The new Ontario sex-ed curriculum is ready to be implemented in schools this Fall. Many parents feel that the new curriculum covers topics that are not age-appropriate. Others are thrilled with the new changes and the inclusion of topics such as sexting, consent, masturbation and oral/anal sex in the context of STD’s.
When the Ontario sex-ed curriculum was originally put together in the 90’s, the smart phone was not around. Today, advances in technology result in Canadian youth being exposed to a lot more graphic, inappropriate sexual content – from very unreliable and offensive sources. And this exposure, from a very young age, impacts how tweens and teens behave sexually and interact with one another.
A recent survey indicates that 24% of students in grade 4 have their own cell phones, and 99% of students are able to access the internet outside of school. We all know that this access starts at a very young age. YouTube, Facebook, google and Twitter appear in the top 10 ranked sites visited by students, with YouTube at 75%, being ranked as #1.
Despite the growing use of the internet by students, the study finds that the overall percentage of household rules about online activity (including meeting online and sites you are not allowed to visit) has declined dramatically from 2005 to 2013.
Kind of scary.
When we were growing up, in the 80’s and 90’s, rating lists were among some of the things that tweens and teens needed to cope with. We now live in a new era where sexting and Cyberbullying are common-place. Where sending a nude picture of yourself to your boyfriend is a rite of passage. A recent study indicates that 25% of students from grade 7-11, with cell phones, report that someone has sent them a sext of him or herself.
We need to give our youth the tools they need to cope with the stresses that are inherent in this digital age so that they can make smart choices for themselves.
And this is what the new sex-ed curriculum is going to do. Why is this problematic?
We need to ask ourselves where we want our children to be learning about these issues? Young boys would probably learn a lot more about respecting women from their teacher in the classroom environment than from a video game such as Grand Theft Auto where they get extra points for running over a hooker. (If you’re thinking you can shelter your boys from this game, think again – they will come across it at some point in their tweens).
While it is our duty as parents to discuss many of the topics in the curriculum with our kids – many parents will not do so. Schools are finally modernizing and including a curriculum that will allow our children to grow up to be tolerant, accepting, and informed members of society.
Canada was amongst the first to legalize same sex marriage.
Recent polls indicate that a large majority of Canadians support same-sex marriage. However, things are far from perfect for LGBT communities. LGBT people report experiencing stigma and discrimination across their life spans, and are targets of sexual and physical assault, harassment and hate crimes. LGBT youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse compared to heterosexual peers. 77% of trans respondents in an Ontario-based survey had seriously considered suicide and 45% had attempted suicide.
Incorporating education about sexual orientation into the Ontario sex-ed curriculum is long overdue. It’s not going to make children question their gender identity, as some religious groups have suggested. We want heterosexual youth to be respectful and tolerant of all their peers. We want to ease the challenges faced by LGBT youth, and give them the resources and tools they need to live happy and fulfilling lives. We want to ensure that these children are taught about safe and healthy sexual activity. The new curriculum will do all these things.
The curriculum is going to cover topics that are real for youth today. It is going to equip them with tools to deal with 21st century issues. The aim is to educate about internet use, build tolerance, reduce mental health issues, foster healthy sexual relationships and teach children early on about consent by reading both verbal and non-verbal cues.
So we ask those that are opposed – what exactly are you disputing?