So, I keep seeing people sharing this petition and other alarmist articles related to the new Ontario Sexual Education curriculum, which is to be rolled out this September. It’s making me twitchy. Rather than getting into multiple discussions and arguments with various people in various places, I figured I’d try to articulate my thoughts on my little corner of the internet, and if people want to consider them and have a discussion, I’m open to that.
First, a few things about my beliefs and where I’m coming at this from:
I’m a Christian. I believe God designed sex for the purposes of enjoyment and pro-creation within the context of a committed and loving relationship between two people. (Probably two hetero-sexual people, but I also know and love some pretty amazing people in same-sex relationships, and I don’t have the time or energy to determine if their lifestyle is “sinful” or not – not my issue).
I also recognize that the majority of people in our society do not share my belief or approach to sex. Lots of people are engaging in all kinds of sexual activity outside of the paradigm of a monogamous committed relationship. Children are being raised in all kinds of settings, with exposure to all kinds of things. Whether it’s tv, magazines, internet, or information from peers, young people are being exposed to sex and sexuality, and youth are engaging in sexual activity. Not talking about it is not going to make it stop. On the contrary, there are studies that show that the more knowledge and education young people have, the more likely they are to make safe choices.
One of my biggest concerns with the outcry opposing this curriculum is that people jumping on the bandwagon don’t seem to actually know or understand what’s in the curriculum. I would highly encourage people who have concerns about it to read it. I’ve read it in it’s entirety and have no concerns. None. Seriously.
Here are my responses to some of the main concerns I’m hearing with regard to the new curriculum:
“THEY ARE STARTING GRAPHIC SEXUAL EDUCATION AT GRADE 1!!!!!!!”
The grade one curriculum includes teaching children the proper names for their body parts, including genitalia. In our home, we’ve been doing that since our children began talking, because we think it’s important that children have the proper terminology to refer to their body parts. If abuse was to occur, it’s important that children can describe what happened to them, and respond to questions with appropriate and accurate words. Beyond naming body parts, the grade 1 curriculum introduces recognizing the difference between caring and exploitative behaviours, and identifying the feelings one might experience in connection with these behaviours. I want my children to know those things – before they’re in grade one.
“THE CURRICULUM PUSHES A HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA!!!!!”
The grade three curriculum (and beyond) includes an acknowledgment that people have visible and invisible differences, and that we need to be respectful of people who are different than us. Along with race, gender, disability, cultural values, and others, sexual orientation and different family models are included as ways that people differ from one another. It’s true. Our kids are going to run into people who are different than they are, and will need to be respectful (perhaps this is something that we need to teach adults as well…hmmm…).
“THEY’RE TEACHING ABOUT MASTURBATION!!!!!”
The following is a direct quote from the grade six curriculum, and the only reference I can find to masturbation:
“Things like wet dreams or vaginal lubrication are normal and happen as a result of physical changes with puberty. Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and is not harmful and is one way of learning about your body.”
True? I’d say so. It’s not encouraging anything or giving a how-to guide. It’s stating a fact in a non-shaming way.
“THEY’RE TEACHING ABOUT ORAL AND ANAL SEX IN GRADE 7!!!!!!”
The grade seven curriculum discusses STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). Oral and anal sex are included as ways that infections can be transmitted. Through anecdotal conversations with parents and teachers, I have heard of cases where young people are engaging in these types of sex acts because they think it’s not sex and is somehow safer. Providing kids with accurate information about the risks related to these types of activities can only enable them to make better decisions.
“THEY’RE ENCOURAGING CHILDREN TO QUESTION THEIR GENDER IDENTITY!!!!!!”
The grade eight curriculum does address the issue of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. It is a reality that many people experience confusion with regard to this, and by grade eight children may have experienced their own confusion, or come into contact with someone who has changed gender or expresses themselves as a different gender. Giving them language to discuss this in a safe and respectful way may help those experiencing confusion navigate it in a more positive way, and will hopefully increase understanding and minimize bullying. In my reading, the curriculum is not encouraging children to question their own gender identity, rather making the understanding that there are some people who will experience this.
The more I’ve read the curriculum, the more supportive I am of it and encouraged by the topics included and the tone it’s presented in. Beyond the things I’ve responded to here, it includes topics relating to safety with regard to texting and social media. It talks about the importance of respect and consent. It talks about the importance of understanding the impact of engaging in sexual activity and delaying those decisions until one is older and feels prepared. In a world where kids have smart phones and computers in their bedrooms, where we hear of girls being pressured to send explicit pictures of themselves and so much more, I am so glad to know that there will be opportunities for teachers to guide discussions in a safe context about the things that kids are running into, and I hope that openly naming and discussing these things will diminish abuse and enable those experiencing it to speak out.
Knowledge is power. And ignorance is not bliss.