Improved Sex Ed in Ontario

Sex Ed Protesters

Some people don’t think children should learn about sex until they start experimenting for themselves.
Source: http://news.nationalpost.com/2015/02/26/michael-coren-why-critics-of-ontarios-new-sex-ed-curriculum-are-wrong/

Our Ontario government right now is attempting to push through new and improved sex education. And by attempting, I mean it is really a matter of time since they have a majority government, barring some disastrous uproar of protest that make them back down. One key concept that undergirds much of the curriculum is consent. Specific elements include same-sex families discussed in grade 3, puberty in grade 6, and STDs and sexting in Grade 7.

This is definitely a good thing.

Unfortunately, many are up in arms over this, including many Christians. As far as I have been able to hear, it all boils down to “we’re uncomfortable with our kids knowing anything about sex.” I’m sorry to break this to them, but that isn’t an option. They are humans. They are going to learn about sex. The question isn’t whether they will learn, it’s whether they will learn something healthy or something unhealthy.

Consent

In particular, the focus on consent is huge. In the world we live in, they probably aren’t going to learn the idea of consent talking about their bodies with their friends or watching porn on the Internet, things they all have easy access to. If you’re a parent who is going to teach it to your kids at a young age, great! I really want to applaud you for that. But you are the minority.

Most kids are going to grow up with no sense of control over their own bodies and when that boy asks her to send over some nude photos, she doesn’t have any idea she should be able to say no. It sounds like the curriculum should include some practical factors, as well, like that Snapchat is not actually private no matter how much it claims otherwise. Let’s help them say no. No Christian should really be objecting to this idea.

Same-sex Relationships

The same-sex families discussion is another one that a lot of Christians with traditional views of family are getting upset about. Let’s think about reality with two questions:

1. How many kids have not encountered a same-sex couple by Grade 3? Most of them have, whether family friends or their friends’ parents or even just seen them on TV. Gay people exist; there’s no reason your kids shouldn’t be allowed to acknowledge that in a classroom.

2. How many gay children are already starting to realize their orientation and aren’t sure what to do with it? Some are. When sex ed is all about how the penis goes inside the vagina, that’s how these kids end up depressed early on because that will never make sense to them. The biology of what having sex looks like isn’t until puberty hits, no matter what the sex of the two parties involved, so that isn’t the factor at Grade 3, but a basic affirmation of their humanity is already a factor.

3. In what seems to be the focus of the curriculum, what about those kids who do have two moms or two dads? The gist of the curriculum, at least in Grade 3, is that these kids are still worthy of being treated well. It seems to be primarily an anti-bullying move.

If you disagree with same-sex relationships on moral grounds, you can explain that to your kids. Catholic school boards may even make a point of adding “but it goes against Catholic teaching” (not “it is evil, period”) in their classrooms and that is completely fine within their rights. One way or another, though, kids are going to find out LGBTQ relationships exist and they may even want one themselves. You may try to create a bubble for your children where that isn’t the reality, but bubbles like that never last.

Puberty, STDs, Oral, etc.

The one real piece of Sex Ed I remember standing out to me from my childhood was a mention of oral sex – not in the curriculum, I don’t think, but it came up. I remember a group of us boys responding to the effect of “ewww, why would I ever want to put it in her mouth?” This was before very many of us had Internet, and those who did had dial-up so it’s very different than today’s children. I believe that was Grade 8. A year later as our bodies developed, I doubt many would have still been saying that.

The basic idea here is that kids should have an opportunity to learn about these things slightly before they start happening. Yes, learn about puberty in Grade 6, because that’s when it starts – and steadily gets earlier with each generation. STDs are real risks that they should know about before they’re having sex. They will know about oral and anal at a young age, so they may as well know what is and isn’t safe about it.

The World Is Different

I had a professor in a Biopsychology course who – during a chapter on sex and the brain – told us about how her father had to explain sex to her mother on their wedding night. Our minds were blown that somebody could get all their way to a wedding night without encountering sex, even assuming the younger marriage age. It’s one thing to choose to wait to do it yourself, but to not even have a general idea of how it works?

We don’t live in a world where that is possible. If it doesn’t come in classrooms, doesn’t come from churches, and doesn’t come from parents, it will come from their friends, from the Internet, from videogames, and from TV. Even if you think it’s healthy to not even know how sex works until your wedding night, you’re never going to succeed in forcing that on your children. So I say: let’s give them a safe place to talk about it with the proper language.

For more on this topic, check out 5 Myths and Facts about the new curriculum.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.