There was a demonstration in front of our MPP’s office last Friday, and it’s got me more than a little frustrated, so I’m finally going to weigh in on one of the bigger controversies happening in Ontario at the moment — the revamp of the Ontario’s “sex-ed” curriculum.
Full disclosure: I am not an educator, nor am I a parent. The Wife™ and I have no kids and no near-future plans to have kids, so the argument could be made that I don’t have a dog in this fight.
But here’s the thing: I actually do have a dog in this fight. To quote author (and Nerdfighteria co-founder) John Green: “School doesn’t exist for your benefit or the benefit of your parents; schools exist for the benefit of me. The reason why I pay taxes for schools even though I don’t have a kid in school is that I am better off in a well-educated world.”
I agree with that statement absolutely, and nowhere do I agree with it more than on the topic of sexual education, because our society is currently making very serious mistakes and doing a lot of damage to the sexual development of children.
How do I know that? Because until about my mid-20s, I was pretty fucked-up about sex. I spent my teen years profoundly confused and afraid of my own sexuality because I was attracted to both men and women; had someone — anyone! — explained to me that bisexuality was a thing and that there was nothing wrong with it, perhaps I would have been a much more functional individual during high school instead of praying to God “please don’t let me be gay” and creeping on every female in school to “prove” my masculinity. Perhaps if, during the one time I worked up the courage to reach out during high school I had heard a message of acceptance, rather than being told (by a priest no less!) that I was flawed and sinful for being attracted to other men, I would have made healthier relationship choices in college and not gotten involved with an emotionally and physically abusive man. Perhaps if I hadn’t been made to internalize a lot of shame and self-loathing, I would have contacted the police or campus security when I was queer-bashed in a men’s room rather than going home, cleaning up, and hoping nobody ever found out.
Perhaps I would have been a happier person… or perhaps not. It’s not the kind of thing we can know, I suppose.
But if it had been explained to me that some people are attracted to the same gender or both genders (maybe around the age of 14 or 15) that what I was feeling was normal, I genuinely think I would have been a less frightened and lonely teenager. And if there’s a kid out there right now, who’s frightened that he’ll “turn out to be gay” and that his family and friends will reject him because of it, then any knowledge which will allay those fears is worthwhile.
So that’s why I support these changes in the sex-ed curriculum in this province.
The reason I’m frustrated with those people who oppose the updated curriculum is that, by and large, they are lying about the changes. Opponents have claimed that the course material is “gay propaganda”, that children will be forced to expose themselves in class, that they will be given “masturbation lessons”, that the curriculum was designed by pedophiles, and so on ad nauseam. Credulous parents have reacted with rage and fear. Thankfully, there have been excellent efforts made to debunk these claims but it some of the bullshit hyperbole that’s being used in this debate pisses me off.
Case in point.
If you have to lie to people to defend your position, then you don’t actually have a defensible position, you’re just a dishonest asshole. It doesn’t take much effort to read up on the lies being spread by certain interest groups, particularly conservative religious interests. I have no respect at all for those people who are deliberately spreading falsehoods in order to drum up opposition against the curriculum (not to mention financial support for themselves); I have hardly more respect for the people who have credulously bought into those lies because it’s what they want to hear.
And that’s why the the repeated claim — usually on protest signs — that “Parents Should be the Educators” and that we should “Let Kids be Kids” pisses me off.
Oh, the slogans —
Let Kids be Kids!
Math, Not Masturbation, Science Not Sex!
My Child My Choice!
Don’t Damage Our Children’s Innocence!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But that approach is not fucking working. LGBT youth are far more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. One in four women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime… and of those, only six out of a hundred will go to the police. More than 60% of all sexual assault victims, male or female, were assaulted while under the age of seventeen. You can find any number of statistics symptomatic of the completely fucked-up approach to sexuality in our culture and that tells me that as a society, on this issue, we are not educating our children properly. Formally educating children about consent, boundaries, respect and acceptance of differences is something that needs to happen because clearly it isn’t happening now. Maybe this new approach won’t help resolve our issues, but it certainly it can’t make them any worse.
Is that a criticism of parents in this province? Yes, I think it is. I’m including my own parents, whom I love and who always did their best for us, in that criticism. Talking about sexuality with your kids must be very difficult — difficult enough, I suspect, that many parents just put off the discussion until long after the kids have “figured it out” themselves. And in this day and age, figuring it out for yourself is a risky business at best. And I would argue that letting your children grow up in an atmosphere of vulnerable ignorance probably isn’t the best parenting strategy.
Avoiding talking about sex or instilling fear in kids about their sexuality won’t stop them from being curious about or from eventually exploring their sexuality, it just means that when they do try and explore it they’ll have to struggle through it in ignorance, uncertainty and fear. One of the duties of government is to protect the vulnerable people in our society (frankly, that’s one of the few reasons we actually put up with governments) and children, LGBT youth and women in general are vulnerable to sexual exploitation; this curriculum attempts to give them knowledge to help protect them as well also attempts to lay a foundational attitude of consent and respect in the future adults they will become. In the long run I would argue that it’s best, for us and our children, that we try and produce future generations of citizens who are educated and informed and healthy about completely natural biological processes.