6 Reasons to be Sad about the Sex Ed Curriculum

6 Reasons to be Sad about the Sex Ed Curriculum


"They’re planning to teach what to my kids??"

This was my reaction to Monday’s release of the Ontario Liberals sexual education curriculum. I remembered the uproar last time they tried to push it through, which resulted in then premier Dalton McGuinty dropping it like a hot potato.

Part of me hoped that Premier Wynne would have taken this as an indicator that some consultation with parents was in order, that perhaps some changes might be made to assuage concerns that it was teaching kids too much too soon, and even forcing a particular ideology on young children.

Sadly, this was not the case.

"Ok Josh," you say, "what is wrong with the new sex ed curriculum?"

Glad you asked. Here are 6 things that should upset you about the new sex ed curriculum.

1. No consultation with parents

As I said above, parents were upset last time this was tried, and they communicated that they wanted to have a say in what is taught about sexuality in the classroom. One might have expected the government to do some research on how citizens felt, maybe organize internet surveys and host public town hall meetings. Reports could have been drafted representing how different communities and faith traditions felt about the matter. Really, a lot could have been done!

What was done? I heard that one parent per school was allowed to give feedback on the proposal. Which sounds like a token gesture more than a serious consultation to me. So who was having a big say in the draft? Read on to #2.

2. It was originally drafted under the leadership of a sex offender

Ben Levin was the Liberal deputy education minister from 2004 to 2007 when the sex ed plan was first rolled out. He was arrested in 2013 and charged with 7 charges of child pornography. Via the National Post:

He was charged with making and distributing child pornography, counselling another to commit an indictable offence and agreeing to or arranging for a sexual offence against a child. He has been free on bail since July 2013.

He has indicated that he will plead guilty to some of the charges.

Holding the role he did, he has been credited with helping shape this sex ed curriculum. Wynne has downplayed his part. (UPDATE: a detailed report of Levin's role in crafting the curriculum is avalable here). 

3. Age inappropriateness

Getting into the specifics of the plan, the curriculum introduces topics that many would never think of pushing on children at such a young age.

Is grade 1, with some kids as young as 5 years old, an appropriate time to show images of testicles and vaginas? Do boys in grade 6 need to hear about vaginal lubrication, and be told about masturbating? Leading to #4...

4. Masturbating is a-ok

The teacher prompt for grade 6 students includes the following:

"Exploring one’s body by touching or masturbating is something that many people do and find pleasurable. It is common and not harmful and is one way of learning about your body."

I can’t help but picture the sex offender helping write this line. Why do you need to encourage kids to masturbate? And why would you present it as such a harmless, benign act when we are learning about kids hooked on internet pornography at younger and younger ages?

The teaching of the Catholic Church on masturbation is clear. It’s never good, and it goes against the nature and purpose of human sexuality. (See CCC 2352)

In addition to the awkwardness of this topic, presenting it as a morally neutral act is a great disservice to the dignity of the child. 

5. Teaching in groups what should be taught discretely

Speaking of awkwardness, Barbara Kay makes a great point. She says:

"What is the value of learning sexual details in a group? We don’t know. There are no studies that tell us that classroom discussions of sexual activity lead to a better understanding or more responsible behaviour than simply assigning reading material to be absorbed in private. School is an artificially constructed environment to begin with. Discussing grammar and history accords well with the classroom format. But human beings seek privacy to have sex for a reason. In my opinion, coed group viewing and discussion of sexual behaviour that it is taboo to actually watch in real life invites voyeuristic imaging. It has the potential for creating an unhealthy classroom dynamic, and extreme discomfort in naturally shy children or those raised in an environment of sexual modesty."

Her article is worth reading. 

6. Modern gender theory

There are students of every faith tradition in our school system, and these traditions shape their understanding of themselves, the world, what it means to be created male and female, and the nature of marriage.

This curriculum does not honour these varied backgrounds and traditions. Instead, it asserts that thinking in these terms is not inclusive and not welcoming.  

"We need to make sure that we don’t assume that all couples are of the opposite sex, and show this by the words we use. For example, we could use a word like ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife’."

Grade 8 students are called to:

demonstrate an understanding of gender identity (e.g., male, female, two-spirited, transgender, transexual, intersex) gender expression, and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual) and identify factors that can help individuals of all identities and orientations develop a positive self-concept.

To quote Kay again:

"Certainly it is an admirable goal to ensure that no individual is discriminated against on the basis of his or her sexual orientation. But to begin the process before nature has activated children’s curiosity is a form of mental invasion they have not assented to. The right of parents to protect their children from too much information too soon — through exemptions if they wish — should trump the right of the Ministry of Education to further its theory-based agenda."

There is much more that can be said of the problems with this plan, but to be brief, anything good that is in it was either already being addressed when I was a kid (eg. not allowing inappropriate touching from adults) or could have been added at age appropriate times and without the ideology (eg. dangers of sexting).

As it is, this plan and its rollout is a debacle. Ontarians deserved better. 

You can read the curriculum yourself here. 

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