Ontario’s Updated Health & Physical Education Curriculum – Is it too explicit?

o-SEX-ED-FRONT-570Ontario just released their improved and updated Health and Physical Education Curriculum as discussed in this CBC article for the first time since 1998. The biggest reason that this new updated curriculum needs to be implemented all over Canada is because of the increase of technology not only in schools, but within the teenage and youth in Canada. The truth of the matter is that with the increase of technology and children having access to technology at younger and younger ages, the harsh reality is that they do need to know about sex at a younger age.

There are students who have had cellphones for the majority of their lives, therefore have immediate access to the Internet. I guarantee that all teenagers have experienced some kind of cyber bullying in their lives. They also have access to cameras and apps such as “Snapchat” which was created so that people could send risqué photos to others and have it immediately deleted after a set number of seconds. Children need to know the dangers of technology and how to use it properly and appropriately.

Sexual health is more complex than its ever been. The article states: “Issues like gender identity, like lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans sexualities, sexual activity amongst young people — these are all hard conversations for all teachers to have”. There are hard conversations you need to have with your students in order to create an inclusive environment for all students. There are sexual relationships between different genders and not only that; there are a lot more birth control methods that have been created since 1998.

Something that I wonder about reading this article is the reaction of parents. Regardless of whether or not parents are pleased with their children learning about sexual related issues, are schools still allowed to go forward with it? If they were backed up with a new curriculum that is put together by the government, then I would argue that regardless of parent reactions, those teachers are still expected to teach it. A quote I really agree with from the CBC article sums the issue up very well, “I have this absolute conviction that the vast majority, if not all, parents would like their children to grow up to be sexually healthy adults”. We aren’t teaching these things to students to promote sex, we are teaching these things to ensure that every student has the knowledge of how to be safe and healthy when it does come to sexual relationships. The Huffington Post published a really informational article that breaks down and summarized exactly what each grade will learn in regards to the new curriculum. It is very helpful to understand exactly what will be taught and when.

From my own experience in high school, I had maybe two lessons learning about sex and sexual health. One was in grade 6, when a nurse came into our class and separated the boys from the girls and we each had a talk about puberty. A few years later, maybe in grade 9 or 10, we had one health class devoted to sex-ed, which consisted of our teacher putting a video on. I don’t even remember what the video was about, and we had no further discussion. However, I do remember that some students were excused from the class because our teachers sent home a letter to our parents explaining what we would be learning about and required a guardian’s signature in order to participate in the class. I would be curious to know whether or not that is still a practice in regards to the new curriculum.

Another question I wondered while reading this was how this curriculum would fit into the Catholic schools that teach the idea of saving sexual relationships until marriage. The CBC article says the following about that topic: “With the Institute of Catholic Education, which works on behalf of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, on board with the curriculum, and Education Minister Liz Sandals standing firm, the new program is here to stay — even in the face of rallies hosted by distressed parents and ardent opponents”.

These students are apart of the “iGeneration” that have constant access to the internet and technology therefore our schools and curriculum must ensure that we are equipping students with the appropriate knowledge instead of brushing the awkward topics under the rug.

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