Toronto Life - The Informer

Insider intel on the politics and personalities shaping the city. Sign up for Preview newsletter for weekly updates



Jan Wong: Why aren’t schools teaching kids about the pleasures and perils of sex?

Body Politics

The answer is simple: our curriculum is shamefully outdated, and the Liberals are too scared to fix it

Adam and Eve nibble an apple from the Tree of Knowledge and suddenly realize they’re both naked. Unfortunately, sex ed isn’t part of God’s plan, and He evicts them from the Garden of Eden. These days, some folks in Toronto are acting quite God-like themselves, insisting that the next generation live in innocence and ignorance. Heaven forbid our youth get to know themselves in the Biblical sense.

Our public schools are under attack by an evangelical Christian organization called the Institute for Canadian Values, whose leaders believe, as a basic ideological tenet, that teaching up-to-date sex education in schools will corrupt and confuse our children. The institute is run by a man named Charles McVety, who is quite skilled at getting media attention. Shamefully, most journalists have checked their brains at the door, blandly covering the institute’s actions and claims without questioning their legitimacy or standing up against the influence of the church on the state.

While some parents feel it is solely their responsibility to educate their kids about sex, most of us—more than 85 per cent, according to the educational organization SIECCAN (the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada)—want schools to play a supporting role. This silent majority notwithstanding, our leaders are caving to splinter groups. In 2010, Premier Dalton McGuinty nervously shelved a newly revised sex ed curriculum after McVety launched an attack campaign in which he claimed to be speaking on behalf of Ontario parents.

The proposed new sex ed curriculum, three years in the making, was created by a team of health experts and educators. At 219 pages, it was meant to replace a 40-page curriculum from the 1990s—when Mike Harris was premier and a ninth-grader named Mark Zuckerberg had not yet imagined a gold mine called Facebook. Under the revised curriculum, Grade 1 students would learn the names of male and female genitalia, compared with previously learning only “the major parts of the body.” The old curriculum presumed heterosexuality. In the new one, Grade 3 students would learn about gender identity and sexual orientation through class discussion. The teaching guide mentions a scenario in which kids might say: “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.” Pretty innocuous stuff, so far.

The old Grade 5 curriculum focused mainly on the physical changes at puberty. The new one focuses on emotional and social changes, too. “You can show that you like someone by being extra nice to them.…[Ways] that are inappropriate include touching them without their permission [or] spreading rumours about them to others or online.” Under the old curriculum, Grade 6 students studied “the changes at puberty to the reproductive organs and their functions.” The new one would inform them they weren’t the only ones masturbating, or having wet dreams, or experiencing vaginal lubrication. By Grade 7, students would learn about the importance of emotional readiness before having sex and the risks of contracting sexually transmitted infections through oral sex, anal sex or vaginal intercourse. You think age 13 is too young for such graphic stuff? A 2006–2007 Statistics Canada study of 13-year-olds with a girlfriend or boyfriend found that 6.5 per cent had already had sex. By age 14 and 15, the number jumps to 16.5 per cent.

  • Acartia

    It always amazes me that the media even listens to McVety. The man has a history of misrepresenting facts and lying to support his twisted views. Good values for a man who claims to speak for Canadian values.

  • Sarah

    This coming from the woman who also thought an understanding of nature and concern for the environment (which is now formally part of the curriculum in every subject and every grade) was ‘bad for our students’? Certainly McGuinty’s sex-ed curriculum was stunted before it even had a fair chance and without a doubt should be revisited. I’m just wondering how Jan feels a sex education will affect test scores for reading, writing and math that she was so concerned about in September. Or perhaps instead of attacking education, she could write something more progressive and proactive about having a healthy dialogue about education in the public sphere.

  • Robert Hagedorn

    Yep. Sex is part of God’s plan. That’s what Adam and Eve discovered much to their dismay. So challenge yourself. Google First Scandal.

  • Brian

    your hateful and false accusations need to be backed up by some facts .
    your agenda driven retarded concept is as unreal as this whole story is – based upon foolish ideology and secualr humanism – selfish to the core..

  • Amir

    Yeah…I hope they paid you well to write this one.

  • Sam

    What kind of a ungraceful thinking we are all getting into by corrupting innocent minds with sex education.
    Instead a more sober approach should be adapted where parents/guaridans should be taught to consul the children about human anatomy and hygine of private parts.
    Please lets not even use the sex word in schools. and rename it as gender studies.
    More socially responsible subjects should be though about. every one is so concern about kids having sex education while no one thinks about family vlaues e.g. respect for elders, morality and need for a stable family system in our society.
    No wonder that our social system is based on lies, mistrust and cheats.

  • jaydee

    Sam says:”Instead a more sober approach should be adapted where parents/guaridans (sic) should be taught to consul the children about human anatomy and hygine (sic) of private parts.”
    You’re assuming that parents & guardians even have the proper knowledge to teach their children. In my world, they don’t, having themselves not been properly educated thanks to the likes of the Mcvety’s of this world.
    P. S. Use a spellchecker

  • Steve

    I admire journalists with integrity that like to represent facts from both sides. Jan is entertaining at times if only for her inane views but arguably more of a special interest writer than a skilled journalist. McVety may not represent all Canadians 100% but certainly illustrates the current weakness of our system that excludes parents and perhaps some of the the traditional Judeao/Christian values that served as foundational to equipping youth for adulthood in Canada.One can see the exodus of kids from TDSB to private schools leaving behind the less fortunate who have no other alternatives than the declining public (don’t call it Christmas tree, 6 genders) union driven, left wing biased system. Perhaps it is time to have a serious discussion about a school voucher system during the next education.

  • Poohbah

    Policical discussion world wide is being hijacked by blatant misinformation spread by the likes of McVety and political partys trying to upstage their opponents. Society suffers mightly when special interest groups influence common sense and prevent well researched policy from being enacted.

    We need the press in general to do more research and point out the obvious in false press releases and speeches. We can not rely on politians to speak the truth any longer.

    SAD DAY FOR Democracy now that we can not trust those we elected to do what is best for the country or even to do what they promised. Shame on Tim H for his part in the lies; shame on Dalton for listening.

  • Roy

    Sex Ed. is yet another example of life lessons that SHOULD be taught by the parents but because so few people actually are GOOD parents when it comes to teaching their children …. we insist on trying to push teaching of these lessons onto our schools and our teachers. I am not against Sex Ed. in schools BUT if parents would do a better job themselves the necessity of these programs would diminish. It takes very little skill to become a parent ….. but a immense amount of skill to BE one.