Sex education program sparks outcry
ANTONELLA ARTUSO, QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU CHIEF
FIRST POSTED: TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2010 07:42 PM EDT | UPDATED: TUESDAY, APRIL 20, 2010 08:26 PM EDT
TORONTO — - Premier Dalton McGuinty is defending the province's new sex education curriculum against accusations from "family values" groups that it exposes young children to inappropriate material.
Dr. Charles McVety, president of Canada Christian College, said Ontario's revamped sex education curriculum will teach 11-year-olds about oral and anal sex and eight-year-olds about sexual orientation and identity.
"Little eight-year-olds, they're going to be taught they look one way on the outside but they may be the opposite on the inside," McVety said. "This is so confusing to an eight-year-old ... these are children in the strongest sense of the word - they're innocent, they're clean, they're beautiful - and to corrupt them by imparting a question of gender identity is beyond the pale."
Ontario is introducing an updated health and physical education curriculum this fall in all publicly funded schools.
Children in Grade 1 will be taught to identify male and female genitalia, where the previous curriculum referred only generally to body parts.
In Grade 3, students will learn about visible differences and invisible differences between people, such as learning abilities, gender identity and sexual orientation.
This curriculum introduces possible "teacher prompts" that, although not mandatory, suggest how instructors can address issues such as same-sex parents and masturbation.
The ministry said the inclusion of same sex families reflects the government's commitment to equity and inclusive education.
Another "prompt" shows how a teacher might talk to students about "erections, wet dreams and vaginal lubrication" as normal things that happen with puberty.
McVety said he doesn't believe most parents will support the changes.
"They are going to be shocked when they find this in the curriculum of their children and they're going to be outraged," he said. "This has been really a dirty little secret but now it's out in the open."
McGuinty said he supports teaching sex education to youngsters in school, rather than leaving them to rely on inaccurate information they may glean from other sources, such as the Internet or other kids.
"I have confidence in the curriculum that they have put together," McGuinty said. "I have confidence in the judgment of our teachers, in the judgment of our principals, people who work with our children day in and day out, to present the information in a thoughtful way and in a balanced way and a responsible way."
Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky said parents have the right to remove their children from the class if they don't want them to receive that information.
The ministry worked hard to create "age appropriate" material for children, and parents are invited to review the curriculum, she said.
"I believe that our curriculum is doing what it's designed to do and that is instruct our children," Dombrowsky said, when asked to respond to the allegation that the material could corrupt children.
PC Leader Tim Hudak said he was not familiar with the details of the new sex education program.
"I hope that any new curriculum that the McGuinty government would bring forward would involve parents and teachers in determining what's appropriate," he said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said parents need to make the decision for themselves on whether their child should participate.
"As a parent, I was quite fine with the programming that my son was exposed to when he was a child," she said.
However, McVety said the new curriculum makes significant changes in the way sex education is taught and his group plans to protest at Queen's Park after Mother's Day.
McVety said he has been involved in campaigns to maintain the traditional definition of marriage but is not opposed to teaching sex education in general.
"The previous curriculum never mentioned sexual orientation, and didn't focus on it, didn't have these explicit sexual terms of anal intercourse," he said. "Eleven-year-olds being taught that masturbation is a perfectly normal thing."
The references to anal and oral sex are referred to in the discussion about sexually transmitted diseases.