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In April 2010, when then Premier Dalton McGuinty announced he was giving his Government’s proposed sex ed curriculum a “serious rethink” I breathed a sigh of relief.
My son had just celebrated his 3rd birthday, he was still wearing a diaper, and my husband and I were in “to serve and protect” mode. I couldn’t imagine our innocent little boy finding himself on a sex ed super-highway in a few years’ time.
So why, when asked earlier this week to sign a petition to block the current document, which is virtually identical to the one shelved in 2010, did I take a pass?
The answer is simple: At some point “to serve and protect” gave way to “equip and empower” and the shift was hastened by 5 years of first-hand knowledge about peer pressure in a hyper-sexualized age. I became re-acquainted, this time as a parent, with “The Kid Who Knows Too Much About Sex.” My nickname for this kid is “Thomas”—a rough translation of the acronym TKWKTMAS.
There was a Thomas who showed my son how to twerk in preschool, another taught him about “Pachynas” and other body parts in Kindergarten. Yet another told him what sex was in the first grade—Joe waited until we were at the cottage last year to spill the beans about that one. Funny how highlights of playground pillow talk never made the cut any of the 270 times I asked “How was your day honey?”
I feel bad for the teenager who lost control of her bikini top, but the bare-breasted boobie incident prompted “the talk”—the one I didn’t think we needed to have just yet. It started with questions about breasts,—kid breasts versus the incredible pair he had just seen—“Mine are like Shreddies” Joe said, examining his smooth, flat chest. He was wide-eyed, still in a mild state of shock, when the floodgate of schoolyard sex ed opened up. The phrase “Thomas says” figured prominently.
Having read the Ministry of Education’s 244-page Health and Physical Education curriculum I’m here to report that, so far anyway, Thomas has outpaced what they propose to teach. There is some high speed material in the document ‘round about Grade 6 that makes me queasy, but my money’s on Thomas to keep the off-the-record sex ed moving at a fair clip.
The best parents and educators can hope for is to counter-balance Thomas’ fiction with facts: on-the-record, in a coordinated fashion and with consistent messaging. To continue to bury our heads in the sand, letting kids be their own de-facto sex educators, is irresponsible, especially in the digital age when the threats to our children are so profound.
I’m using a boy’s name, but Thomas is quite frequently a girl. All of the Thomas’ I knew growing up were girls. My mother launched sex ed with a euphemistic book about “a key in a lock” and “a foot in a sock” but the Thomas’ filled in the blanks. One minute we were fighting about who would get stuck playing Sabrina, the smart one, in a game of Charlie’s Angels, and then suddenly, a good, Catholic girl-Thomas was down on the floor demonstrating how to give yourself a wank. I was 9 years old, 2 years younger than when this new curriculum proposes to mention masturbation.
When my mother found out about my new trick she said it was “normal” and that I “probably wasn’t going to hell.” If I read the Ministry’s document correctly, they too will emphasize the normalcy message. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to dim the lights, cue Barry White and offer a “how-to” seminar. Anyway, that’s Thomas’ job!
I don’t blame Thomas for knowing too much too soon. He isn’t a bad kid but his parents sure have some splainin’ to do. They may be neglectful and have probably left him alone too long with an Internet connection or cable TV. The Provincial Government has a lot to answer for when it comes to sleazy deals, but they’re not responsible for sexually corrupting our kids: The culture-at-large is doing a fine job of that without any help from the Ministry of Education.
Indeed, what surprises me the most is how surprised we are by the schooling that’s needed to help our kids cope with the fallout from the sexual boundaries we’ve pushed.
The curriculum terrifies me, but I applaud it for not dealing in vagueness—keys in locks and feet in socks—and for tackling the difficult subjects head-on. Shooting the messenger, however tempting, won’t help all the young people who need guidance in this most complex of life’s arenas.
The Government has done its job, now it’s time for parents and teachers to get to work.
Michelle Hauser is a former professional fundraiser turned humorist and freelance writer. She lives in Eastern Ontario (Canada) with her husband Mark and their son Joseph. Please click here to sign up for her monthly Newsletter.