Ontario's new sexual education curriculum was recently unveiled, much to the dismay of many parents. The previous curriculum dates back to 1998. Think about that. In 1998, online bullying, sexting, Snapchat and Facebook weren't even on our radar. There was no public HPV vaccine and there was seemingly no real acknowledgement of the transgendered community. Surely many adults now wish they had had better sex ed—if they had any at all—while growing up in the past. Ontario's new curriculum has a few interesting concepts that could potentially pave the road for a sexually healthy digital generation.
1. Students learn about gender identity
As described in the curriculum, gender identity is a person's sense of self, with respect to being male or female. Gender identity is different from sexual orientation, and may be different from birth-assigned sex. Can you imagine if future generations simply understood that not everyone identified with the gender they were assigned at birth.
2. Same-sex relationships are introduced as normal
Here's a sample student answer to a teacher prompt about ways we are all different, straight from the curriculum: "We all come from different families. Some students live with two parents. Some live with one parent. Some have two mothers or two fathers. Some live with grandparents or with caregivers. We may come from different cultures. We also have different talents and abilities and different things that we find difficult to do."
3. Students are encouraged to make a personal sexuality plan
In Grade 8, students are encouraged to make a personal plan about their sexual activity in the hopes that having a plan will help them avoid making hasty decisions. A plan like this could potentially help decrease the amount of young people who have sex at 14 years old because they are unsure of the situation they are in. It could help students plan how to have sex, using protection, in a safe place both physically and mentally.
4. Students learn to identify body parts using the appropriate names
It seems like learning this would be a given, but it's not. Teaching Grade 1 students how to appropriately describe their private parts is the first step in eliminating the awkwardness associated with them as they age. If kids were comfortable with their bodies at a young age, maybe they would grow up more confident and more aware. Let's help future kids out by teaching them early on.
5. Students learn about anal intercourse and oral-genital contact
Parents have concerns about their Grade 7 students learning about genital contact and anal intercourse, but a lot of people think you can only get pregnant or catch a sexually transmitted infection if you have vaginal sex. I knew a girl in high school whose [older] boyfriend convinced her if she swallowed a certain substance it would make her breasts grow. Wouldn't everyone prefer it if students learned from their teachers rather than a creepy 18-year-old boyfriend?
It is estimated that 75% of Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lifetime. HPV is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact and the highest rates of infection are found in people under the age of 25. Let's arm kids with the information they need to make smart, informed decisions.
6. Students learn about masturbation
Why not decrease the amount of embarrassment, anxiety and overall stress around the subject? If it was taught in school and understood, maybe one day people would be comfortable with their sexuality and even be able to discuss it openly.
7. Students learn about dating
Dating, what a concept. With Grinder, Tinder and a slew of other dating sites single people are left to maneuver in 2015, wouldn't it be lovely if the next generation could learn to date again? Teaching Grade 4 students how to approach someone they "like" is an appealing concept as it could produce a group of young people that aren't riddled with anxiety every time they want to talk to someone they are interested in.
8. Students learn about the dangers of sexting and online communications
According to the curriculum, students must demonstrate an understanding of the benefits and risks of using electronic communication technologies. Students learn to be aware: aware that their sexy pic might not just go to their new boyfriend, that the internet hides the faces of sexual predators, enables bullies and they learn that sexting has risks too.
9. Students learn about consent
Consent is discussed throughout the curriculum, starting in Grade 1 when they learn about exploitive behaviours and in Grade 2 the concept of "no means no" is introduced. Understanding consent from a young age would hopefully arm students with the power to say no when they want to and yes when they want to, too.
10. Students learn about mental health
Mental health and its influencing factors are discussed using various topics. This means that emotional well-being would be discussed and this could potentially help decrease the discrimination and stigmatization attached to mental illness in the future.