How did we get here?

Maybe you’re wondering, “What’s all the fuss about this new curriculum”?

photo credit: David Chidley|The Canadian Press

The truth is, it isn’t new; it was presented to the public once before.  In 2010, the government under Premier Dalton McGuinty showed this new curriculum to the public and received such strong backlash that they quickly put it back on the shelf.

McGuinty said that “it’s obvious from listening to parents…that the curriculum needs a serious rethink” and that “…the government will create more opportunities for parents to lend shape to a [sex-ed] policy with which they are more comfortable”.5  Those opportunities never came. Even the recent parent survey appears to be nothing more than a token gesture by the government to say that parents have said ‘yes’ to these changes. Have you?

What changed in the 2010 curriculum?

Details of the curriculum were first reported in the media in the early part of 2010. On April 15, the Hamilton Spectator published an article entitled ‘Sex Ed Moves to Grade 3’. The article reported that “Ontario elementary school children will learn more detailed sex education in earlier grades under a new province-wide curriculum that begins this September [emphasis added].”6

It also reported on some of the specific curriculum changes, including

  • labeling the parts of male and female genitalia in Grade 1 (formerly covered in Grade 6)
  • introduction of concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity in Grade 3
  • self-discovery through masturbation, vaginal lubrication and wet dreams in Grade 6
  • the practices of anal and oral sex in Grade 7

The government was lowering the age at which students were being taught sensitive material, and implementing a curriculum that ignored the values and input of a very large segment of society. Follow up statements from the government and people involved with the new curriculum proved that these changes were for real. Ministry of Education spokesperson Gary Wheeler said “teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation is part of the province’s overall commitment to inclusive education.”7

Sarah Flicker, a York University assistant professor who reviewed the curriculum, says, “…the ministry’s commitment to acknowledge sexual pleasure and desires to youths is innovative and terrific. ‘Often when we talk to kids about sex-ed, it’s a no-no-no, finger-wagging thing. It doesn’t speak to the reality. Why do kids have sex? Because it feels good.’”8

Strong public outcry

The resulting shock and angry response from many in the public made news headlines for months. Dozens of organizations mounted protests, rallies and thousands of names were signed on petitions sent to the McGuinty government. Being very close to the 2011 election, the government backed off and promised to get more input from parents. The new curriculum was pulled from the government website and its original version hasn’t been seen since.

The feeling among many of the protesters was that they’d won the battle for public education.9  If you do a web search today you will find the 1998 H&PE curriculum and an Interim Edition of the 2010 revision, which does not mention the explicit content. Indeed, many went away believing that that was the last Ontario would see of such things in public education.


Footnotes

5 CBC News. “Sex-ed change needs ‘rethink’: Ont. premier.”  www.cbc.ca.  April 22, 2010.  Accessed November 26, 2014.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/sex-ed-change-needs-rethink-ont-premier-1.899831

6 Carmelina Prete. “Sex ed moves to Grade 3.” The Hamilton Spectator.  April 15, 2010.  Accessed November 26, 2014. http://www.thespec.com/news-story/2142680-sex-ed-moves-to-grade-3/

7 ibid.

8 ibid.

9 CBC News. “Sex ed opponents claim victory in Ontario.” www.cbc.ca April 23, 2010.  Accessed December 26, 2014.  http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/sex-ed-opponents-claim-victory-in-ontario-1.899830