How do you feel about our schools teaching our children about sex?
There is a new Sex Ed curriculum in Ontario, Canada, for Grades 1-8. In addition to what had previously been taught in sex ed, the government has added discussion on masturbation, affirmative consent, online safety, and sexting.
The reaction has been swift and strong. A large group of conservative and immigrant voters have organized a vocal opposition to the curriculum changes. Not only are they against the new stuff, but the changes have served to activate them against all sex ed teaching in schools. They have gone so far as to organize a ‘student strike’ and will keep their kids home from school next week.
It makes you think… what is the appropriate role for schools and government in teaching our kids about sex? The parents opposed to this oppose it on two grounds: (i) the government/schools should not be teaching children about sex… parents should; and (ii) even if schools should be teaching sex, the topics are too lascivious.
Lets dissect each of these. First, is sexual education the parent’s job or the school’s? Personally, I would say both. Parents have a… no THE… central role in their kids’ sexual education and moral upbringing. But parents have mixed abilities to have open and honest discussions with their kids about sex. Some parents don’t feel comfortable talking about it and many kids don’t feel comfortable getting this information from their parents, and as a result, they tune out. Unfortunately, it is the conservative parents (who are most hung up about sex and whose parents likely didn’t talk to them about sex) that are least likely to have constructive and practical conversations with their kids about sex. And the fact is… kids who don’t know about sex are the most likely to get in trouble with sex – unwanted pregnancies, disease, etc.
So let’s face it, parents can’t go it alone. And let’s call bullshit on the conservative parents who say it is the parents’ role. They are more than happy to have sexual issues discussed by their ministers and pastors. I am pretty sure it is not really the fact that someone else is teaching their kids about sex… it is the perceived liberal orientation of the teachers and schools that they have a problem with. In Ontario’s case, it probably doesn’t help – in the eyes of conservatives – that the new program has been introduced by a liberal government, led by a lesbian Premier. But, to the point, it may be the content and spokespersons they object to as much as the fact that someone else is teaching their kids about sex. So, the second source of opposition…
Are the topics proposed to be taught – same sex relationships, masturbation, affirmative consent, online safety and texting, simply too hot? That’s a tough question. Many parents – myself included – wish that 11 years olds were not exposed and dealing with porn, sexting and sexual advances. Moreover, if I am being really honest, I wish my 11 year old was not having sexual urges and wondering about self pleasure. But the world is what it is – as opposed to what I wish it was. And the facts are… kids of all ages are exposed to online sexuality and need the tools to cope. Kids at increasingly young ages have sexual urges and they are better off getting fact-based information on protection, self pleasure and how to deal with what they are feeling.
Talking to kids about online safety, sexual predation and texting helps prepare them for a world in which all of these things exist. Teaching them about self pleasure helps them to accommodate sexual urges in a safe way. And affirmative consent… you are beyond naive if you think your kids will not have sexual advances made toward them… they need to be taught how to respond.
Should it be the schools? Yes! Because all kids need this information, not just the kids whose parents are good at, and willing to give it to them. And the schools can give it to them in a way and with a regularity that no one else can.