenda!
I really don't have much of a problem with people believing whatever the hell they want to. Go ahead and think dinosaurs are Satan's greatest trick or that the moon landings were faked or that your child never touches himself and would never even dream of having sex with someone else.
I have a real problem when you not only insist on your beliefs in opposition to established facts, but insist on perpetuating them in your offspring. That, to me, is far more immoral and perverse than anything our schools could ever dream of teaching children.