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Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Updating Ontario's Sex Ed Curriculum

I was fortunate to have good sex ed, particularly when I was in elementary school. That included being exposed to concepts that, at a young age, can be awkward or difficult. Public health workers came to the school and offered workshops where we could ask questions and where there was a climate of respect and openness. As I got older, however, I soon realised that not everyone had such progressive sex education. That's why I'm writing this post following the Ontario government's announcement of changes to the sex ed curriculum.

A lot has been made of the fact that these changes were first introduced when Kathleen Wynne was education minister. I was in teacher's college at the time and I was really excited for these updates. Not everyone has access to accurate and progressive sex education, and it should be the province's responsibility to ensure that this is standardised, just like algebra, Canadian geography, or science.

For after all, the point of public education is to provide everyone with the necessary tools to be able to integrate successfully into society. That means life skills like respecting difference, listening, and learning about the world of sexuality.

The changes to the curriculum are awesome and include new information about gender identity, sexting, and consent. Naturally, it's also propted a visceral reaction; the reason why it was not implemented five years ago. It's not random that these items are here, they are designed to deal with the fact that misinformation is rampant in schools (and in society) when it comes to issues around sex and sexuality. When children don't get information from reputable sources, they get it from their parents, their peers, the internet, or from formal media like movies. Many of these sources only proliferate innaccurate or wrong information.

Students live in a world full of sexualisation where they have minimal sexual literacy. This is in part due to harmful messaging around consent, body image, gender binaries, and other themes. Equipping students with the tools to resist against this messaging is important.

Anyone who wants to prevent this from happening is promoting willful ignorance. While I am fully respectful of the right to religious freedom, I feel like it is irresponsible to prevent a young person from learning about basic concepts like the fact that consent is absolutely necessary or that other sexual identities exist.

It is, quite frankly, in the best interest of both the child and society that there be a progressive, inclusive sex ed curriculum that prepares youth for the realities of a modern cosmopolitan society. Those who have serious issues with the curriculum should have their children exempted rather than trying to block these changes.

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