The Ontario sex ed curriculum is being brought back from 1998 and being implemented this September by the Ford government. It’s an extremely outdated version that hardly applies to the lives of youth today. The current Ontario sex-ed curriculum was introduced in 2015, and was the first update to the Ontario curriculum in 20 years. Unfortunately, the students of Ontario will now cease to be educated on the topics of gender identity, same-sex relationships, masturbation, online safety, consent, and other topics. These subjects should certainly be covered in the sex ed curriculum, but are now being neglected, much like the safety of youth in Ontario.
In 1998 there were no cell phones, Snapchat, video chatting, and no social media. Since none of these now popular forms of communication were used at the time, they were not included in the safety portion of the sex-ed curriculum. This is a vital part of the curriculum today, as these are all easy ways for youth to use pictures and videos to exploit themselves and others. Many kids today are unaware that sending a nude photo of themselves or another minor can get them charged with distribution of child pornogrophy, or that having a nude picture of a minor can get them charged with possession of child pornogrophy. These charges can result in serious consequences with the law, but with the 1998 curriculum being brought back, these relevant lessons will no longer be taught in schools and children will be in the dark about how these acts could send them to prison, and give them a permanent record as a sex offender.
One of the main arguments made by the Ford government is that parents should be teaching their children sex education how and when they see fit, but this argument is problematic for many reasons. Some parents see the conversations surrounding sex as giving their kids permission to become sexually active, and are therefore not teaching these necessary lessons. Some parents who are supportive of the coming curriculum change don’t want their children learning about consent, as they see it as suggesting engagement in sexual activities. It’s proven that knowledge on consent and other related topics in sex ed actually delays engagement in sexual activities, rather than fast-tracking it for youth. On the other hand, there are parents who choose to have “The Talk” with their children, but each conversation could differ in information. In addition to the differentiation in parental lessons, it’s not guaranteed that parents will actually have the correct information that they wish to pass on. Who taught parents everything they think they know about sex ed? They weren’t learning it from school all those years ago. Many parents who do have “The Talk” with their kids teach from personal experience, rather than from facts and research. It’s extremely important for youth to get the information from school, where the teachers do have the correct and factual information. The youth who know that they will not be receiving this information at home rely on their teachers for lessons and answers to questions they may have. With consent being removed from the health curriculum, kids will no longer have the support and education they need from their teachers. Youth may look to pornogrophy — which is unrealistic, or the internet — which will give them plenty of false information for their answers. Learning what proper consent consists of along with other areas will prepare youth for future situations by letting them know that they have a choice. This knowledge can potentially save them from unhealthy relationships, as well as dangerous situations.
Another subject found in the 2015 Ontario sex ed curriculum that is not a part of the 1998 version is the LGBTQ+ community. In 1998, being gay was not yet widely accepted, and being transgender or identifying with any other sexual orientation was essentially unheard of. Today, there are more members and supporters of the LGBTQ+ community than ever before, and rates of youth identifying as gay, transgender, genderfluid, etc. are rising. Most parents are unaware of how to talk to their children about gender identity because the concept of the LGBTQ+ community is relatively new to them, and it’s something that they were most likely never taught. It is more important than ever for youth to have education on gender identity, as more classifications are being recognized and more youth are identifying with these genders and sexual orientations. In addition to the topic of the LGBTQ+ community, the 1998 curriculum does not include coverage or discussion on same-sex relationships, but focuses solely on heterosexual affairs. Studies show that LGBT youth are 2x more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and that statistic rises to 7x when focusing on bisexual and homosexual males in secondary school.
It is crucial that the youth of Ontario are properly informed on all that sex ed entails. The 1998 curriculum does not educate students on numerous topics, including but not limited to the ones listed above. These topics are only gaining relevance to the lives of youth today. Keeping them in the dark about topics such as consent, online safety, and gender identity could put them in dangerous situations that could affect them for the rest of their lives. Knowledge is power, and it should be shared with youth through educated instructors.