OPEN LETTER REGARDING SEX EDUCATION AND HEALTH CURRICULUM, REINTRODUCED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO
Hundreds of Russian Canadian parents, who reside in Ontario and have school-age children, approached the Russian Congress of Canada to express their concerns in regards to the revised early sex education and health curriculum, reintroduced by the Government of Ontario in 2014.
Four years ago, when Kathleen Wynne was the Minister of Education in Ontario, the Ministry tried to implement a radical sex-ed curriculum for the first time. However, the curriculum was rejected due to parents’ and religious groups’ protests. This time the Ministry of Education has changed its tactics and silently forced its latent vision of early sex education for children from Grade 1 before revealing the changes to parents and school teachers.
On behalf of the Russian Community, we would like to strongly oppose this initiative. There are endless facts to support our position.
A number of researches show that parents play an effective role in children’s primary sex education. Thus, sex education should emphasize the significant part of parents as educators, and a contributing factor of school educators.
First, we would like to point out that the Ministry of Education failed to communicate with parents on the upcoming curriculum changes. Early sex education has a long history of controversy, so some disagreement over updating the curriculum should not come as a surprise. The introduction of the updated curriculum was held back since the Ministry of Education posted it on its website just a few months before the implementation without giving it much publicity. The Ministry also posed limitations to the process of revising the curriculum such as considering the recommendations of the education stakeholders but not the vast majority of parents. Minimal information was offered in relation to the 2010 curriculum. The communication failure that left concerned parents with next to no engagement, prompted them to go on the defensive and created an atmosphere of mistrust.
Second, the Ministry of Education failed to anticipate parental concerns about the age appropriateness of topics, intended for the elementary school level. The 2010 sex curriculum suggested too many explicit details for early childhood development. It is true that Ontario students are growing up in a hyper-sexualized culture. Sexual content and imagery is readily available, but not always welcome. Knowing when to address the sexual issues and how to introduce them, can be challenging for both parents and educators.
According to OPHEA document “Sexual Health Education in Schools across Canada”, students will learn to identify body parts including genitalia as early as Grade 1.
The American Association of Child and Adolescence Psychiatry advises that “parents should respond to the needs and curiosity level of their individual child, offering no more or less information than their child is asking for and is able to understand.” We, as parents, know that the needs and curiosity of each individual child vary, and it will be rather difficult for a teacher to offer every child suitable and appropriate information.
It is necessary for parents to be involved in the development and delivery of sexual education. The existing evidence backs the importance of parental involvement. Parents and the home environment that they create, have a significant influence on teens’ sexual decision-making. An ongoing survey by the American-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has consistently found that teens rate parents as the most influential source in their sexual decision-making. Only four to five percent of teens reported that school and educators are more influential.
Instructions on anal and oral sex in Grade 7, or the promotion of self-discovery through masturbation in Grade 6 were among items that left parents pondering. The complexity and ambiguity of other topics such as gender identification presented in Grade 3 made parents feeling apprehensive. We think that the introduction of such graphic and sensitive material to our children at this early age will not benefit but on the contrary will harm them.
In the mid–2000s, New Brunswick introduced the type of progressive curriculum advocates favor today in Ontario. Between 2006 and 2010 the teen pregnancy rate in New Brunswick increased by 40%. In short, the impact of the sexual education program most certainly proved to be counterproductive.
There is little doubt that the new Ontario curriculum is up to par with tendencies of our modern day society, but the critical questions still is, how the Ministry of Education will address parental concerns. Revised 2010 curriculum states: “Parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behavior, and ethno cultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions, and they act as significant role models for their children. It is, therefore, important for schools and parents to work together to ensure that home and school provide a mutually supportive framework for young people’s education.” We would like the Ministry to not only adhere to the above-mentioned statement but also act on it.
The following are our suggestions to the Ministry of Education:
1. Engage all concerned parents.
2. Respect their parental rights.
3. Support parental choices in education.
4. Measure and evaluate potential curriculum outcomes.
Based on our reasoning, we join the demand of PAFE (Parents As First Educators) to abandon the implementation of the new and revised sex educational curriculum.