Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
– Martin Luther King Jr.
Opposition to Sex-Ed
The parents who are fighting against the new Ontario sexual health education curriculum are choosing to to live in a world of ignorance and stupidity. They choose to believe that their children will be safest if they keep them isolated in a bubble of ignorance. Of course they refer to this ignorance as innocence.
“I feel it’s extremely age-inappropriate information to be giving to children. They’re going to be robbing them of their innocence at too young an age, and as a parent this should be a decision I make — when and how my children learn about sex.” – Mindy Henry
I 100% agree with Ms. Henry that she should be the first to educate her children. All parents should be educating their children about sexual health. All parents should be teaching their children the proper names of their body parts. All parents should be teaching their kids about consent, how to set limits and say no. All parents should be teaching their children about their values. Unfortunately many do not or they wait too long.
Teaching our Kids
Living in ignorance, believing that children don’t listen to other kids on the playground or absorb anything they hear in the media, or stumble across videos online that give them more information than you’d like is ridiculous and frankly … stupid.
As parents, we all want the best for our kids. We want to keep them safe. We want them to be happy and comfortable. We want them to stay little and we want to believe that they will always come to us with questions or observations about the world. We can accomplish all of these things by providing knowledge. Answering your kids’ questions honestly and directly will encourage them to come to you as a reliable source of information instead of seeking information elsewhere.
S-E-X is a Big Idea
I have heard and read a number of parents who are opposed to this revised curriculum express the idea that sex is too big a concept to teach to kids before they are teens. These parents seem to feel that their children are incapable of understanding big ideas.
We teach kids all kinds of big ideas when they are elementary school age. We teach them about dinosaurs that lived millions of years ago and were wiped out before humans ever came into being. That is a pretty big concept. My now eight year old daughter was an expert on dinosaurs before she even started school.
Some parents and perhaps the majority of parents who are opposed to the curriculum, teach their children about the idea of a creator, a supernatural being that created the world and everything in it. The associated stories and lessons vary depending on the religion, but the concept is the same. The idea that a god or gods created everything and perhaps controls everything in our world is a pretty huge idea that kids in religious families are taught in Sunday school classes and in churches, mosques and other houses of worship before they start school. Some parents even take on this educational task themselves instead of relying on the institution to provide the information.
Somehow these parents feel that their kids can manage the idea of dinosaurs or of an all powerful creator, but not the words penis or vulva, let alone the idea that kids can grow up in loving families of all shapes and sizes.
We all have different perspectives on life and parenting that flow from our upbringings, our parents, our families, cultures, experiences, education and faith. We all have values. We all would like our children to learn our values to carry on the things we believe to be true.
The challenge is that we are not the only influence in the lives of our children. Teachers, peers, and media all play a role in influencing the lives, knowledge and beliefs of our children. I am not typically one to judge others in how they choose to live or raise their children. However in this case I make an exception. To believe that we as parents are the only source of information for our children is to be willfully ignorant and frankly irresponsible.
Fear of Sex and the Unknown
Many people have been taught to fear sex. Combined with the fear of the unknown, sex and sexuality make a potent mix. Parents who received poor sexual health education are afraid of having to explain to their kids how it all works when in some cases they don’t have the tools or knowledge to explain it well themselves. Some religions and cultures teach that sex that is not for the purposes of procreation is wrong. People who adhere to these teachings may be of the belief that things like sex for pleasure, masturbation, oral sex, anal sex and any sexual activity or any degree of attraction between people of the same sex is wrong.
The notion that schools might teach an idea that is different than what we as parents believe and would like our children to believe is scary, in no small part because we may then be forced to justify our preferred position (pun intended).
Willfull Ignorance and Misinformation
To deal with these fears, some parents are fighting against the possibility that their children might ask them questions that they are uncomfortable asking. They seek to do the impossible and shelter their children from knowledge, which only endangers them. Kids and humans in general are curious. They will seek out information, especially when others try to hide the information from them. In some cases they will seek this knowledge through experimentation, which can result in taking unnecessary risks.
They are also spreading their fears by telling stories about what is included in this revised curriculum. They talk about it being written by a pedophile. They suggest that the age of consent is being reduced or that kids are being encouraged to masturbate in front of their class. They are also talking about how kids are going to be recruited into the gay lifestyle (as if that was a thing) or be made to pick a new gender identity. All of these things are flat out ridiculous and 100% false.
What is in the Curriculum?
What is true is that kids are going to be better equipped to say no to sexual activity. It is also true that they will learn that families come in different forms and that some of those families do not involve a mum and a dad and 2.5 kids. They will learn that they have a penis or a vulva, not a willy or a vi-jay-jay. They will learn that their body will go through a whole whack of changes and that those changes are normal. They will learn that some kids don’t feel right identifying by a gender related to their biological sex and that this is also normal.
Kids are going to learn about sex whether their parents want them to or not. If you don’t feel comfortable teaching them, the school system has got your back. Educators will provide your kids with the facts so that they don’t walk around afraid that they will get pregnant by swimming in a pool or that God will kill them if they have sex*
*I was a volunteer sexual health educator for ten years and had a boy of 10 or 11 ask me if God would kill him if he had sex.*
Treating Kids with Respect
Let’s be realistic about the world in which our kids live. Let’s treat them with enough respect to teach them about their own bodies. Let’s teach that they don’t have to be afraid of the changes happening in their bodies. Let’s teach them how to set limits and say no. Let’s teach them that it is ok to be different from your peers. And, let’s teach them the correct names for all of their body parts.
We can work together with educators to break out of the bubble of ignorance and arm our kids with tools and knowledge to carry through their lives.