“Sex Education” in Ontario: a last-millennium approach
I’m not sure how many parents are familiar with the Ontario Curriculum, but I’d venture to say, not many, unless you’re an educator yourself. There have been many revisions to the curriculum, in all instances for the better. With one exception: the curriculum related to Physical & Health Education, specifically Growth and Development (e.g., Sex Ed.).
You see, when the Health curriculum was revamped fairly recently, everything was revised but all except for the section on Growth and Development were actually published. Teachers still have to teach the topic but they have to use the very vague and lacking content from 1998. Yes. 1998. OK the worst part is not how dated it is or how minimally it’s described. The worst part is that it wasn’t revised because it was a contentious issue for some sectors in society.
This begs the question, “whose responsibility is it to teach this stuff to YOUR kids anyways?”. I’m of the opinion that the responsibility lays on the shoulders of schools and parents (though some would differ with this, in either respect). The breadth and scope of what children and adolescents need to know is huge, and goes way beyond the anatomical lesson or birth videos shown to us many years ago as students. It goes way beyond just “sex”, hence the misnomer that is “Sex Education”.
Ophea, which spear heads many of the excellent curriculum and community initiatives, resources and support for Physical and Health Education in Ontario has this to say:
“learning to make reasoned decisions, take ownership of your own body and develop skills for healthy relationships is a component of healthy living that our students need to live safe and healthy lives…Learning about healthy development, including sexual development, requires an understanding of sexual health in its broadest context – sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, abstinence, choice and sexual readiness, protection, body image, and gender roles and expectations.”
That is quite a bit of stuff to wrap our minds around. It’s about developing healthy attitudes, relationships, exploring gender roles and so much more. So educators are working with fairly antiquated curriculum in this respect, and one that is not inclusive of LBGTQ perspectives either.
Given the intensity of what kids are “offered” in the form of “Sex Ed.” through the media, it goes without saying that parental and school communities need to be on the ball with this one. I for one cringe at the way “Zack and Cody” refer to girls as “hot”. Don’t even get me started on other shows which showcase everything ranging from heterosexist content to the proliferation of gender stereotypes. Just last week, I was chatting with some moms over the highly sexualized behaviour of really, really young kids in social situations last week, and the images of “rainbow parties” are making my head spin.
So what’s a parent to do? What’s an educator to do?
I propose that the “Growth and Development” portion of the Health curriculum needs to be revised to include a more holistic approach asap! So how do we get started on this? It’s not a job for one, but for many.
More information about Ophea’s work and their response to this curricular lag can be found here:
Given the lack of inclusivity in the 1998 excerpt, there are some great resources for educators and parents put out by the TDSB, whose Equitable and Inclusive schools Department is cutting edge.