School begins here in Ontario next week. And the protesters are out today, decrying the new health and physical education curriculum. I saw a young girl on the news say that starting sex ed in grade one is just wrong - the kids are too young. Do you know what the curriculum covers in first grade? The names of body parts. If a 6 year old boy is too young to know his penis is called a penis, I'm not sure what the world is coming to.
What bothers me most about that example is that I can only assume this young girl is parroting what her parents have told her. Have her parents read the curriculum? Has she? If they had they would know that the anatomical names of body parts, including the parts that make us boys or girls, is the only sex-related content in grade one. So many of the protesters I've heard on the news or read online are fighting against things that are not actually in the curriculum. Before I decided to support the new curriculum, I read it for myself. I feel sorry for those folks who are now so scared of this curriculum because of misinformation that has been supplied to them, and I encourage everyone to read the document for themselves.
You can read the full curriculum online at: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/health1to8.pdf
Parent guides: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/HPEgrades1to6.pdf and http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/HPEgrades7to12.pdf
You can read my synopsis of the 1-6 curriculum at: http://www.raisingmyboys.net/2015/02/ontarios-new-health-and-physical.html
For those parents who have read the curriculum and are still against it, I disagree with them, but I respect their position. And they are fully within their rights under the education act to have their children excluded from any lessons (sex ed or otherwise) with which they disagree. Or, they can allow their kids to take in the lessons and then talk to them at home about how they feel about what was taught. Amazing opportunity for a discussion of values and beliefs.
The bottom line in all of this, for me? Schools teach facts. Parents teach values around those facts. It's a team effort.
The two big complaints that I seem to be hearing the most - the curriculum encourages or at least normalises homosexuality and transgender, and the curriculum encourages sexual activity. I agree that the curriculum does normalise homosexuality and transgender and non-traditional families and many, many other forms of difference including race, colour and ability, and it encourages understanding and acceptance of those who are different from us in whatever way. Personally, I think that's a positive thing. The curriculum definitely does not encourage anyone to "turn gay" or go out and have sex.
If your religion or culture does not approve of homosexuality, it is your right, and probably your responsibility, to teach your kids that. LGBT people will still exist though, and your children will know they do. They likely already have kids in their classes who come from a non-traditional family of some sort, or kids in their classes who identify as LGBT.
You don't want your child to learn to masturbate from their school teacher? Neither do I. And they won't, because that's not the curriculum. Your child will figure that one out on their own, believe me. They also won't be taught how to engage in anal sex, or that they should. (Anal sex seems to come up a lot in the complaints.) But at some point your daughter may be pressured to engage in that activity by a boy, with the promise that it's ok, because "you can't get pregnant and you'll still be a virgin." (I don't think I need to explain the problems with that logic.) I knew a girl in 8th grade whose boyfriend convinced her she couldn't get pregnant if she was on top. The world of young teenagers and tweens is a scary place, and our kids need to be educated about these things, to keep them safe - with the facts from school (it would be great if parents felt comfortable doing this part too) and the values from parents.
The curriculum in seventh grade is when sexual intercourse comes in. It discusses abstinence and waiting until you're older. It also discusses STDs and the dangers of sex. This is a completely age appropriate time to be addressing these issues as kids are starting to explore their sexuality at this age. Shouldn't we be protecting them with knowledge?
Again, your values that you teach at home will guide your kids in their decisions, or at least that is what we all hope, as parents. School, in terms of this discussion, just gives them the facts they need to understand their bodies and all of the social changes and pressures that come with adolescence. If they don't get the facts in the classroom, they may very well get some myths and possibly dangerous misinformation in the school yard.
Ok. I know this is way more political than what I usually write here, but I feel so strongly about this topic. I want to be part of helping and protecting our children. And I want every parent in Ontario to go into the discussion around this new curriculum with a real knowledge of what is actually in the curriculum document. Knowledge is power - for us and our kids.