When it comes to sex-ed, Doug Ford is picking politics over protection.
Doug Ford is eliminating the 2015 sex-ed curriculum introduced by the Liberals, saying the “ideological experiment” has failed. The 1998 curriculum will be used while a different curriculum is formulated.
Parents and politicians are arguing about whether to teach our children about different identities, consent and reproductive health. While it’s appropriate to want a say in how you want your kid to learn, we shouldn’t be debating what kids will learn.
The content of the sex-ed curriculum shouldn’t be up for the debate. Parents may not like their kids learning about same-sex couples, but that shouldn’t matter. Why? Because they exist. A parent’s discomfort should not dictate a child’s education. In the 60’s, sex itself was seen as an uncomfortable topic, but it happens, and we recognized that our kids need to learn about it. We must also recognize that things like masturbation and cyber violence also happen, and our kids need to learn about these too.
The 1998 sex-ed curriculum is very outdated. It predates Google, every social media platform, and cyberbullying legislation. It was drafted at a time when our understanding of sexual assault and consent was limited, predating cases like R v Ewanchuk and R v JA. It’s undeniable that our world has drastically changed in the last twenty years. Our curricula need to reflect these changes.
Reverting back to the 1998 sex-ed curriculum is extremely detrimental. This isn’t about the “age-appropriate” classroom conversations, this is about culture-shifting lessons and life-saving interventions. The means may feel uncomfortable for some, but the ends are vital.
Sex-ed saves lives. Period.
Learning the names of body part names allows children to articulate what has happened to them when they’ve experienced abuse. Discussing LGBTQ folk diminishes the bullying of queer and gender diverse kids and therefore reduces suicide rates (In 2009, 19% of trans youth in Ontario attempted suicide).
Teaching kids how the world operates today isn’t ideological; it’s pragmatic, transparent and safe. To denigrate the sex-ed curriculum as “radical” because some parents are uncomfortable is irresponsible. And uncomfortable as some may be, parental discomfort shouldn’t deny all Ontario children from learning about today’s world. Same-sex marriage happens, and kids need to accept that. Sexual predators exist online, and kids need to be on guard against that. Consent is mandatory, and kids must know how to give and receive it.
The current sex-ed curriculum is the most researched and consulted curriculum in Ontario’s history: it was drafted over the course of ten years, with extensive expert input and thousands of parental consultations. This isn’t an ideological crusade, but the methodical crafting of a curriculum that provides kids with the tools to safely navigate intimacy, sexual orientation and gender identity, cyberbullying, etc.
Eliminating the sex-ed curriculum will leave kids without an understanding of their bodies, of consent, of different relationships, and of appropriate touching. We will deny children access to information that can protect them from serious harm.
Kids need to learn these important lessons, and they need to do so in a safe environment. If we don’t have comprehensive sex-ed in schools, we put the education of many in jeopardy. While some kids will learn these lessons at home, many will only be exposed to same-sex marriage through derogatory comments or never hear the phrase “no means no.” It’s a risk – one with damming consequences – not to ensure our children are taught these things in school.
When you talk about something, you destigmatize it. Learning about same-sex relationships promotes self-acceptance for queer kids. Learning about trans folk makes space for gender diverse kids. Discussing masturbation stops children from self-shaming.
When I was in school there was no comprehensive sex-ed. As a result, I didn’t know what transgender meant, what my period entailed, how to deal with creeps on the internet or anything sex-related besides condoms. Why does Ford want to create a curriculum that leaves kids in the dark again? What do we gain from not preparing kids to understand the world around them?
Students masturbate. Students have sex. Students use the internet. Some students are queer or trans. These are facts of life. Repealing comprehensive sex-ed won’t change any of this.
All we do when we stop discussing certain topics is leave children vulnerable to harm. No parent should want that and no province should demand that.