02.23.2015 08:25 AM

All about sex

If Sun News Network was still among the living, I’d have several chase producers asking me on today, to talk about the Ontario government’s new sexual education curriculum.

Lala and I had a vigorous debate about all of this yesterday morning, over espresso.  For your reading (dis)pleasure, I summarize my main points below.

  • A qualifier, to acknowledge that what I experienced wasn’t what my peers experienced: I’m a doctor’s son.  Me and my brothers were having very open discussions about sex with our parents from an early age.  What they taught us, right from the start, was the importance of respect (for your partner) and knowledge (for yourself).
  • Another qualifier: I don’t know what is in today’s announcement.  There were leaks to select media over the weekend, but we don’t know if those leaks are reliable, and if they represent the full picture.  I suspect they don’t.
  • That all said, I offer the following.
  • The debate has already started to follow the same bullshit trajectory that these things always follow – Left-Right, conservative-progressive, blab blah blah.  It’s a bunch of adults hollering at each other, while the kids sit largely on the sidelines, watching it all like it’s an ideological tennis match.  Or not watching at all.
  • Personally, I favour the curriculum being very comprehensive, for the obvious reasons: teen pregnancies, STDs, sexual assaults, ignorance, discrimination.  All of those reasons, and more.
  • But what I think doesn’t really matter.  What matters is what the kids think, because the curriculum is aimed at them.  And I am willing to bet that no shortage of adult experts, and adult educators, and adult academics, and adult parents were consulted.  But the kids, not so much.
  • Thus, my point: the sex ed debate should be about technology, not ideology.  Because our kids aren’t waiting for us to have our little ideological debate.  They have been on the Internet for years, being exposed to notions about sex that are neither respectful nor knowledgeable.
  • I almost don’t care, therefore, what is in the curriculum.  What I care about is that kids are able to access it, and explore it, in a way that works for them, ie., the Internet.  The Internet is private and modern; a teacher in the classroom is neither.
  • Put the new curriculum all over the Internet.  Make it creative and interactive and relevant.  Make it ubiquitous enough to help overwhelm the harmful, hateful shit that is out there.
  • And, yes, of course, teach it in the classroom, too.  But use Lala’s idea: have teams of impressive, energetic, smart young people go into classrooms to teach it.  Not Palaeolithic old farts who the kids already see as irrelevant.

Kids who aren’t even in school yet are regularly accessing sexually explicit stuff that old farts like me (and perhaps you) didn’t even see, or hear about, until we were adults.  The world has changed, duh.

The sex ed curriculum needs to change with it.  It needs to be for, and about, the intended audience.  Not a bunch of old people who haven’t had intercourse since Nixon was president.  Technology, not ideology: that’s the key.

18 Comments


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    SmallTownON says:

    I have taught this part of the curriculum to grades 7/8 students for 10 years now (since my mid-twenties) and have always taken the liberty of including more up-to-date information as the times (and technology) have changed. In this effort, I have had help from our local health unit and the regional police and their community liaison officer who have helped me to provide our teens with the best information possible. (The police, in particular, have been invaluable with respect to the issues of consent and sexting.) The dated document itself is one thing. What’s happening on the ground is another, however. I for one feel content with the pains I’ve taken to make sure our kids have the information they need in the face of changing times.


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    Peter says:

    Not Palaeolithic old farts who the kids already see as irrelevant.

    Disagree. During parent-teacher night at my son’s middle school, we met with the sex-ed teacher, a severe, humourless middle-aged woman who wasn’t popular with the students. She fixed us with her purposeful eye and made it clear she would answer “all” of the kids’s questions, daring us to object or inquire as to the limits of “all”. We weren’t big fans, but we didn’t want to embarrass our son, so we just went with the flow and satisfied ourselves with whines about the decline of civilization on the drive home. Suddenly I had the image of the students all grossed out and tongue-tied listening to the clinical approach of this dragon, and turned off the whole subject for a few years. I thought “This is better than saltpetre” and went to bed feeling much relieved.


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    Patrice Boivin says:

    I was in grades 7 and 8 back in the mid 1970s in the Conseil des écoles séparées Catholique d’Ottawa (CESCO).

    In grade 7 some kids (the extraverts) were already talking about who was with whom, rumours were being spread about some girls due to jealousy on the part of some boys. Pretty stupid rumours that didn’t make any sense, as they were made up by grade 7 boys. I don’t know what the girls were saying among themselves.

    In grade 8 a boy who sat in front of me (in French class) turned around and said (in English):
    “I have a new hobby. Know what it is?”
    “no.”
    “sex.” (with a smirk on his face)

    I tried to go talk to the girl everyone said he was going out with to warn her but his friends made it clear I wasn’t supposed to talk to her. One of those two “friends” of his was a bully but later committed suicide, I don’t know what his own situation was.

    Later that year in grade 8 our (female) teacher taught us a bit about sex but she was clearly uncomfortable with the topic. One teacher had videotaped the birth of his daughter and brought some of the video with him, we watched it in the library. He kept telling us how wonderful the birth process is. I wasn’t comfortable sitting there on the library floor watching a video I wasn’t really interested in.

    I didn’t learn much that was useful, much of what they told us we already knew since most people had started talking about these things the year before. I don’t know whether the other children learned very much. I was an introvert and didn’t live near most of the other kids, I probably knew less scuttlebutt than the extraverted, more impulsive kids.

