With the Ontario education minister’s recent decision to scrap the three-year-old revised sexual education curriculum, as of September, children will be learning from a curriculum that’s 20 years old.
Think about what was happening in 1998. The less than 50 per cent of adults who even used the internet regularly still accessed it via dial-up. Cell phones were purely utilitarian, had no cameras, and were things adults bought and used. That was the world we lived in when Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum was last updated.
But you can rejoice, social conservatives! Your babies will no longer be exposed to the morally corrupt teachings that made them think about abhorrent iterations of sexual intercourse before you were ready to teach them yourselves. Except that they will be exposed. And you’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise.
Those of us who were teens in the ‘80s and ‘90s are getting wake-up calls as we raise our children now. Things we didn’t learn about until adulthood are the exact things our children can quickly search for on Google, or accidentally stumble upon while on Instagram or Snapchat. You may think you know what your kids are doing online, but the reality is that we can’t control it all.
That’s why the sex-ed curriculum that was just trashed by the newly elected PCs was so vital.
I have no doubt there are plenty of parents out there who are proactive in teaching their kids about sexuality, gender, and consent. Having the luxury of time and education to be that proactive, however, is privilege, pure and simple.
Would you blame the single parent who works two jobs to make ends meet and put food on the table for not taking the time to talk to their kids about gender identity? What about the parent who is struggling to escape from an abusive relationship, with kids in tow? And don’t forget the new immigrants who have, until recently, lived in a highly restricted society, where information and education are commodities rather than rights.
To blame these parents for not teaching their children about something they will probably encounter accidentally is entirely unfair. That’s why there’s a sexual education curriculum to begin with. To keep one that is completely outdated, that doesn’t take into account cyberbullying, or real names for all body parts, or gender identity, is essentially leaving the job of sexual education in the hands of other kids and the internet. And regardless of whether you think it’s an appropriate time for your kids to learn about certain concepts in sexuality and sexual behaviour, they will likely be exposed to them anyway.
To attribute this shift in our children’s knowledge of sexuality to the now-scrapped curriculum is naïve at best and willfully ignorant at worst. Times are different, and we can’t change that. What we can change, however, is how educated our kids are when they face unknown scenarios. And whether you’re conservative or liberal, that can only be a good thing.