On 23 February, Premier Wynne and the Ontario government released a document outlining Ontario’s revised sexual education curriculum. The 244-page PDF explained that the new sexual education curriculum will take effect in the fall of 2015 and will touch on topics such as masturbation, the potential dangers of sexting, healthy sexual relationships and the concepts of gender identity and gender expression. This is the second time the Liberals have tried to revise Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum.
The announcement of the latest update to the sex ed curriculum was followed by immediate backlash from horrified, poorly informed parents and religious groups all around the province. Many argued that the new sex-ed curriculum was too graphic and contained information that children of that age shouldn’t know. What many do not realize is that this is the first time that Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum has been formally updated since its creation in 1999, making it the oldest in all of Canada.
It is no secret that technology and society has significantly progressed since 1998. There was no Twitter, Snapchat, or Facebook. The LGBTQ community hadn’t even been acknowledged by most. It would be ridiculous to teach such an outdated curriculum.
While many parents would like to believe that their child is not seeing sexual content online, the reality is that children as young as eight and nine are coming across very explicit material on the Internet. Studies show that this early exposure accelerates sexual activity as adolescents. As a result, young and uninformed teenagers are engaging in sexual activity, ignorant to the risks that it may possess because their parents thought their child’s innocence would be forever tainted if they were exposed to such scandalous information.
The past sexual education curriculum was also nonexclusive of those who aren’t cisgender, straight students. It scarcely touches on sexuality and does not mention gender identity at all.
The National Women’s Legal Organization praises the new sex-ed curriculum’s focus on consent. It is imperative to teach our youth the importance of consent at a young age. Not only does it reduce rates of sexual assault, but it builds interpersonal intelligence. There is certainly just as much worth in teaching young people the legal boundaries of their sexual activity, as there is in teaching them about any other school subject.
Teaching sexual education at a younger age also allows children to be more conscious of sexual predators. Many times when a child is sexually harassed, they are unaware of what is really happening. By understanding what is okay and not okay, we help our youth protect themselves and prevent further trauma for them as adults.
If parents still have a problem with the revised sex-ed curriculum, they have the opportunity to opt out. Parents do have the option of pulling their child out of the class if they feel it necessary. What they cannot do is prevent other children from getting their education because it goes against their personal values.
Ontario’s new and progressive sexual education curriculum is long overdue. Premier Wynne and the Liberal party understand that they cannot prevent young people from engaging in sexual activity, but they can make sure they are being safe, considerate, and responsible when they do.