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It’s Sexy Time: Controversial Revisions to the Sex Ed. Curriculum

We’ve all heard about the Ministry of Education’s controversial revision to the sex ed. curriculum of Ontario – the first of its scale since 1998, and regardless of whether you approve or not, there’s no denying that it’s certainly a bold move by the government. This move by Premier Kathleen Wynne has been met with both extensive public support and public outcry over some of the issues that the new curriculum proposes to address, such as:

  • Body familiarity – always a part of the G.1 curriculum, but the revisions propose to change the terms from euphemisms that we all know and love to terminology such as “vulva” or “vagina”.
  • Minor shifts down one year – ex. puberty, traditionally covered in G.5, would be covered in G.4; STIs would be covered in G.7, etc.
  • *new* Internet safety (sexting, online safety, etc.) – G.4
  • *new* Masturbation, consent and communication – G.6
  • *new* Transgender and sexuality awareness – G. 8 
  • Increased training for prospective teachers at OISE, from 12 hours to 18 hours

Yes, that man is rolling a condom onto a stick. Yes, something similar happened in one of my sex ed. classes. Yes, our curriculum is out-of-date.

Phew. Yet, the thing is, none of these things are really revolutionary – this is primarily a rehash of the 2010 proposal which was dismissed by then-Premier Dalton McGuinty. Premier Kathleen Wynne has fiercely defended its revival. The revised edition is intended to bring the Ontario curriculum, lauded with praise for being so progressive in 1998, up to modern standards. It is intended to cover cyber issues of the day, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and a generally more open view towards non-traditional relationships. 

No.

Education Minister Liz Sandals commented “I anticipate there will be members of various religions who may object to one thing or another . . . but the curriculum is the curriculum that will be taught in Ontario schools.”  She also noted that parents do have the option to withdraw their children from parts of the curriculum they object to, should they feel the need. 

While it is true that there is tremendous outcry from conservative and religious groups, that isn’t the sole issue here. Many parents are concerned over issues unconnected to religion – one does not have to be a fundamentalist to have concerns over the values being taught in schools. Parents may be uncomfortable over what the new curriculum proposes, and get caught in the crossfire as the Ministry vigorously defends their new curriculum. They are demonized, as anti-progressive, or as homophobic, when they were never consulted on the curriculum in the first place. It certainly isn’t fair to lump all opponents of the curriculum together under one umbrella, extremists and concerned parents alike. 

Above: The average opponents of the curriculum, apparently

At the same time, however, there is no denying that this idea is certainly progressive, and some might say a step in the right direction. It’s a move towards having the Ontario curriculum follow modern-day views and practices, allowing young people to become more aware of the issues that exist, regardless of whether they engage in them or not. Saleema Noon, a B.C. sexual health educator applauded Ontario, saying that B.C. should make similar changes to their own curriculum. She was particularly favorable to inclusiveness regarding transgender and non-heterosexual youth and the increased training for teachers. I would be inclined to suggest that perhaps the increased training for teachers is something we might all be willing to advocate for – no twenty-three year old is ready to talk to first graders about sex after just a half-day’s worth of training. 

Both the proposed changes to the Elementary and Secondary sex ed. curriculum are available here:

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health1to8.pdf

http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/secondary/health9to12.pdf

Sources

http://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2015/02/28/changing-ontarios-sex-ed-…

http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2015/02/23/ontario-finally-unveil…

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/b-c-sex-ed-curriculum-sho…

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/kathleen-wynne-sees-homophobia-ami…

Image Sources

http://www.troymedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/sex-education_280501…

http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2005/08/18/sexeducation_wideweb__430x279.jpg

http://cdn3-www.comingsoon.net/assets/uploads/gallery/fifty-shades-of-gr… 

http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2012/10/16/254d3199-1c50-11e3-991…

Lucian Wang is an Editor with HerCampus UToronto, after starting out as a Writer in his first year. He is currently double majoring in Political Science, along with Biodiversity and Conservation Biology. Apparently you can do that. Along with HerCampus, he is also involved with the University of Toronto Pre-Law Society as its Vice-President - a little more vice than president.  He hopes to pursue law school after he completes his undergraduate degree. He enjoys listening to music (consisting largely of an unhealthy fascination with Taylor Swift), looking damn good in a suit, and spending far too much time staring at his pet turtle. He does not enjoy walking or the beach, so long walks there are out of the question. 
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