    So for us back then the hormones started manifesting themselves in grade 6 & 7, and by grade 8 some of the extraverted impulsive kids were already sexually active. Now kids probably are exposed to much more and earlier, with the Internet.

    For sex education the atmosphere is just as important as the message. If the teachers are not comfortable talking about it, some or many kids will pick up on that and become uncomfortable as well, they pick it up by osmosis.


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    Tiger says:

    Seems to me that health and conduct should be the focus.

    Health, because we want to make sure that people aren’t spreading STDs hither and yon; conduct, because we want to minimize (i.e., get rid of) situations where complaints and charges are needed if we possibly can.

    Play safe and play nice should be the takeaways, I’m sure. How one gets there is a more difficult question, but it pays to get the large aims right before getting into the nitty-gritty.


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    Ryan M says:

    I think this also touches on a bigger subject too – the internet on the whole. Ever seen a six year old work a smartphone? Their (increasingly younger) command of the internet is unmatched, but they’re still kids/teenagers/young adults and lack the understanding of their actions. “Internet Ethics” should really be a class to teach kids, if nothing else, about the longevity of the internet and that how/what you post matters and has real world effects on the kids and their peers…I know a lot of people would argue it’s up to parents, but I’m 25 and I think I’m too far removed from the technology kids are experiencing (having been 5 or 6 when the internet started to become a thing – a digital immigrant to the new world, these kids are digital natives)…it should be structured and in the schools….


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      Warren says:

      Totally agree


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        davie says:

        Distance ed student I had put it: My generation knows high tech as a first language; the older generation learns it as a second language.


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          davie says:

          …although, I might add this: One of the cues for my distance ed students (about 16 years old) was to give me 2 or 300 words on what life would be like without computers. One of my students argued that it would make no difference, because people would just use their cell phones.


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    wsam says:

    Policy-wise the new Sex-Ed stuff is probably appropriate and the right thing to do.

    Politically, it seems clear the Liberals are setting a trap for the Tories. It’s a classic Liberal wedge issue. In Canada Social Issues regularly polarize the electorate favourably along Liberal lines.

    The Liberals must be hoping the new SexEd curriculum will serve the same function as abortion and same-sex marriage did in earlier election cycles. My only doubt is that the Liberal introduced it so soon. I would have thought they would save this until closer to the election.

    Additionally, the new Sex-Ed curriculum also has the potential to cause chaos in Tory ranks. In the modern Conservative party tension is found between the Free Enterprisers and the Social Conservatives. This has the potential to split them. Especially if the new curriculum becomes perceived as good policy: in the Internet age with pornography being practically ever-present, the soundness of educating our children on sexual matters and manners seems to be unassailable.

    The Liberals are asking the Conservatives to argue against educating our children. Brilliant!

    It’s the old make-Conservatives-look-like-foot-dragging Neanderthals-strategy. It has worked before.


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      Tiger says:

      Absolutely it’s a smart wedge issue to use.

      Two-thirds of conservatives are apoplectic about the curriculum, and one-third of conservatives want to hang a paper bag over our heads and avoid association with the other two-thirds.


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        wsam says:

        Boom!

        What could the Liberals use as a similiar issue nationally?

        Religious freedom clearly doesn’t work.


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      doconnor says:

      With the Conservative leadership campaign on it maximizes the potential for chaos in their party.


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        wsam says:

        Yes. I had not thought of that. The Liberals have inserted themselves and their preferred question directly into the PC’s leadership contest. Nice!


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    debs says:

    you are right on the mark Warren. and the resources are out there, a sex ed teacher has a youtube channel that is very popular, her name, lacy green.
    my girls followed her and showed me some of her vids, great stuff, and her answering of questions really good.
    So its happening and the kids are tuning in, and I bet with lots of adults on panels having no clue, lol.


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    Chelsea says:

    I echo debs’ recommendation of Lacy Green. I personally have shared Scarleteen plenty with my younger cousins when they have come to me with questions (it is known in my family that I worked in peer-to-peer Sex Ed in university and that I presently work in an adult boutique a few days a week as a side gig, so I get hushed questions from folks of all ages; relatives, colleagues, etc.). Scarleteen is pretty great, especially for their Advice Q&A column. It’s targeted at teens but I know a lot of pre-teens really like the site as well. http://www.scarleteen.com/


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    cgh says:

    The timing on this is suspect. It conveniently provides an alternate topic instead of having to answer questions on two ongoing criminal investigations.


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    Steve T says:

    It is a fine line between educating kids on what they need to know (basic biology; pregnancy prevention; acceptance of your body; understanding that no means no; understanding that masturbation is normal; etc…), and talking so much about sex that kids feel obligated to participate or they feel weird or left-out.

    Hence, I’m not sure why certain topics need to be taught to kids in elementary school. Are kids of that age really having sex? Or are we simply pushing them towards starting sex at an earlier and earlier age? How much of this new curriculum is driven by adults wanting desparately to feel “hip”, or having undue paranoia about not being cool and with-it?


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    socks clinton says:

    When I went to junior high school in the 1970s teenagers weren’t as sexualized as today but two girls in my homerooom had to suddenly leave because they got pregnant. The predators who “dated” such teenage girls were man-childs in their 20s.

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