Barbara Kay: Ontario’s new sex ed curriculum teaches young children too much, too soon


National Post - Tuesday February 24th, 2015

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Galit Rodan
The goal seems to be the normalization of robust sexual experimentation in all its permutations.

In Ecclesiastes it is written, “There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under the sun … a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. …”

One does not have to be Christian or even religious to appreciate the anger that fuelled objections in the first go-around of the Ontario sex ed debate in 2009, enough to block its launch. It is bubbling up anew as the province’s Ministry of Education finally launches the program, virtually unchanged from its first incarnation. I am neither Christian nor religious, and I don’t like it at all.

I have three objections to the curriculum. The first is that it introduces advanced material too early, before children are psychologically ready to absorb it; the second is that it teaches details of intimate behaviour to children in a group that is best conveyed one-on-one or through texts a child can read alone; and the third is that the course teaches sex as behaviour that is detached from any moral component (apart from the responsibility not to spread disease or get pregnant).

Normally in children, between the ages of six to 12, known as the “latency period,” sexual energies fall dormant. It is because they are undistracted by sexuality in these years that children are optimally educable in the areas crucial to cultural growth: literacy, maths, history and science.

Only at adolescence do hormonal changes create the appropriate psychological context for absorbing ideas about “gender identity” and sexual ethics in a meaningful light. During the latency period, children should be taught simple human biology as part of their science program: i.e. how our bodies function, how babies are made, and that’s it. There is no need to get into the intricacies and variety of sexual desire at this stage.

What is the value of learning sexual details in a group? We don’t know. There are no studies that tell us that classroom discussions of sexual activity lead to a better understanding or more responsible behaviour than simply assigning reading material to be absorbed in private. School is an artificially constructed environment to begin with. Discussing grammar and history accords well with the classroom format. But human beings seek privacy to have sex for a reason. In my opinion, coed group viewing and discussion of sexual behaviour that it is taboo to actually watch in real life invites voyeuristic imaging. It has the potential for creating an unhealthy classroom dynamic, and extreme discomfort in naturally shy children or those raised in an environment of sexual modesty.

Finally, morality: Those of us who view the curriculum with concern feel that its treatment of sex as a pleasurable activity unrelated (especially in girls) to self-worth, honour, the value of deferred gratification, high selectivity and the deleterious effects of promiscuity is only half a program, a program that in conservative minds is more likely to lead to indiscriminate sexual behaviour and an inability to set moral boundaries than to happiness and self-respect.

The right of parents to protect their children from too much information too soon — through exemptions if they wish

In 2009, proponents of the program rejected such concerns. Alex McKay, research co-ordinator for the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, claimed that “[Y]oung people who are very well educated about sexuality and sexual health tend to delay having sex, because they fully understand everything that’s involved. …” But as a National Post editorial rebutted: “a recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine of the American Medical Association found that abstinence programs that teach human sexuality as predominantly psychological, emotional and moral rather than physical dropped sexual-activity rates among teens by a third in contrast with data-heavy ‘safe sex’ programs.”

But dropping sexual-activity rates is clearly not the goal of this program. The goal seems to be the normalization of robust sexual experimentation in all its permutations — in a word, libertinism, the antithesis of morality-based sexual education — along with the promotion of “social justice,” a sexual utopia in which heteronormativity is but one of many equally safe and uncomplicated life choices.

Certainly it is an admirable goal to ensure that no individual is discriminated against on the basis of his or her sexual orientation. But to begin the process before nature has activated children’s curiosity is a form of mental invasion they have not assented to. The right of parents to protect their children from too much information too soon — through exemptions if they wish — should trump the right of the Ministry of Education to further its theory-based agenda.