Provinces designing sex ed programs are struggling to keep pace with changing technology and culture. Here are some readers’ stories on their own experiences with sex ed – the good, the bad and the ugly:
‘I thought I was could get pregnant from kissing a boy when I was 13. I don’t want my children to have misconceptions like that’
My daughter was only taught biological function for both anatomies last year (Grade 6). While it was great that the entire class learned what a maxi pad looked like, and how to use it, this topic was covered at home much earlier than age 12. As evidence is showing that children are going through puberty at younger ages, some of this material was a moot point for some students. I do applaud having male and female students being taught together.
My sex education was abysmal. Non-existent. I thought I was could get pregnant from kissing a boy when I was 13. I don’t want my children to have misconceptions like that or feel too shy to ask. I’d much rather them be prepared and educated properly than learning things the hard way.
‘I continue to be appalled that the same tired old curriculum is *still* being used’
I work at Health Canada in environmental health and worked at PHAC in HIV surveillance. Also an elementary school teacher a decade ago. When I left teaching to do my MA (edu & women’s studies) I wrote my thesis (2008) on Gender and HIV prevention in Canada, with a focus on the Ontario curriculum. I continue to be appalled that the same tired old curriculum is *still* being used, when as a graduate student I found it to be completely inadequate to students’ needs – no possibility of mistaking it for a comprehensive approach to sexual and reproductive health education… I’m just lucky that I didn’t have to learn from that curriculum! But then, I had a feminist mother who was always open and honest with me about where babies come from (my kindergarten teacher actually called her up one day and praised her for teaching me about babies, but could she maybe ask me to keep it under wraps since I was upsetting some of my less-informed classmates who still believed in storks and cabbage patches…). I also had a feminist (and gay) father who taught me a lot about sexism and racism (and homophobia!). Too many parents and teachers let their own myopia or misconceptions colour their discussions with kids on SRH. Strong curricular materials combined with effective teacher training and ongoing parental engagement are key!
My gym /sex-ed teacher told us that HIV came to humans as a result of African men having sex with monkeys. This was in 1988 in downtown Ottawa.
‘Alberta has province-wide problems in sexual health education’
Alberta has a province-wide problems in sexual health education. Curriculum does not require information to be evidence based or medically accurate. Abstinence only/abstinence based educators sneak in the back door at schools (parents are not informed) and their teaching undermines evidence based comprehensive sex ed. Yet many schools insist on using them as an alternative view, some admin appear to go to the extent of blocking comprehensive sex educators from presenting. Vancouver School Board requires accessible, comprehensive, inclusive and ethical (unbiased, fact based) teaching that includes EFFECTIVE contraception. Wish this was standard for everyone.
‘By junior high we knew what was up, and I think that really helped us stay safe’
I learnt sex ed really early on. Grade 4 is when we started, when we all still giggled at the words. Mind you is was very basic stuff, like what the differences are between boys and girls, puberty, and as elementary progressed, we learnt some more minute details. By junior high we knew what was up, and I think that really helped us stay safe and aware of sex and everything.
‘Sex ed should not be taught in a school setting’
My 9-year-old was offered sex-ed last year (Grade 4). I find it HIGHLY inappropriate for sex-ed to be in a school setting. It is my job as a parent to teach my children about the ‘facts of life’ and I feel it is purely because of the media, peer pressure and uneducated advice from “professionals” that girls as young as 8 and 9 believe it’s appropriate to become sexually active. Once you “teach” these children about sex they will be more inclined to experiment with the knowledge they’ve been given. In my honest opinion, I believe sex-Ed should not be taught in a school setting, or at the very least, taught in junior high, not grade 4.
‘Sexual assaults need to be discussed more’
I learned a lot from school sex ed, and general health. I remember, in Grade 3, having a puppet and big poster boards of stranger danger talks, good touch/bad touch, learning the password system with your parent(s)/guardians and whoever else was on that safe list. No password, we did not go with them. And if they tried to still get us to go, we were to run away, yell and scream for help.
Today and how I grew up, it seems so different. We had neighborhood watch, and you knew those houses with the sign up were safe house to go to if you were ever in trouble. Now, it seems like we are more cautious or in some cases over-cautious of sexual predators.
In Grade 5, I remember being separated into girls and boys, and discussing puberty, the body changes, etc. That was all helpful.
Being sexually active at a very young age, and being sexually abused by a boyfriend at a young age, royally screwed me up. I think sexual assaults need to be discussed more, so that kids/teens/adults can get over the stigma of feeling dirty/embarrassed… I didn’t tell my parents until I was 21 years old….. 7/8 years after the fact. In hindsight, of course loved ones around me saw the signs, but didn’t know how to cope or help me deal with it as well. I went through counseling because moving back to my hometown triggered a lot of full-blown panic attacks. But the anxiety is always going to be there.
My parent(s) were very open about sex, puberty, etc from as young as I can remember. We didnt have special “child/baby” like names for our private parts.
I do believe that across the country, sex education should be the same across the board. From K-12. Fact is, kids are having sex, pregnancy scares or actually getting pregnant, and as a whole country we need to be aware to what services are available to these children/families, etc should a situation arise.
As a child, I found it hard. I always knew teachers and support staff in school were safe, and I could go to them about anything, but it is hard when you have the worry because they also have a job to do, to keep children/teens safe. So if need be, they have to make that call to the ministry etc. And in some cases it absolutely needs to be done. But with that lingering over a child’s head nowadays, that anything they say they’ll get taken away….. they clam up and refuse to talk when they need it most.
But what also needs to be brought up in discussions is being cyber-safe. Growing up, internet wasn’t as big as it is now. When we grew up, you got to play outside until the street lights came on as long as homework and chores were done. So cyber-predators were not as big of a risk then, at least it didn’t seem like it. But now, where it seems every child has their hands on some form of technology (game systems, tablets, ipods, etc), I think they need to be taught more of what to look out for.
Sound off on sex ed: Do you have a child learning sex ed in school? Do you remember your own experience as a student? We want to hear it. (Note: We may publish your story in this or future articles)