With the political theatre at Queen’s park surrounding accusations of homophobia and the questioning of evolution, it’s easy to lose sight of what exactly is in Ontario’s new sex education curriculum.
The two volume program, which encompasses health and physical education for grades 1 through 12, provides a framework for what kids will be taught at what age. Two of the most controversial elements include teaching about sexual orientation in Grade 3 and discussing acts like oral and anal sex in Grade 7.
In an interview with Focus Ontario, Education Minister Liz Sandals defended both measures, saying grade three students are learning about diversity and grade sevens have a “little window ” between an earlier onset of puberty and the beginning of sexual activity.
“We’re talking about sexual orientation in terms of some families have two dads, some families have two moms” said Sandals of the grade three curriculum.
Sandals stressed the information in grade 7 is in the context of avoiding sexually transmitted infections, maintaining the curriculum must be implemented this fall because of a surge in STIs in young people.
“The chlamydia rate among teenagers is up 80 per cent in Ontario” said Sandals. “That’s appalling.”
The document itself is broken down into what students must learn and what teachers may use as examples for students, so called “teacher prompts.” Officials in the Ministry of Education are quick to point out the teacher prompts are not a script, but only examples. The entire curriculum can be viewed on the ministry website.
The Liberals last waded into the sex ed debate in 2010, but a vocal protest from religious groups, including Catholic leaders, prompted Dalton McGuinty to back down. The 2015 document is almost identical to the one shelved five years ago, so securing the blessing of Catholic educators was a must.
“The Catholic system will teach the curriculum” but will talk about their particular values in their family life curriculum said Sandals.
Opposition to the new curriculum from inside the legislature has come from PC leadership candidate Monte McNaughton, who discovered that choosing words carefully in this debate is vital.
After he said “Kathleen Wynne especially” should not be setting out what is to be taught in schools, Wynne turned the tables and attacked McNaughton in a now near legendary smackdown in the house where she asked him if she wasn’t qualified because she’s a woman.
“What is it that especially disqualifies me from the job that I’m doing?
“Is it that I’m a woman? Is it that I’m a mother? Is it that I have a master’s of education? Is it that I was a school council chair? Is it that I was the minister of education?
“What is it exactly that the member opposite thinks disqualifies me from doing the job that I’m doing?” Wynne said Tuesday in the legislature.
The Liberals don’t need to debate the curriculum in the house or put it to a vote, it can be put in a place with a simple ministerial order. Which means come this fall there will be a new sex ed program in Onatrio, the first update since 1998. If there is mercifully any consensus on this issue, it is that our students are being woefully underserved by what they’re being taught today.
Watch Focus Ontario this Sunday at 11:30am