Tuesday, Apr. 20, 2010
TORONTO -- Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty defended the province’s new sex education curriculum Tuesday, saying children as young as eight years old should be learning about a variety of issues, including gender identity and sexual orientation.
“I think I speak with an understanding of the information available to children today. They are going to get this information. We [can] provide it in a format and in a venue in which we have some control, or they can just get it entirely on their own and be informed by potentially uninformed sources like their friends at school.”
The revised curriculum, which will be implemented in Ontario schools beginning in the fall, will see Grade 3 students being taught about gender identity and sexual orientation. This is the first time this topic has been specified in the sex education curriculum.
Students in Grade 6 will learn about masturbation and wet dreams while those in Grade 7 will be taught about oral and anal sex.
The curriculum was developed after more than a year of consultations between academics, students, educators and ministries from other provinces. For example, children learn about puberty, including menstruation, in Grade 4 in schools in B.C. and Alberta.
Rev. Ekron Malcolm with the Institute for Canadian Values said Tuesday that he and a number of other “family-focused” groups have launched a campaign against the new curriculum and are set to protest in Toronto on May 10.
Rev. Malcolm said he has received more than 200 e-mails and letters of support from concerned parents across the province, prompting him and Charles McVety, the president of Canada Christian College, to start an online petition.
“I can’t imagine a child now has to question their gender, question their identity,” he said. “I think there’s enough confusion among our children in the world, for them now having to question themselves. This is where I would draw the line.”
Rev. Malcolm said his group is against the topic of sexual diversity in elementary schools, and objects to teachings on oral and anal sex until kids reach an older age.
“Schools don’t need to be teaching my children about sexual orientation or sex education. Those decisions should be left to the family, to the parents, to guide children. These topics can be taught at the high school level, at the university level, when children can make up their minds.”
Gary Wheeler, a spokesman for the Ontario Ministry of Education said the curriculum covers a variety of topics, including emotional and physical health, along with a focus on “the uniqueness of the individual.” The aim of the document is to provide teachers with clearer language and suggestions on how to approach these subjects in classes.
“If there is a component of any course, in conflict with the personal beliefs of the parents, something they don’t believe in, the parents can withdraw the student from that component of the course,” Mr. Wheeler said.
Alex McKay with the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada said although the teachings seem controversial, the move only puts Ontario in line with sex education curricula from other provinces.
“It is developmentally appropriate for students in Grade 3 to have an awareness that not all people are heterosexual,” he said. Before any type of education takes place in the schools, many kids are going to be walking through the doors with that awareness anyway. The curriculum is appropriate and knowledge is preferable to ignorance.”
Mr. McKay said this new outline for teachers is based on “sound scientific education methods.”
“The issue is that we live in a culture that is saturated with sexual imagery and that it is more important than ever that young people have a solid foundation of basic knowledge about human development and sexuality, and that this curriculum helps to deliver that,” he said. “It would be compromising the health and well-being of our youth if we shy away from providing this important information and skill set.”