This week began with more than four thousand people gathering around the lawn of Queen’s Park to protest against Ontario’s new sex education curriculum that will be implemented this upcoming September. The curriculum was officially last updated in 1998, seventeen years ago, and it baffles my mind how appalled people are that the curriculum is in dire need of improvement. With the evolution of smart phones and an easier accessibility to technology, bullying, sexual content and sexual harassment has taken a new form in the cyber world and needs to be monitored and addressed to children.
The protest against Kathleen Wynne’s controversial curriculum was organized by parents who claimed to be concerned that the Liberal government’s Grade 1-8 curriculum would sexualize their children. They feared their childrens’ innocence would be lost due to an irresponsibly revised curriculum. However, this seems to be nothing but an opposition motivated by homophobia and ignorance. The signs included phrases such as “math not masturbation” and “science, not sex”.
Very few of those whom I have communicated with opposing the issue were not aware of the specific changes and instead merely kept reiterating how concerning it was that parents are not being consulted but were unable to articulate to me the changes with concrete knowledge. People fail to realize that this curriculum is broader than sexual activity but instead encompasses what makes us who we are. Our sexuality influences our views of our own individuality and from a young age children are exposed to sexual imagery and language in their environment. How often do you see three and four year old children running around with their parents’ iPads and iPhones? The internet and other influences will be “teaching” children, so is it not better they learn it in a regulated school system? The argument rests that we should “let children remain children” but the reality is that we live in a world today where children cannot be the children that prior generations are familiar with.
The five main changes of the curriculum include clinical names for body parts introduced in Grade 1, same-sex relationships introduced in Grade 3, the risks of sexting introduced in Grade 7, understanding the importance of sexual consent, and thoroughly understanding mental health, puberty, and good health habits. If we are so distressed that our nine year old children will understand that there are different families that exist beyond what is traditional and will grow up developing a coherent set of personal values based upon respecting themselves and others, then we need to re-evaluate our burdens. Aside from the importance of understanding that risks and dangers exist, there’s also the aspect of the revised curriculum that may scare one’s oppressive views of alternate lifestyles that they do not condone; but that does not mean they do not exist and that this is the reality of our modern society. I have grown up as a Canadian who is taught that we do not ostracize, exclude or ignore anyone for what they believe or who they are. This curriculum is brave and necessary in addressing that children every day risk being victimized and harmed and is consistent with a society that is supposed to be inclusive and tolerant.
— Jasmine Shaffeeullah