banner photo:

"Each individual should allow reason to guide his conduct, or like an animal, he will need to be led by a leash."
Diogenes of Sinope


Banner photo
Thousand Flowers tapestry (15th Century) - Beaune, France (detail)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some sensible thinking on Ontario's sex ed curriculum

In today's National Post, talk radio host John Moore has an editorial on the controversy surrounding Ontario's proposed sex education curriculum and Premier McGuinty's about-face after the deluge of complaints. I think a lot of the outrage is bordering on the hysterical, and Moore makes some points that I think are worth considering. Moore points out that
religious conservatives came out swinging. They were so eager to bolster their numbers that they welcomed conservative Muslims into the fold. So now the hijab is a good thing?
This story in the Globe and Mail elaborates:
Christians and Muslims in Ontario are united in their objections to the province’s new sex education curriculum.

Mentions of homosexuality as early as Grade 3 have raised objections from diverse groups and the participants in a school boycott on May 10 – aimed at putting pressure on Premier Dalton McGuinty to pull the new curriculum – will likely represent a cultural cross-section of the city.

“There’s a big reaction in Muslim community,” said Suad Aimad, president of Somali Parents for Education. “We believe basically that sex education may be taught by the parents to their children. It’s not public, it’s a private matter and that’s why I don’t think [sex] should be part of education, especially at such a young age.”
I'm sure there's a big reaction in the Muslim community, considering how tolerant Islamic fundamentalists are towards homosexuals. Islamic clerics in the Middle East engage in theological debates about the best way to punish gays: throwing them off tall buildings, flogging or torturing them. Do Christian groups in Ontario really want to make common cause with Somali Parents for Education on this issue, considering that homosexuality is illegal in Somalia and punishable by up to three years in prison, and is in fact subject to the death penalty in areas of the country governed by Sharia law? Since when do we look to Somalia - Somalia! - for advice on how to educate children in Ontario?

Aside from that, Moore points out that in some cases, critics are out of touch with the reality of life for teens in Ontario schools:
Many were astonished that the Premier seemed to know so little about the new sex ed package. But policy generally does not originate with the leader, nor even with his cabinet. The regime was formulated over a period of years by bureaucrats consulting with thousands of sex and learning experts, kids, teachers, parents and religious leaders. That's right, there was a nun involved in producing what would be decried as a devious attack on faith.

The regime mentions gays and lesbians because they can legally marry in Canada and because your kids go to school with a child who has two mommies. It discusses masturbation because your kid might masturbate and then cry himself to sleep because he thinks it's going to make him sick. It warns against the perils of oral and anal sex because around the age of 12 some smooth operator is going to tell your daughter she can swing with the cool crowd and stay a virgin if she yields on either one. Or maybe the smooth talker is your son.

The new program was developed for a modern world where kids now spend more time on the Internet and exchanging text messages than they do talking to people face to face. Conservatives are fooling themselves if they think their kids aren't Twittering and Googling words like "anal", "oral" and "masturbation." Try it yourself and see what comes up. Then get your computer scrubbed.

When parents truly realize what their kids are up to these days, they may find themselves wishing for the simplicity of an educator who doesn't blush at the word "vagina" working from a professionally developed pedagogy in an old-fashioned class room.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. This is a matter that requires clear thinking, not political purity (on either side of the spectrum).

Ryan R said...

Eric, do you really think it is "sensible thinking" to be teaching kids as young as eight years old about issues of sexuality? To be doing this several years before they are physically or psychologically prepared for sexual activity?

The argument that you and Premier McGuinty are making is essentially that "kids are learning about it anyway; from the internet, TV shows, video games, etc...".

And yes, they often are.

But this certainly doesn't mean that there's a great need for schools to teach on it, at overly young ages, just because of this alone.


For one thing, is what they're learning from the internet, TV shows, and video games, incorrect? If the basic information that they're getting on sexual topics from these venues is not incorrect, then what necessitates the schools delving into the issue? Such teaching would simply constitute redundant (or worse) teaching; a waste of invaluable classroom time.


Secondly, you have to keep the impact of the school context in mind. This context is different than random encounters with adult concepts and ideas during internet surfing, or just shooting the breeze with their friends.

Kids soon learn, as they go through school, that new courses and subject areas are opened up to them at a pace of gradual learning. This comes instinctively to them, as it came to me when I was growing up. In other words, once a new course or subject area is presented to them, it's with the implicit message of "You're ready for this. You can handle this. This subject or topic area is not beyond you, and is not of a nature for just older kids, teens, or adults".

So, if you teach sex ed to eight year olds, many of those eight year olds will probably get the message of "You're learning about gender and sexual identity. As such, you're ready to explore these." And since actual sexual activity is obviously an aspect of sexual identity...

Or, in the case of the eleven year olds "You're learning about oral sex and masturbation. As such, you're ready to explore these."

I actually don't necessarily have a big problem with eleven year olds experimenting with masturbation, but oral sex is different. Oral sex can leave a psychological impact not unlike penetrative sex, and 11 year olds simply aren't ready for that.


So, in conclusion, I think that you and Premier McGuinty are wrong on this issue. With you being an admirable champion of free speech in general, though, I hope that you'll post this comment of mine even though it's in strong disagreement with you on this issue.


Junior High is still the ideal time for any sort of meaningful sex education. There is no need for sex education for pre-teens.

Eric said...

Ryan:

I don't disagree with you on the subject of sex ed for really young kids, but I don't think the curriculum is suggesting teaching 8 yr olds about the mechanics of sexual activity. 8 yrs old is old enough to talk about relationships, though. I agree though that frank instruction about sexual activity is best left to teenagers, but that should include the full spectrum of sexual activity, since there will be pressure on them to participate in these activities at some point if and when they become sexually active.

My main beef (and this is coming from a gay man) is the level of outrage about the inclusion of homosexuality in the curriculum. If I had had some non-judgmental and factually accurate information about gay sex and gay relationships when I was a teenager I think I would have been spared years of guilt, anxiety and angst.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite objectionable that the new sex ed curriculum would focus on the pleasurable aspects of sex and encourage masturbation. Whatever happened to stressing the dangers of sexual promiscuity to prevent STDs.

Pierre Trudeau once said that the state has no business in the bedrooms of this nation. Well, I think the bedrooms of the sex-obsessed left has no place in the state!

Anonymous said...

No - the committee members went too far on the politically correct scale. Sexual abuse is now more common than it was before there was sex-ed.

Bert said...

This gives a whole new meaning to the term, "Oral Test".
I want to teach my kids about sex and relationships. I certainly don't want to have some stranger teaching them about the mechanics of oral sex, or homosexual sex.