Sex. It’s a topic I’ve become increasingly comfortable bantering about—especially since the writing and release of my latest book on the topic of why married couples don’t have sex. As a result, I have spent countless hours discussing this subject with the media as well as others. All this at a time when the province in which I live has produced a document detailing their new curriculum for Health and Physical Education for students in grades 1 to 8, within which they discuss changes to sex education.
The new changes, set to take place in September 2015, have stirred a big pot of controversy among critics who feel strongly about children being exposed to certain topics at too young an age or hearing things from teachers that go against their religious beliefs or moral code.
The way I see it, there’s a power struggle as to where sex education, and in what form, should begin. In the home? At school? The new document does acknowledge that ‘parents are the primary educators of their children with respect to learning about values, appropriate behaviour, and ethnocultural, spiritual, and personal beliefs and traditions and they are their children’s first role models’. So, we may be the first but does that mean we have to be the only?
I believe that we need to work with and trust the people who we have given the responsibility of helping to educate our children. We have to assume that they haven’t just come up with a new curriculum overnight or that they have pulled ideas out of a hat. We can safely believe that they have done research and consulted with many respected educators about the development of children and what they are safely able to absorb at any given age, and how to share that information with them.
For some children, this may be the only sex education they get. I know many parents who have a very difficult time broaching the topic of sex and sexuality. They blush and stutter at the thought of even doing so. Some may even have been raised to believe that sex is dirty and bad and may therefore have a difficult time looking beyond what’s ingrained in their minds as they guide their children through their formative years. So, instead of feeling afraid of passing on shame and embarrassment, they may actually welcome having their child’s teacher initiate a discussion that they can then expand upon or even enjoy the opportunity of having their child share with them what he or she has learnt.
For those who may have concerns about their children being exposed to material that will encourage them to experiment before they are ready, I urge you to open your eyes to what your children are already being exposed to on social media and television. I see and hear about too many children who are sending crude messages to friends and strangers at the age of 10 or 11, and of children who are watching pornographic images on YouTube before they are even teenagers. So I am not concerned that children will be negatively influenced by what at they are being shown or taught by people who are trained to understand children and their development.
After looking over the 244 page document, the Ministry is quite clear that they recognize ‘some topics need to be approached with additional sensitivity, care and awareness because of their connection to family values, religious beliefs or other social or cultural norms’. I’ve even heard that students may have the option to opt out of classes in which specific topics are being addressed.
The ideal situation is for parents and educators to work together. Knowing in advance what the teacher is going to teach your children and then working alongside him or her can only benefit your children and prepare them for the realities of the 21st century. Religious and cultural beliefs aside, human beings are all the same when it comes to basic fundamental needs and wants. By recognizing and accepting this, we can work together at raising a generation of people who are comfortable in their own skin and less vulnerable as a result of being more informed.