Sex education in Ontario needs to be updated and improved

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In 2015, then Premier Kathleen Wynne’s cabinet rolled out an updated sex-ed curriculum which was marred with controversy and parental protest. This was to be the first update to the curriculum in 17 years. Though heralded as a welcome and overdue change by some, some groups in Ontario believed it went too far.

The new curriculum would introduce concepts such as the safe use of technology during the formative stages of development. This was not the main point of contention, however.

The parents representing the opposition to this curriculum held the belief that teaching students about the concepts of gender identity, consent, and non-heteronormative relationships would be damaging to their children. Roughly three years later, Doug Ford was elected as Premier of Ontario, with a very different agenda pertaining to the curriculum.

Since entering office, Premier Ford has proposed crippling cuts to Ontario’s education system. These include class size increases and a decrease in the number of teachers. Premier Ford’s cabinet unveiled his new education plan, called “Education that Works for You.”

Under this plan, a certain number of online courses will become mandatory, and funding will be reduced to grants which provide students with essential supplies. This is a cabinet which has shown a fundamental disregard for the progress of education, facing large protests by both students and teachers just two months ago.

The rhetoric coming out of the Premier’s office suggests a belief that parents should be teaching their children about topics pertaining to sex-ed. The idea that the education of children should be a two-part effort, by both the education system and the parents, in order to provide a holistic approach to learning.

Though this is a wonderful sentiment, it is disingenuous. In reality, it is a tactic employed by the Premier’s cabinet to appease it’s Conservative (and perhaps regressive) base. A tactic which sorely lacks tact. Nobody is arguing against parents teaching their children in conjunction with the public-school system.

However, the truth is that we should be embracing the idea of teaching the children of this province to protect themselves from sexually motivated harm. We should support mental health initiatives baked into the sex-ed curriculum.

Instead, our representatives are considering rolling back the sex-ed curriculum to its 1998 version, a 21-year-old relic. A curriculum which did not encompass the concept of basic consent, let alone the sweeping changes in society brought by the advent of social media. Our representatives should not pander to misinformed fundamentalists.

Our representatives, regardless of party lines, should work for the betterment of our lives. The greatest way in which this can be accomplished is to have an open dialogue with the rightly concerned parents of children currently in the education system.

The education of children is not something to be brushed aside or compromised. It is our duty, and we must look to perform it better whenever we can. We cannot regress.


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