Nominated for: standing in the way of much-needed education.
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The last time Ontario updated its sex-ed curriculum was 1998. The word “sexting” had not yet been conceived, and Ellen had only emerged from the closet the year before. If a middle-school student saw transgender characters in the media, they were likely mined for off-colour jokes, like in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
But, as the Ontario government’s website says, “the world has changed,” and this fall, the province rolled out a sex-ed curriculum that had finally caught up.
For some parents, these updates were a cause for alarm. In a Toronto Life article, East York father Azeem Mohammed cited the inclusion of “pleasure” in the curriculum as a reason to oppose the new course content. Other parents objected to grade one students learning the names of body parts, or that puberty would be taught in grade four instead of grade five (despite mounting evidence that puberty, especially in girls, now begins earlier than ever). Many parents opted to pull their kids out of school, rather than risk exposure to the new material.
Ironically, most protesters positioned themselves as their children’s primary sexual-health educators, even as they publicly committed to withholding vital information. Other critics included Charles McVety, the evangelical Christian who objected to, among other things, teaching about intercourse any time before before the age of consent; and noted jerk and former TDSB trustee Sam Sotiropoulos, who declared at a rally that the “the fingerprints of a child pornographer are on this curriculum.” (Confidential to Sam: gross.)
Here’s the reality: kids need to learn about sex, gender, consent—and yes, even pleasure—as much as they need to learn photosynthesis and the rules of kickball. When sex ed isn’t forthcoming at home, the classroom becomes the only place where many students can learn about the mechanics of pregnancy or what the word transgender means.
As much as protesters might hate it, teaching sex-ed in schools helps kids make informed choices. You only have to look at teen pregnancy rates in abstinence education-only American states to know that parents and protesters who try to protect kids from the dangers of sexuality instead leave them exposed to heard-it-through-the-grapevine misinformation and the pitfalls of Dr. Google.
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. Neutering sex education in Ontario leaves students powerless to understand their changing bodies, and to navigate the rapidly changing world. Protecting your kids is only useful when the outside world is actually dangerous; sex education is anything but.