Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Let's Talk About Sex (Ed)

So, I've read the Revised Ontario Health and Physical Education Curriculum (more commonly referred to as the new Ontario Sex Education curriculum) for students in grades 1-8 and I have some thoughts.

First, I should say I've read only parts of it and only the parts that I know have changed, and only the parts that actually pertain to sex education. I have honestly not read all 244 pages but I have read the sections that are of interest to me as a mother and grandmother of school aged kids/grand kids in Ontario schools.

Second, I have to say, it's not all bad. There's actually a lot of good stuff in there about the importance of consent and the importance of abstinence as a positive choice and why it should be respected.

That being said, I'm old school and still believe what ought to be taught is basic human/reproductive anatomy, how STDs (or STIs as they're now being called) are transmitted, prevented, treated, etc., and then the rest of it... left for parents to decide when the child is old enough to have those kinds of conversations.

From all I've heard and read, big deal for most parents is the Who and the What. The government (the Who) has decided our children are all ready, all at the same age, to learn the same things (the What). As every parent knows, this is baloney. Not all 6 year old kids (or 9 or 12 year olds either) will understand the same things, the same way. 

For many parents it's simply inappropriate that there will be people other than them (or their family doctor) having these kinds of conversations with their children. It's one thing for a child to be taught basic reproductive anatomy and medical facts, but it's an entirely different ballgame for someone to teach your child about a variety of sexual acts and sexual lifestyles (and then prompt conversations about them) with the purpose of teaching they all fall within the umbrella of normal, common and acceptable. For a lot of people in our society they are all normal and acceptable, but for a lot of other people, this kind of teaching infringes into personal, religious, or cultural territory. It intentionally blurs the lines between what is reproductive fact, and what is personal opinion, and then lumps them both into the same category.

Imagine the outrage and uproar we'd all be hearing if the only common, acceptable and normal sexual lifestyle that was taught in this revised curriculum, was intimacy between a husband and a wife. Obviously this is what Christians believe and what the Bible teaches, but the point is, that's a personal opinion held by Christians. It is not the opinion of others in a variety of sexual lifestyles and when you're teaching one over the other that's where things get muddled.  This is exactly why so many are saying this new curriculum is more about pushing a social agenda and social engineering than teaching the facts.  The exact same thing would be said if it were only teaching about Christian marriage.

One of the things I've read about and heard about is the concern by many parents that there is so much information in this revised curriculum being introduced at such young ages, it feels very much like child grooming to them. I know many would roll their eyes at this suggestion but here's the basic definition of child grooming:

Child grooming (for the purpose of sexual exploitation and abuse by an adult) involves planned, emotional and psychological manipulation in the form of positive reinforcement using activities and conversations over a period of time, that are typically legal and deemed socially acceptable. This is done to gain the child's trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child. A trusting relationship with the family means the child's parents are less likely to believe potential accusations as well as enabling direct access to the child.
To establish this kind of trusting relationship, child groomers might do several things. For example, they might take an undue interest in someone child, to be the child’s "special" friend to gain the child’s confidence. They may insert themselves into the child's life as someone who can be trusted, someone the child can talk to, and tell private things to. They may simply talk about sexual topics or acts with the goal of making it easy for the child to accept such acts, thus normalizing the behavior. They might talk about subjects normally discussed between adults, or at least people of the same age. Topics might include marital problems, (romantic or sexual) relationship dynamics and family/sibling conflicts. They may try to gain the child’s parents’ trust and confidence by befriending them, with the goal of easy access to the child. They will be a source of positive emotional reinforcement to the child with frequent, personal compliments that mention how pretty or handsome the child is, or how smart, talented or "grown up" the child appears to be. They may also consistently affirm for the child that other adults in their life may not understand them or understand their need to talk about sexual subjects. These are just some of the methods a child groomer might use to gain a child's trust and affection to allow them to become closer to the child.
A groomer will use several methods to desensitize a child to sexual topics and sexual acts, in an effort to get the child to become less inhibited about future physical and sexual contact. It is a behavior that is characteristic of pedophilia. 

If you've read the pdf, read the types of subjects being introduced at different ages and the suggested Teacher prompts and expected student responses based on what they've learned, it's understandable why some parents are rather uncomfortable with teachers having these kinds of conversations with their children. While I'm not about to jump on The Sky is Falling bandwagon or even suggest for a moment that everyone who had a hand in this revised curriculum is a pedophile (although there is the issue with Benjamin Levin and we can't pretend that didn't happen - and I can bet no one realized at the time there was a pedophile in charge of a revised sex ed curriculum for public school aged children), I do have to admit it feels a little groom-y to me as well.

If you have school aged kids in Ontario, I would strongly recommend that you do read this revised curriculum. As I've said, it's NOT all bad as it pertains to sexual health and development. However, depending on your personal, cultural or religious views, there will definitely be things there that you will strongly disagree with and should be aware of because your kids are going to be taught these things.

More important however, than reading this new curriculum is that you talk to your kids and that you teach your kids at home what matters most. If they have a solid foundation from the beginning, when they come across things like this in school or in life, they'll be better equipped to process it, think about it, talk about it, and decide for themselves how they see it, rather than just accept it as fact or truth.