Written by: Winona Young, Staff Writer
I realized while growing up that sex positivity is a rarity in many places.
I’ve picked up quite a bit of information by hanging around the “cool kids” who dabbled in alcohol, drugs, and sex. However, I felt that the best sex-positive education I got was from my uncomfortably comprehensive high school health classes, with their awkward diagrams, condom-clad bananas, and books about genitalia.
I count myself lucky for receiving such a thorough education, and I’m thankful that holistic sex-ed curricula were accessible to students. This is why I am upset at Doug Ford’s administration.
Lisa Thompson, Ontario’s new education minister, recently cut the 2015 sex education curriculum from schools, effectively reverting to Ontario’s sex-education program from 1998. The Globe and Mail reports that the 1998 program will be missing content on same-sex relationships, sexting, gender identity, and masturbation.
To me, an education that isn’t holistic isn’t a good education at all. To revert to an educational program that is decades old will negatively affect both students’ knowledge of sex and their perspective on it.
Without knowledge or proper intellectual tools, elementary and secondary school students won’t know how to navigate their sexuality. Obviously, this comes with disadvantages that could lead to unpleasant sexual experiences with themselves and their future partner(s).
As CTV News notes, the 1998 program predates Canada’s legalisation of same-sex marriage, Google’s rapid growth, and sexting. With such key components unaccounted for in the 1998 curriculum, Ontario is voluntarily pushing dated ideas and information that are both incorrect and irrelevant.
The newly scrapped 2015 sex-ed program addressed a wide variety of relevant topics to students. The Globe and Mail’s investigative piece on the 2015 program, “Fact or fiction: What’s actually in Ontario’s contentious sex-ed curriculum,” noted that topics on sexually transmitted infections, gender identity, and sexual orientation were covered.
Students now face a future where they may not learn about sexual safety, condoms, consent, and sexually transmitted infections. They would be at risk of unsafe sex, unwanted pregnancy, and misusing contraception. More importantly, by not learning about consent, they may fail to properly communicate with their sexual partner(s) and possibly subject themselves to unwanted sexual contact.
Additionally, by removing a curriculum that is inclusive of both sexual orientation and gender identity, Ontario risks isolating students who are questioning their sexuality and gender. I find it heartbreaking that students may have to learn heteronormative, homophobic and sexist ideals that they may forever internalize.
In a technology-centric landscape, students rely mostly on the media they consume for guidance, which can be helpful or harmful. Therefore, the only thing we as
adults can control is the education they receive. However, if we jeopardize that education in any way, we risk enabling horrible misconceptions about sex and sexuality.
Until education minister Lisa Thompson finishes consulting with parents and creates a new “age appropriate” program, students will be learning a poorly aged sex-ed curriculum, starting this September.
As Lauren Bialstock of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education said in an interview with CTV News, “Going back to the 1998 [sex-ed curriculum] is just catastrophic.”